- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.