Many people will have at some point walked down a street and thought ‘I’d like to live here’. There’s often just one small problem, however. None of the houses are for sale.
But a new company that wants to help people buy their dream property – even if it’s not up for sale – reckons it has a solution.
Knock for Sale acts as a middle man to connect interested buyers and homeowners, allowing those people to send a card indicating they’d like to buy it to the owners of the property they are interested in, whether or not it’s on the market.
Cards cost £5 each and prospective buyers can send multiple cards to different properties to see if the owner is interested in accepting any viewings.
Spotted your dream house but it’s not on the market? Knock for Sale allows people to approach properties they like with a card stating their interest
Critics could argue that if homeowners wanted to sell their property, they would advertise it as such.
However, there are three times as many homeowners who might consider selling their property than the number of homes listed on traditional property websites, according to a 2018 survey of 1,000 UK consumers from Knock for Sale.
This chimes with the comments regularly made by property buying agents, who say many of their clients end up purchasing homes that you won’t find in an estate agent’s listings and are not officially on the market.
Knock for Sale makes its money by charging £5 for each card and does not act as an estate agent in the process.
Co-founders Chris Allen & Kerrie Powell said Knock for Sale’s customers have ranged between sending one card to a specific property, to 24 cards to multiple ones in a location
The couple who founded it, Kerrie Powell and Chris Allen, said it is too early to determine whether the site has a high success rate.
So far, the ‘knocks’ per user have ranged from one (people who have longed to live in one particular house) to 24 (where a specific location would appear to be the driving factor).
Knock for Sale says sellers can either opt to sign up with an estate agent to manage their sale – and should try to negotiate lower fees as they have already found a buyer – or can manage the negotiation process themselves and hand things over to a solicitor when needed.
Obviously, potential buyers could also take matters into their own hands and simply drop a note through someone’s door, but Knock for Sale says it adds an extra level of security and professionalism to the process that may encourage potential sellers.
How it works for buyers
Those interested in a property can access the Knock for Sale website and enter the details of the location they wish to send a card to, expressing their interest in it.
Rather than referral fees or commission, the site is funded by the fee for sending a card, which costs £5. The company then donates 5 per cent of its profits to homeless charities.
People who then receive the card are able to respond, free of charge, to the prospective buyers to say whether they are interested or not in selling their home.
The service adds a layer of security to the interaction by giving homeowners the opportunity to connect to potential buyers via its secure messaging system online, without contact details needing to be shared between parties.
This cuts out the immediate need for estate agents and commission which Knock for Sale said averages out at £3,275 per sale – as the average house price in the UK is £230,630, according to the Land Registry and the average estate agent commission is 1.42 per cent.
Many charge more than this, however, with some fees including VAT reaching 2 per cent of a property’s price or more. Online flat-fee estate agents typically also charge less.
Knock for Sale allows potential buyers to send a card expressing their interest in a property
What if someone is interested?
If potential sellers are interested, buyers can arrange an initial viewing and, if they like what they see, they can follow this up with more detailed visits.
According to Knock for Sale, this process creates a more personal experience, without the presence of estate agents, where questions can be asked to the homeowner direct.
Then, when, and if, they’re ready, buyers can make an offer.
Buyers are advised to talk to their bank or building society if they need a mortgage, appoint a professional surveyor if they want a full structural survey and ask their solicitor or licensed conveyancer to handle the legal details.
How does it work for potential sellers?
If they get a card through the door, sellers can choose to ignore it, or contact the potential buyer and show them round.
If things are successful and an offer is made, it is up to sellers as to whether or not they decide to engage estate agents on their behalf, or continue to take on the bulk of the work by themselves.
However, Knock for Sale advises them to do thorough research first and look into what they would consider for an asking price. Once an offer has been agreed, the procedure is the same as during a traditional transaction.
Knock for Sale recommends sellers engage a chartered surveyor, who can give them an accurate house valuation based on its true market value.
Alternatively, people can get some estate agent valuations. It is also easy to view prices of recently sold local properties online and check what similar properties are for sale for, although bear in mind asking prices are not always what a home gets sold for.
Whether or not you’re prepared to accept an offer below the asking price depends on how keen you are to sell.
Sellers who have someone interested in buying their property but still want to put it on the market with an estate agent should inform the agent in writing that they have a private buyer before they sign their contract.
Message: Buyers can start up personal conversations with the sellers if they expressed interest
Then, if the private buyer goes on to buy their home, they shouldn’t have to pay the full estate agent’s commission. Get this in writing though, to make sure you are protected from a claim from an agent for fees.
Whilst Knock for Sale can be a useful tool to connect buyers and sellers, potential sellers have been warned to exercise caution when letting prospective buyers into their home.
The firm has advised people to take a few practical precautions. Before each viewing it has advised sellers to get the name, address and mobile phone number of the potential buyer.
If the buyer calls you, make sure they’re not ringing from a number that’s withheld. Ask a relative or friend to join you during the viewing, never leave a viewer unattended and hide away your valuables.
Be careful if the viewer requests confidential information such as details of the property’s security system and times when no one is at home. It also said to be wary of anyone who makes an offer for your property without a viewing.
‘We found our dream home by leafleting properties’
Kitchen designer Silvia Clausin has lived in Lewes, Sussex, for seven years and decided to leaflet properties after having no success through other traditional methods.
While they used the old-fashioned method of making their own leaflets, had a site like Knock for Sale existed at the time, it could have helped.
She said: ‘My partner and I didn’t suddenly decide to start posting letters through people’s doors. We had scoured property websites, estate agents’ windows, and we couldn’t find anything decent in our budget.
Silvia & her partner decided to put leaflets through doors of properties they liked
‘We had been living in Lewes for years, just renting, and we knew what areas we liked so we thought there was nothing to lose from guesstimating the prices of a few houses that might be within our budget, and writing notes to the owners.’
Silvia wrote a very short paragraph explaining her and her partner’s situation.
It said they were a young couple looking for their first home and that they loved the area. They added their phone number at the bottom.
‘We didn’t hand out many flyers but we got phone calls from five different homeowners so it worked. While some were out of our price range, we viewed two and one turned out to be ideal.
‘We had a meeting with the owners at the house. They were two sisters whose mum had recently passed away. They’d had the house valued but we did a bit of negotiating and we settled on a slightly lower price.
‘I remember having to sell my mother-in-law’s house which we did through an estate agent and it was so difficult. They were so aggressive and we didn’t enjoy it at all. Having the agent act as an intermediary drew the process out.
‘It was so much more civilised to do things without over-eager estate agents that don’t care about building a relationship and just see commission. Instead, we got to know the owners and they were happy knowing their mother’s house was going to owners who would love and care for it.’
How we came up with the idea for Knock for Sale
Knock for Sale, which was co-founded by husband and wife, Kerrie Powell and Chris Allen, has raised £150,000 during its seed funding round with £75,000 being stumped up by Rupert Hunt, founder of letting website SpareRoom.
The remaining half comes from Felix Milns, founder of Zulufish Residential, and actor and angel investor James Murray.
So how did the duo come up with the idea?
Kerrie said: ‘It stemmed from a lively dinner party conversation. Our friend had a seed of an idea, which over time, we morphed into what Knock for Sale is today.
It stemmed from a lively dinner party conversation… and the seed of an idea
Kerrie Powell, Knock for Sale founder
‘Years before, we had almost sold our one-bed flat to a hopeful buyer who had posted a note through our door just as we were thinking that we might need more space (our son was eight months old at the time).’
Deciding that the process was outdated, the couple looked to starting Knock for Sale.
Powell continued: ‘We had confidence in the idea of digitising the age-old process of sending unsolicited letters. We both agreed the prospect of not having to accommodate dozens of viewings or pay any fees or commission to estate agents was really compelling.
‘Increasing the number of direct approaches and private sales could oil the wheels of the property market.
Allen added: ‘Hand delivering flyers is recommended by plenty of property gurus but one of its pitfalls –along with territorial dogs and twitching curtains– is that buyers have to be there, and give out their contact information.
‘Our service offers a layer of security and convenience for buyers, as well as the opportunity to secure a home that’s not on the market.
‘And, for homeowners, we offer the possibility of a direct sale without having to pay commissions or fees to estate agents.’
Estate agent’s view: Buyers and sellers should consider what we do
Martyn Baum, an estate agent and the former president at NAEA Propertymark, believes that websites like Knock for Sale should be treated with caution.
He said: ‘Whilst this looks like an easy approach for buyers to contact the owners of properties on their wish list there is a cost attached. It is very common for proactive estate agents to do this for free as part of the service they offer to their database of buyers.
‘I would also draw a buyer’s attention to the information an estate agent legally has to provide on a property upfront. Without an estate agent being involved a buyer will enter this process blind and it could cost them a lot of money.
‘An example being if a property is leasehold an estate agent would find out the terms of that lease and associated costs then provide these to a buyer before they spend money on solicitors or having a survey.
If they sell below open market value, this could cost a seller thousands of pounds
‘For a seller, I would be concerned that in this process there would be nobody advising the seller of the demand for their property from the whole of the market and therefore if the offer they receive is the maximum they could achieve for their home.
‘If they sell below open market value, this could cost a seller thousands of pounds and inhibit their ability to make an onward purchase.
‘Finally, selling and buying a property is a stressful and emotional time often with challenges along the way. Many people only sell or buy a property once every few years and would find this process very difficult whereas an estate agent will be overcoming these challenges on a daily basis. An estate agent can take away the stress and worry.’