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Warning over sales of flood-damaged homes


If you need to move out of a flood-damaged home, a quick-sale firm may be able to help. But be warned: the cost could be higher than you expect.

Flooded residential area

Thousands of homes in recent years have been damaged by flooding around the UK.

After each bout, insurers face the process of sorting out the huge number of home insurance claims.

But given the amount of work involved dealing with each case, it is inevitable that it will take months before many properties are returned to their pre-flood condition.

Owners who want or need to move house quickly, could therefore face a serious problem if their property is in no state to go on the market.

But a number of companies in the UK offer to buy any house or flat, regardless of their condition.

How quick-sale companies work

Quick-sale services are typically aimed at people who have little choice but to sell in a hurry.

This includes, for example, divorcing couples, families trying dispose of a late relative's home, or borrowers who can no longer afford their mortgage repayments.

But the cost of a quick transaction - it usually takes less than a month - is a sale price well below market value.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) last year ran an investigation into quick-sale property firms.

Quick-sale property firms investigated

It found that sellers typically received between 10% and 25% less than the market value of their properties when they used these firms.

The seller of a flood-damaged home might get even less.

The watchdog also expressed concern that initial offer prices were sometimes reduced at the last minute, which could be unlawful.

Gaucho Rasmussen, OFT director, says: "Responsible quick house sale firms offer a valuable service to consumers who want a fast sale.

For sale sign

'Potentially illegal behaviour'

"However we have also seen potentially illegal behaviour."

This led the OFT to open investigations into three unnamed companies.

David Hollingworth is a spokesman for mortgage broker London & Country.

He says: "Whether floods will affect the longer-term value of a property will largely depend on the availability of insurance as well as how long these images live in the mind of potential buyers.

'Weigh up cost of a quick home sale'

"Those with a more pressing need to move might feel that a company that will guarantee to buy a property could offer a solution."

But he adds that vendors need to weigh up the cost of a quick deal in terms of a lower selling price against the speed of the transaction.

"Worries have been raised that a key target market for this kind of service can be vulnerable owners that really need a quick sale, possibly because of other debt problems."

'We help those who need to sell quickly'

National Homebuyers, not one of the companies investigated by the OFT, offers to "sell your house for cash within days."

A spokeswoman says: "We help people who are selling for a variety of reasons.

"We help not just those with flood-damaged properties, but also those who are relocating, emigrating, downsizing or selling a property they have inherited.

"It is not our intention to take advantage of people in a desperate situation.

"If people are struggling to sell their property for whatever reason National Homebuyers offer a valuable service and will purchase quickly enabling people to move on with their lives."

How to get the right deal

The OFT offers these tips for anyone considering the quick-sale option:

  • Look into alternatives, such as talking to your lender if you are struggling to pay off your mortgage.

  • Be sceptical of claims such as "completion in days". Ask firms how long sales typically take.

  • Don't accept verbal information or promises. Get everything in writing.

  • Get independent legal advice.

  • Don't commit to the sale until you have a final offer in writing, after surveys have been carried out.


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