Selling your house privately 

What are the advantages and disadvantages of selling my house privately?

Some people choose to sell their house privately, without the help of a real estate agent. For others, the skills, resources and experience of a real estate agent is worth the price they have to pay in commission. You should weigh up the pros and cons of selling your house privately before making a decision.

The main advantage of selling a house privately is that you don’t have to pay a real estate agent commission (you could save thousands of dollard depending on the eventual selling price. You also have more control of the sale and negotiation process by having direct contact with potential buyers.

On the other hand, real estate agents sell houses every day. They know the market conditions and prices, and have marketing and negotiating skills. Selling your house yourself may not be as simple as you think, and may take a lot of time. Think about it carefully and read the section I’m selling my house myself.  What are the steps?

I’m selling my house myself. What are the steps?

  1. Make any minor repairs and changes to make the house more saleable (e.g. removing clutter, cleaning the carpets, repainting walls)
  2. Decide what you want to leave in the house (i.e. the chattels)
  3. Value your property
  4. Set a sale price
  5. Advertise
  6. Prepare background information for potential buyers
  7. Choose a lawyer if you want one
  8. Negotiate a price
  9. Once an offer has gone “unconditional” (when the buyer is legally bound to buy the property), prepare to move out by arranging for:
    • The electricity, gas and water meters to be read on the possession date
    • Your phone account to be transferred
    • NZ Post to redirect your mail
    • Your house and contents insurance to be cancelled or transferred
    • Your paper and milk deliveries to be cancelled

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I want to exclude my stove from the sale. Can I do this?

When you are deciding on your sale price, you need to decide what you want to leave in the house. You need to include in your contract specifically what is included and excluded. Fixtures are usually included in the sale, while chattels are excluded.

  • fixtures: items that are fixed to the land or buildings, so that they are part of the land e.g. stove, shed, built-in furniture
  • chattels: items that are not fixed to the land or building structure and are usually excluded from the house sale. E.g. curtains, fridges. If chattels are included in the sale, they should be listed in detail in the sale contract.

If you decide to exclude specific fixtures or include specific chattels, you just need to ensure that potential buyers are told this, and that it is noted in the sale and purchase agreement.

How can I get my property valued?

You can value or get an estimate of your property by obtaining:

  • a valuer’s report: this is a report from a registered valuer. It’s a reliable way of getting an indication of what your property is realistically worth. The report should include information on
    • the general appearance, age, size and condition of the house, both interior and exterior 
    • the size and condition of the grounds and section 
    • the type of title of the property
    • the locality 
    • comparable recent sales of other properties in the area 
    • This isn’t a structural report. If you want a structural report, you need to hire a builder or an engineer. More information about structural building inspections is on our Pre-purchase checks page 
  • Council ratings valuation (formerly known as a “government valuation”): this is not usually a good substitute for a valuer’s report or a clear indication of current market value, because the valuations: 
    • Are generally only carried out every three years 
    • do not include chattels 
    • generally do not include improvements or renovation work which did not require building consent

You can contact your local council to find out what your current ratings valuation is, or to find out how to have your ratings valuation reassessed . Most councils contract this work out to specialist companies. There is usually a fee for a reassessment.

How do I decide what my sale price should be?

Once you have a good idea about what your property is worth by having it valued, you can decide on a price range to place on your property. You should consider:

  • how much money similar properties in your area have sold for (you can purchase this information from Quotable Value or obtain it  from a real estate agency)
  • the minimum price you are willing to accept (e.g. in order to buy a new place to live in) and 
  • how long you are willing to wait for the house to sell (a lower price may result in a quicker sale).

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What can I do to attract potential buyers?

You can:

  • advertise in the property section of the local paper
  • advertise in specialist property papers
  • advertise on the Internet – some websites (such as Trade Me) will do this for a fee, others will list your property for free
  • put up a sign in a prominent position on the property (you might need to check with the council for any sign restrictions)
  • ask your friends and family to tell other people about your property
  • put up notices at workplaces and on community noticeboards

You should work out a budget for advertising, because it can get pretty pricey. Make sure any advertisements include details about how and when you can be contacted. Include the words “no agents please” in your ads if you don't want calls from agents offering their services.

Some businesses sell marketing packages which include items such as ‘For Sale’ signs, Sale and Purchase Agreement forms, advertisements on their online or printed publications, brochures etc.

What can a lawyer do for me when I’m selling my house myself?

You might need to hire a lawyer to help you with your sale contract, or with your transfer of the property title from you to the buyer (this is called conveyancing), or to just check over your contract. You need to make sure the lawyer knows what they have been hired for, and agree on a fee.
A lawyer can

  • provide you with a quote or an estimate for the conveyancing part of the sale
  • help you with the sale and purchase agreement
  • advise you on the legal aspects of selling a house privately (obligations to the buyer etc)
  • provide a suitable sale and purchase agreement
  • check the offer when you receive an offer for the house
  • undertake all communication with the buyer’s lawyer
  • receive and hold a deposit from the buyer
  • arrange for the transfer of the legal title
  • arrange the release of mortgage documents as required by lending institutions, and arrange mortgage repayments
  • receive final payment from the buyer’s lawyer and arrange for keys to be transferred
  • arrange for the transfer of rates payments as at the settlement date
  • forward a notice of sale to Quotable Value and the local rating authority
  • arrange payment of the net proceeds of sale

When you choose a lawyer, you should think about not only the price, but also whether the lawyer:

  • usually practises in the residential property market
  • is readily available when you need to make contact
  • communicates with you, gives you a sense of security and keeps you informed
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I’ve got an interested buyer. What do I do now?

It’s a good idea to get advice from your lawyer before you start negotiations, or to involve your lawyer in the process. Your lawyer can draw up a sale and purchase agreement for you, or you can buy a standard form from the Auckland District Law Society or some book shops.

The potential buyer may make an offer on your house by signing a sale and purchase agreement which includes:

  • the settlement date and the date on which the agreement will become unconditional (unconditional means that the buyer is now committed to the sale)
  • what chattels are included
  • the deposit required and when it will be paid

You can then counter-offer if your buyer is suggesting a price lower than your asking price by crossing out the price the buyer has entered on the agreement, writing the price you want and initialling the change, then signing the agreement and returning it to the buyer for his or her signature and initials.

The offer and counter-offer process can be repeated until either both parties agree to the terms of the sale, or both parties end negotiations.

The agreement should specify:

  • the amount of the deposit. Once the offer has been accepted, you usually ask for a deposit from the buyer. This means that if the buyer defaults on your agreement, you can use the deposit to cover any losses. Deposits are usually set in the range of 5 – 10 per cent of the purchase price. For a deposit, you have to specify:
    • how much the deposit is
    • when it should be paid
    • how the money will be held
  • the possession date – the date on which the right to occupy the property passes from the seller to the buyer
  • the settlement date – the date on which the purchase price is paid and the documents necessary to transfer the property are handed over in exchange


What are my legal obligations as a seller?

You might be liable to pay money or damages if you breach any terms of the sale and purchase agreement. Be aware that not all terms are written down. You could be liable if you

  • change your mind about selling the property after you sign the agreement
  • give misleading or false information about the property, even if you honestly believed the information was correct
  • don’t tell the buyer about any outstanding requirements that your local council have imposed (for example if your drains have to be repaired to meet by-laws)
  • haven’t told tenants in your house that you’re selling the house, or haven’t terminated their tenancy if you need to