Selling and moving

Successful selling - Make the sale

In a slow market the first people to suffer are the sellers.  But if you must sell, here are a few tips that might help

In recent years, there has been more sympathy reserved for those attempting to buy property rather than sell it.  However the current slowdown in the housing market means that it is in fact the sellers who are having a hard time.  A drop in the market means most sellers have to reduce their asking price and accept lower offers.
Prices may have fallen in some areas but they do remain historically high so this is not a comparable situation to that of the early 1990s where sellers found themselves unable to sell for any kind of profit.  The obvious answer is to sit tight and wait it out.  Those beings so, if you do have to sell there are at least some measures you can take to keep your sale under control.  Use the following as a checklist to make sure you have all the angles covered.

• Change your expectations
There are still buyers in the market because mortgage borrowing remains very affordable.  Buyers won’t, however, pay the inflated prices of two or three years back so there’s no point expecting them to do so.  If you’re determined to see your property’s equity climb, you may have to choose another time to move.  But if you’re happy to accept a reasonable price, you can still be lucky.

• De-clutter and de-personalise
With the glut of TV property programmes on our screens, the term ‘de-cluttering’ has become somewhat overused.  However, many clichés become so because they work and in this case your home will appear to its best advantage if it is as uncluttered and spacious as possible.  Most viewers are incapable of imagining themselves living somewhere if it is still firmly stamped with the current owner’s personality – so remove the ornaments and photos before you start.  Starting the clearing out early can also make the packing and moving process less torturous.

• Know your buyer
This is difficult because you must keep as many buyers interested as possible.  However, there are definite categories of buyer and you need to establish which your home most appeals to.  Very broadly, young professionals will usually be looking for flats near to the town or city centre and good transport, whereas families with children will want three or four bedroom homes in more suburban areas.  Older families may be on the hunt for four or five bedroom homes to give teenage children space and privacy, and empty nesters or retiring couples may be looking to downsize to a rural or coastal area.  Does your property appeal to the most likely buyer?

• Make the most of your home
Try to keep the appeal of your property as broad as possible within the confines of your most likely buyer.  If your home is a three-bedroom semi, creating an open-plan living/kitchen/dining room might put families with young children off and therefore be an unnecessary expenditure.  If your house is advertised as having a third bedroom but you in fact use it as a study, take out the desk and computer and put in a bed.  Similarly, ensure there is a table and chairs in the room you are calling a dining room.  Again, this will help your property meet prospective buyers’ expectations.

• The asking price
An estate agent will compare your property to others in the area when deciding on a valuation but this is a subjective process and different agents will come up with different figures.  Ask for around half a dozen quotes and compare them to come up with a realistic valuation.  If there is one that is significantly higher than the others it is likely the agent is being overly optimistic to get your business so don’t choose that valuation.  In an uncertain market, your asking price should be the one that most agents think is attainable.

• Choose the right estate agent
Instructing a good agent could make the difference between a quick sale or none at all.  Shop around and compare costs – negotiating between different agents could save you around £300 in fees.  To help you, ask the estate agent to quote the fees as a sum rather than as a percentage as you know how much you are likely to be charged.  Ask each agent what market they are selling to – does it match your property type?  Look at their adverts; are they well placed and attractive to buyers?  Many people start their search on the internet, so does the agent have an accessible and regularly updated website?  And does the agent inspire confidence – is the office smart and is the staff approachable?  If you wouldn’t buy a house from them, it’s unlikely your potential buyer will so use your gut instinct.

 Know your rights
You will enter into a legally binding contract with the agent you choose so you must understand what you’re signing.  A ‘sole agent’ will act alone and you are bound not to use any others for the term of the contract.  ‘Joint sole agency’ means two agencies act together and shares the fee when one finds a buyer.  When several agents effectively compete for the fee this is known as ‘multiple agency’.  The sole agent is at the lower end of the price scale.  But whichever you think will most effectively sell your home, don’t enter into an excessively long agreement so you can change estate agent if you’re not satisfied.

• Market the property
Your estate agent will prepare the details of your property, taking photos, measuring the rooms and putting the description together but you should check all details are correct.  And if you think they’ve missed out any particular selling points mention them.  It is likely the estate agent will show the property so when buyers are coming round, make yourself scarce.  You are emotionally attached to your home so may confuse the buyer with additional detail.  What you must do is ensure your home is spotless, tidy and really well lit – a bright airy home will look its best

• Be ready to negotiate
It is almost certain that potential buyers won’t offer the asking price.  The question is how far they and you want to and can afford to negotiate.  Before rejecting any offer made, consider the buyers situation and try to assess how much they want your property.  In return they will be trying to ascertain how much you want to sell so indicate clearly to the estate agent how open you are to offers.  Stay in touch with the agent constantly to ensure you’re in on all negotiations.  Also, take a look at your own finances to assess how low you really can go.

• Alter the asking price
If you aren’t getting any interest in the property, you may have to lower the asking price.  But first ask the agent for any feedback the ultimately uninterested buyers have given.  There may be something about the property you can change – it might be too dark, for example.  Although if a couple of agents advise you that the property isn’t getting any interest because it’s too expensive, you should think about lowering the asking price.

If you need to sell now then you have to make the best of what the local market can offer you.  Making your property as buyer-friendly as possible will certainly help with this but if you’re trying to sell in a hurry then you’re more likely to have to take what you can get.  If your expectations are realistic then you’re more likely to emerge satisfied.

Article taken from 'Mortgage advisor & home buyer' publication March 2005