Here, we look at the pros and cons of "quick house sale" companies and offer advice for anyone considering using one.
What are "quick house sale" companies?
"Quick house sale" firms offer consumers a faster sale than they could reasonably hope to achieve on the open market.
Consumers who use them can receive an offer for their home in less than seven days and complete within a month of contacting the firm.
However, they typically get between 10% and 25% less than the market value of the property.
Who uses "quick house sale" companies?
Many of the people who contact "quick house sale" companies about their homes need to move fast because they are unable to pay their mortgage, have to move to a new area for a job or want to get an inherited property off their hands.
"Quick house sale" companies allow these people to move more quickly than they could if selling to an individual.
The OFT found that some firms are using unfair trading practices such as reducing the price offered at the last minute, making misleading claims about the value of the property and inducing sellers to sign long-term exclusivity agreements that prevent them selling to other buyers.
This has led to some properties changing hands for up to 53% under the market value, which is why it is vital to choose a reputable company.
How can I protect myself?
The OFT has published a list of top tips to help people thinking of using a "quick house sale" firm.
These include checking the provider's credentials, not accepting verbal promises and insisting that vital details, such as how they value the property, are explained.
Homeowners are also advised to watch out for long tie-ins and take independent legal advice.