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Quick house sale pitfalls highlighted

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has highlighted taking independent legal advice as one of its top tips for people using firms specialising in quick house sales.

The OFT published the tips on 7 August, alongside a report on the quick house sale sector, which found that the service can be beneficial to consumers who need a fast sale.

In return for a fast, hassle-free sale, sellers usually agree to receive lower price for their home, usually a reduction of between 10 and 25 per cent of the market value.

Sellers attracted to quick house sale services may typically include older people who wish to sell quickly due to declining health, or homeowners in financial difficulty seeking to reduce their debts. Others using quick house sellers include those disposing of an inherited property, or relocating due to a change of job or to emigrate.

The OFT said some businesses dealt with customers in an open and fair manner but that others risked giving the industry a bad name by using trading practices that could prevent customers from making informed choices when selling their home, or exploit difficult financial circumstances.

Practices causing concern included reducing the price offered at the last minute after the seller is financially committed to the transaction and inducing sellers to sign long-term exclusivity agreements that prevent them selling to other buyers, with severe penalties for breach of contract.

The OFT has now opened formal investigations into three quick house sale firms for alleged unfair practices that may have led to some customers losing tens of thousands of pounds and has also written to almost 120 providers, advising them to check that their business practices and contractual terms comply with their legal obligations.

The OFT’s top tips to help people thinking of using a quick house sale firm include checking out providers’ credentials, not being pressured into decisions they are uncomfortable with, not accepting verbal promises or agreements and not committing to a sale until surveys and legal checks have been carried out, a final offer has been made in writing and they have taken independent legal advice