Selling your home can be a time-consuming and sometimes frustrating process.
So, it’s no surprise that some sellers consider ‘we buy any house’ companies – with many promising completions in as little as seven days.
However, among the legitimate house-buying companies are scams and fraudsters, so it’s important you know what to look out if you’re considering selling.
Here, we’ll explain everything about how the process works, and reveal seven great tips to avoid ‘we buy any house’ scams…
How do ‘we buy any house’ companies work?
There are a number of ‘we buy any house’ companies operating in the UK.
However, the cash offers these companies make will typically be no more than 85% of your home’s true value – and sometimes a lot lower than that.
Are the ‘we buy houses’ companies legit?
There are plenty of legitimate ‘we buy any house’ companies in the UK.
But alongside all those genuine operators will be a host of scams and fraudsters.
A legitimate ‘we buy houses’ company should follow this standard process:
• Once you’ve got in touch, they’ll make a cash offer for your home
• If you choose to accept the offer, the company should deal with the rest of the transaction admin for free
• The company should cover your legal fees
• You’ll then agree a completion date, and this shouldn’t be any longer than a month away
• The sale will go through on the scheduled completion date
Types of ‘we buy any house’ scams
‘We buy any house’ scammers use a variety of techniques to defraud unsuspecting sellers.
Here are the scams you should look out for…
1. Lead generation scams
Data is big business and many ‘we buy any house’ companies aren’t actually ‘we buy any house’ companies at all.
They’re actually lead generation companies who’ll use a website or landing page to get you to sign up for more details and then sell your data to third parties.
2. False valuations
One way many bogus ‘we buy any house’ companies make money is by using their own valuers to deliberately lower the value of your property, so they pay even less for it.
Genuine ‘we buy any house’ companies will use either a Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) valuation or at least three estate agents to value your home accurately.
3. Hidden fees
Some ‘we buy any house’ scams make their money through adding on ‘hidden’ fees to your property sale.
These fees often only come to light on completion day, when it’s generally too late to do anything about them.
Most legitimate companies don’t charge fees and will cover your legal costs.
4. Last-minute price reductions
‘Gazundering’, unfortunately, can happen in any property sale, but is a common trick used by scam ‘we buy any house’ companies.
On completion day, the scam company will reduce their offer for your house by several thousand pounds – knowing you’re unlikely to fight it due to the 11th hour nature of the change.
Genuine ‘we buy any house’ companies will establish their offer in writing at the start of the process.
5. ‘Option’ agreements and lock-ins
Many fraudulent ‘we buy any house’ companies will try to lock you in to an agreement, meaning you’re unable to sell your property to anyone else should you change your mind.
Other ‘option’ clauses give the company the right to sell your home through a third party, or use ‘assisted sales’ or lease option processes that don’t always guarantee a sale and can result in additional fees.
How to avoid ‘we buy houses’ scams
There are a host of steps you can take to avoid ‘we buy any house’ scams.
You should always walk away if a company:
• Asks for any money up front
• Requests any fees
• Asks you to sign a ‘lock-in’ or option agreement
• Claims to buy your property for 95% - 100% of its market value
You should also:
1. Research the company
Look online at Companies House to establish the company offering to buy your property has a solid trading history.
Their website should also clearly display their Company Registration Number.
2. Look for professional accreditations
Legitimate ‘we buy any house’ companies should be members of the National Association of Property Buyers (NAPB) and the Property Ombudsman and these accreditations should be clearly displayed on their websites.
You should also look for other regulatory body memberships, including:
• The National Association of Estate Agents
• The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
• The Approved Code of Trading Standards
3. Search for up-to-date, independent reviews
While almost all ‘we buy any house’ companies, legitimate or otherwise, will have testimonials from previous customers on their websites, you should also look for verified independent reviews of their service online.
Look for reviews on sites like TrustPilot, Google or Reviews.co.uk and check they’re recent and up to date.
If the company you’re looking at has very few reviews, none at all, or they’re not up to date, this should act as a red flag.
Multiple reviews in a short space of time can also indicate falsified content.
4. Are the offer and timeframe too good to be true?
Your gut instinct can play a vital role in avoiding ‘we buy any house’ scams.
Basically, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
So, if a company is offering you the full market valuation of your home, or they’re promising to complete the purchase in a very short space of time, you should seriously consider whether they’re legitimate.
5. Request proof of funds and details of any fees
Almost all ‘we buy any house’ companies will offer to buy your property for cash.
However, it’s important to establish that they have the funds to do this.
Request proof that the company is able to put up the cash to buy your home as soon as they make their offer.
And request clear details on any fees that they’ll charge, too. Most legitimate companies won’t charge any fees and they’ll cover your legal costs.
6. Ask for solicitor details right away
Request the details of the company’s solicitor, so you can contact them for further verification that the company you’re dealing with is genuine.
If the company refuses this, or is unable to give details of their conveyancer, you should walk away.
7. Sell your house through a local agent
By far the best way to avoid a ‘we buy any house’ scam is to sell your home through a trusted local estate agent.
Not only will you avoid being scammed, but you’re also far more likely to get closer to the true market value of your property as a sales price.
You should also ask your local agent about selling your home at auction, which can be a quicker way to sell.
A proactive and engaged estate agent can also help get your home sold quickly, meaning you can take the next step on the property ladder with priceless peace of mind.