Phil Spencer’s tips for selling your home

  1. Target Market and Timing

The first step to selling your property quickly and painlessly is to consider your target market. Who do you think might buy your property? Then try to tailor your space to appeal to the main group without alienating other groups that might also be interested. So if you feel a professional couple would be ideal, then turn the 2nd bed/office back into a bedroom and make a space for a workstation elsewhere in the house. This will ensure that the house would still appeal to a young couple with a small child. Spring (Feb/Mar) and Autumn (Sep) are the key times to sell your property when traditionally demand outstrips supply and therefore prices are usually at their most buoyant.

  1. De-Clutter and De-Personalise

Potential buyers need to imagine themselves living in your house, so get rid of ornaments and photos - especially posters in kids' bedrooms. Put things you don't really use on a daily basis in the attic or storage. Large pieces of furniture should also go into storage; this will make rooms feel much bigger. Focus on the hallway - clear away coats/clutter; the bathroom - hide all your products; and the kitchen - clear the bench surfaces of appliances, jars, tins, etc, and replace any ragged tea towels or smelly bins.

  1. Freshen Up

A fresh coat of neutral paint, new tiling or lino, and a couple of new kitchen doors can do wonders to smarten up a tired-looking property. If you can't stretch to re-tiling in the bathroom, re-grouting should bring it up new. The same effect can be achieved by installing matching chrome fittings; replacing broken light bulbs; re-painting the front door; ironing sheets in the bedroom; taking down any heavy dark drapes; installing up-lighters in the living room for subtle lighting; and strategically placing flowers throughout.

  1. Clean Up

If you'd rather not re-decorate, it is still essential that the house be spotless. Getting industrial cleaners in to really make the place sparkle will be money well-spent; have the carpets, sofa covers, oven and windows cleaned while you're at it. Pay special attention to the kitchen and bathrooms, which need to be inviting and hygienic; finish up with a new loo seat; fresh white towels; and a strategically placed plant or two. Watch out for over-stuffed wardrobes - yes, people do look in them to check the amount of storage space - so clear them out. Finally, the garden is now seen as an additional room, so be sure to make your garden feel like a great space for entertaining and relaxing.

  1. Instructing an Estate Agent & Solicitor

Always try to get 3 agents round to value your property. Don't necessarily go for the one with the highest valuation, or the one that you may also buy through - this is an old trick used to win instructions. Many agents will also often try to tie you into a 12-week exclusive contract - negotiate the minimum time possible, so that if you are not happy with the service, you can change or go multi-agency. You'll want someone you can relate to personally; someone who is very active in the local market; and someone who is keen to sell your property and has fair agreement. Preparation is key, so it's a good idea to instruct a solicitor to do your conveyancing early. Ask them to prepare a draft contract and apply for the title deeds, while you pull together all your own paperwork on the property - that is, all building certificates for any structural building work carried out, and any valid work guarantees for word worm, damp, etc.

  1. Costs

Given Estate Agents' fees, it's cheaper to sell sole-agency rather than multi-agency, so I recommend staying with one agent for the first 4 weeks, and giving them the best chance and motivation to sell your property fast. Always try to negotiate on agents' fees, and ensure you have the final fee agreed in writing. Also, ask your solicitor to fully explain all costs associated with selling. Finally, find out from your mortgage lender whether you will be hit with any redemption penalties. Then you'll know at what price you can afford to sell.

  1. Valuation & Selling Prices

Valuing property is not an exact science and many factors are taken into consideration. Agents don't charge for valuations, so try to get 3 as a minimum. By using a tool such as a Property Report you will have a head start on establishing the right price for your property. Take your report along to your chosen Estate Agent, and you should then be able to agree a realistic price for your property based on your report together with the agent's comparables.

  1. Get the Word Out

Always have a board up, and tell your neighbours - word of mouth is a powerful tool. You never know who might live just round the corner, waiting for your house to come to the market.

  1. Preparing for Viewings

Everyone knows that first impressions count, and you'll want the house to appeal to as many people as possible; the more people there are who like the property, the higher the selling price should be. So sweep up, and make sure the front yard and hall to your house are tidy and inviting. Leave the pets with a neighbour, and thoroughly clean up any cat hair in particular, as many people are allergic to animal hair. Turn the lights and heating on; air out the house; and don't smoke or cook a curry before viewings. If you've got parking, leave the space free for the buyer - this will add to the whole experience.

  1. Showing a Property

You'll probably be paying an agent to do this; they know their job, so I always recommend that property owners go out during viewings. If you must show your property yourself, then decide beforehand what order you will show the rooms, and guide viewers around the property once, showing the best rooms first or last. Don't overload them with detail, such as the size of your boiler or the trouble with the neighbour's cat. Be business-like during the first viewing; if someone is interested, you can always get to know them a little more on the second viewing. Never point out problems or issues, but do feel free to highlight the odd positive point, like a south-facing garden, or very convenient parking. Finally, invite viewers to take another tour round the property on their own... but don't go off and make a phone call - be somewhere nearby, on hand to answer queries.

  1. Choosing the Best Buyer

The person who offers the highest price is not always the best choice. Listen to your agent's advice on buyers, and push your agent to find out as much about the buyers' circumstances as possible. First, how are they financing the purchase? Cash buyers are best, but if they are raising a mortgage ask to see a mortgage 'in principle' letter from their lender. Are they first-time buyers? If so, they will need some handholding by the agent and could protract conveyancing. Do they have a related transaction? If they have something to sell, then it should be under offer before you take your property off the market. Also, find out about any forward chains that could complicate agreeing completion dates further down the line. Additional purchasers and buyers returning to the market are usually good news - as long as their finances are in place, then there should be less potential hurdles here. A buyer who is represented by a professional home search consultant is also very good news, as the consultant will push the deal through on their side of the fence, too.

  1. Accepting Offers

Your agent will be the middleman and should present every offer that is made. Insist that the agent has all the background information to hand on the buyer's position, and the ability to move quickly and ask that offers be made in writing. Market conditions, competition and how much the buyer loves the property will determine what the buyer is prepared to offer. Similarly, the price you will be prepared to accept will depend on market conditions; how quickly you need to sell; and the size of your moving budget. Compromise on both sides is often the key to securing a deal. Also, know whether you want to keep all your furniture, curtains and white goods, as many of these items may not suit your next home, and can be used as effective bargaining tools to get the price you want.

  1. Holding the Deal Together

This is where the hard work starts, and the longer it takes to reach exchange of contracts, the higher the chances of the deal falling out of bed or of the buyer gazundering (i.e. dropping their price). So keep in weekly contact with your solicitor and agent to ensure that channels of communication stay open. You need to be kept informed of where the conveyancing is at, and how your buyer is feeling about the progress of the transaction - you need to know whether they are still highly motivated, or off looking at other things to keep their options open.

If you are a thinking of selling your house and need an experiences property lawyer, please contact us to discuss.

 

About Phil Spencer - Property Buying Advisor

As the nation's obsession with property continues to grow apace, Phil Spencer has become firmly established as one of the key industry players to comment on the ever-changing marketplace. Phil co-presents Channel 4's ratings winning property search programmes Location, Location, Location and Relocation, Relocation, which have a regular audience of over 4 million viewers.

Phil's main focus, however, is as CEO of Garrington Home Finders - a leading independent residential home search consultancy with offices in London and the West Country. Phil established the consultancy in 1996 after he recognised the need for a discreet and professional home search and buying advisor service favouring the purchaser rather than the seller. His company website can be found here.

 

Death planning guide – getting extra help and support

Death planning guide: getting extra help

Money Savings Expert Martin Lewis has compiled a checklist of 20 things you need to consider when planning for the financial well-being of your family (it’s on his website). The check-list includes tips on wills, inheritance tax, funerals and setting up power of attorney.  Our last post addressed releasing equity in your house. This one covers getting extra help and support.

If you're planning for the end of life, don't shoulder the worry alone - help is available and you make sure you seek it out.

The following places are a good place to start:

  • It's a daunting task, so ask your family and friends for extra support if you need it.
  • If you already have a solicitor, they should be able to help with big financial decisions. Otherwise, get help from a friend or relative in the know, or contact Citizens Advice.
  • If you're struggling to cope, don't suffer in silence. There are several useful organisations that can help, including charities Samaritans and Age UK.
  • Local religious leaders can also help plan ceremonies, last rites or prayers, and give spiritual support. They will have helped many through this process before, so should be able to give you the benefit of their experience.

Equity release – the Pro’s and Con’s.

Death planning guide: equity release – the pro’s and con’s

Money Savings Expert Martin Lewis has compiled a checklist of 20 things you need to consider when planning for the financial well-being of your family (it’s on his website). The check-list includes tips on wills, inheritance tax, funerals and setting up power of attorney.  Our last post addressed the importance of telling your next of kin where your will is. This post covers releasing equity in your house.

Equity release is commonly marketed as a way to spend a home's value while still living in it, either by taking a loan or selling part. Do this and if you've dependants, less money will be left for after you've gone. But if you don't have any dependants, it isn't an issue.

While rates don't sound much higher than ordinary mortgages, they often cost much more. No repayments are made until you die, so the interest compounds rapidly.

For example: Borrow £20,000 aged 65 at 6.5% on a £120,000 home and live 25 years, and when you die £100,000 needs repaying. Though house price rises can offset this.

Make sure you read these key points first...

  • It's less of an issue if you've no dependants. If you've no one to leave the property to, you lose nowt as the debt's repaid from your estate when you die.
  • It can affect your benefits. Having cash rather than a property can hit those eligible for benefits such as pension credit.
  • Explore downsizing instead. For many, a cheaper way to release equity is to downsize – sell and move to a smaller home. So explore this, but do it sooner – anecdotally, while many still feel up to moving in their sixties, as they get older the disinclination to move sets in so it's much tougher.
  • You typically have to be at least 55 to do this. Plus, the younger you are, the less you can usually borrow.
  • Ensure the company's a member of the Equity Release Council (formerly SHIP). This trade body's members all guarantee your estate will never owe more than your home is worth.
  • Wait as long as you can. As a rule of thumb, at a rate of 7%, the amount you owe doubles every 10 years. Therefore the longer you wait, and the less you borrow, the lower the impact on your estate.
  • Don't think "I may as well do it in one go". For example, if you think you may need £40,000 from your house to cover 10 years, see if it's possible to get £20,000 now and the rest in five years. It'll usually work out much cheaper, plus you may need more cash later for long-term care.
  • Speak to an independent mortgage broker. If you're seriously considering this, speak to an independent mortgage broker or financial adviser with an equity release speciality to find the best deal. See the MSE Mortgage Broker finding guide.

 

Finding your Will

Death planning guide: finding your will

Money Savings Expert Martin Lewis has compiled a checklist of 20 things you need to consider when planning for the financial well-being of your family (it’s on his website). The check-list includes tips on wills, inheritance tax, funerals and setting up power of attorney.  Our last post addressed debts. This post looks at the importance of telling your next of kin where your will is.

Don't forget to let a close relative or friend know where your will's kept, so that they'll be able to find it without any additional hassle at a difficult time.

Once you've created a will, it's usually stored with a solicitor and you get a copy. If you'd rather store it yourself, you could keep it at home but this isn't really recommended. The Probate Service can also keep it for you for a fee of £20, and it's free to withdraw it. The HM Courts & Tribunal Service explains how to deposit a will and there's more information on Gov.uk.

We have produced guides to help you with Probate. To talk to one of the team, please call us on 01787 277375 or use the online form.

Do your debts die with you?

Death planning guide: debts

Money Savings Expert Martin Lewis has compiled a checklist of 20 things you need to consider when planning for the financial well-being of your family (it’s on his website). The check-list includes tips on wills, inheritance tax, funerals and setting up power of attorney.  Our last post addressed life insurance. This post looks at debts.

It's often said that "when you die, your debts die with you". But it's a little more complicated than that. When you die, anything you owe has to be paid first, before any assets can go to your beneficiaries.

So if you owe more than your assets are worth, your debts do die with you. Your beneficiaries will get nothing, but they won't be asked to pay the rest of the debt.

But if your inheritors are jointly responsible for the debts, your debts don't die with you as they'll have to make up the shortfall. If you're concerned about the impact this may have, contact Citizens Advice or consult a lawyer.

Consider taking out insurance if you've debt. The MSE Cheap Loan Insurance and Life Insurance guides are crammed with useful info that'll help you decide if you need cover to ensure debts are paid off on your death.

Death planning guide: life insurance

Death planning guide: life insurance

Money Savings Expert Martin Lewis has compiled a checklist of 20 things you need to consider when planning for the financial well-being of your family (it’s on his website). The check-list includes tips on wills, inheritance tax, funerals and setting up power of attorney.  Our last post addressed planning care for your pets. This post looks at life insurance.

If you're older and reading this, life insurance is likely to be very expensive - plus your kids may be past the age of relying on you anyway. If you're younger, life insurance is well worth considering if you've got kids.

Level term life assurance is one of the cheapest ways to protect your family's income if you die, because it will pay a fixed amount to your dependants. The two key words are:

  • Term: This means you only get a payout if you die within a fixed term, eg, 18 years.
  • Level: This means the payout you get is always at a set amount. So level term assurance guarantees a lump sum payout upon death within a fixed time, for example, £150,000 if you die within the next 18 years.

Standard life insurance policies become more expensive the older you are, especially when you're over 60. They'll also take your medical history into account, so they can become prohibitive (though non-smokers in their 50s may still find them a good deal).

Of course, this is the one policy you hope won't pay out, but it's well worth looking into. See the MSE Life Insurance guide for full info and best buys.

Providing for your pets

Death planning guide: ensuring pets are provided for

Money Savings Expert Martin Lewis has compiled a checklist of 20 things you need to consider when planning for the financial well-being of your family (it’s on his website). The check-list includes tips on wills, inheritance tax, funerals and setting up power of attorney.  Our last post addressed planning your care. This post looks at how you can plan to ensure your pets are provided for.

You can leave pets to others in your will (check they're happy to look after them first), but if you don't have a loved one who would be able to take them in, the RSPCA offers a free Home for Life service.

Sign up to it and it'll try to find a new home for your pets if you pass away. You'll need to amend your will, but there's no obligation to leave the RSPCA a donation to take part in the scheme. 

Planning your care

Death planning guide: your care

Money Savings Expert Martin Lewis has compiled a checklist of 20 things you need to consider when planning for the financial well-being of your family (it’s on his website). The check-list includes tips on wills, inheritance tax, funerals and setting up power of attorney.  Our last post addressed living wills. This post looks at how you can plan your care.

While advance decisions are legally binding and are only about treatments you want to refuse, if you want to ensure others know about how you want to be treated towards the end of life, you can make an 'advance statement'.

This document lets you state anything you think others should know to best care for you in future if you lose capacity to communicate them.

An advance statement could include dietary preferences, religious beliefs, who you'd like to look after pets if you're ill, or where you'd like to be cared for. They aren't legally binding, but should be taken into account by those looking after you.

To make an advance statement, write down your wishes, sign it and keep it somewhere safe. Again, ensure your loved ones know where it's kept, and you can also ask your doctor to keep a copy in your medical notes. See the NHS website for more info.