Northern Ireland’s house sales market has seen the launch of a new ‘For Sale By Owner’ website ‘atatouch.com’, which allows property owners to ‘sell your house privately’ for a commission of 0.5% commission – a fraction of that charged on the high street.
Almost £1 million has been invested in the concept, which is the brainchild of Eric Cairns, one of Northern Ireland’s leading property experts and now the chairman of atatouch.com.
“Ulster house sales have fallen due to the recession from its known peak of around 22,600 in 2004 to probably fewer than 5,000 last year,” said Mr Cairns. “I am confident that atatouch.com will help kick-start property sales and lead to a resurgence in the local housing market.
“The standard estate agency commission ranges from 1 to 1.5%, so the savings offered by atatouch.com are substantial. For example, on a commission of 1.5%, the saving on a £450,000 house sale would be £4,500; on a £250,000 house it would be £2,500; and on a £150,000 house it would be £1,500. These savings are substantial in this current market.”
The new company is backed by Ulster Bank and local technology companies gem and Kainos, along with several Northern Ireland leading private equity investors. Five direct jobs have been created and a further 20 will be supported through gem and Kainos, which are providing call centre and back-up technology services. The site will eventually be accessible in five languages and rolled out internationally.
What distinguishes atatouch.com from estate agency and other housing websites is that the transaction process is in the hands of the seller, and can be tracked and completed on-line. There is direct contact between buyers and sellers for viewings and price negotiation.
atatouch.com has already received a major boost with the support of Ulster Bank, which recently committed £500 million of new mortgage lending to the local housing market over the next 12 months, and last year provided over half the first time buyer mortgages taken out in Northern Ireland.
Ulster Bank Chief Executive, Mike Bamber, said: “We have committed £500m for mortgage lending in Northern Ireland this year, with a wide range of mortgage products across a range of loan to values (LTVs), including our Momentum and Co-ownership mortgages. We are working hard to increase our lending further.
“atatouch.com is a very exciting concept which eases the sales concept and offers real value to prospective buyers or sellers. We’d love to see increased customer demand for mortgages in 2010 and promise to be there ready to help buyers.”
Mr Cairns said he was delighted to have the support of Ulster Bank, the largest bank in Northern Ireland and a leading local mortgage provider, and explained why he was confident that the lower costs of atatouch.com would be welcomed by house sellers and buyers everywhere.
“If atatouch.com can stimulate the first-time buyer into the market through reduced fees, then the market as a whole should start to free up to the benefit of the whole economy,” he said.
“Although we are making the selling of new developments a priority, we want anyone who is thinking of selling their property to consider atatouch.com as the most cost-effective way to do so.
“Together with the announcement by the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer of a stamp duty holiday for first time buyers, we now have an unprecedented opportunity to help people get on the housing ladder.”
Mr Cairns said he was confident that the atatouch.com system, which was fully secure and worked in real time with support from our Belfast contact centre seven days a week, would be supremely easy and comfortable to use for the vast majority of the house selling public.