The vital thing – and so many of us know and love our homes so much that we forget this – is that when selling your home you are in a competitive market place. You MUST think how buyers think. Why should they buy YOUR house and not one in the next street, on the other side of town or in the next village?
Well, from all the TV shows we get ‘Location, Location, Location!’ – isn’t that the mantra?
Well it’s true – up to a point!
In reality, there are three fundamental things people look at when buying a house:
- Living Space
The ‘Location, Location, Location’ mantra is literally right because there are three aspects to choosing a location:
High level – Is the house within x minutes’ drive or train journey to work/school or whatever’s important to the buyer and their family? So, WHY would they want to live in this area and what are the specific benefits of where your house is located?
Mid-level – Is it in a nice town/village? Are the schools good? What catchment area is the property in? Do the neighbours appear OK? (No rusting cars, rotting windows, untended gardens etc) Busy road noise? On Airport flight path? Is it on a flood-plain? Are there building plans nearby? Are you on mains water, sewerage? Gas or Oil? Broadband speed ok? Mobile phone signal (particularly inside)? Is there a drive/garage? Is their scope for extension?
You can’t always do anything about these but these are the sort of things the buyer is thinking about, so where you have good news, for goodness sake make sure they know!
Detailed Level – Does it have some private (not overlooked) garden? Does the private garden face south or west for evening sun and relaxation? What’s the view like? Does it have enough shade or too much? Is there a shop/pub in walking distance? Is there a park/playground near for the kids?
Some of these may be of no importance to the buyer and again, you can’t do anything about them BUT if you do have a park nearby or a shop or an evening garden, don’t be shy about pointing these things out.
At the end of the day, your house is where it is and faces where is does and has the facilities it does but I am trying to show you that there are always positive things that can be said about your location.
Buyers want to make sure that the total floor-space and the number, layout & size of the rooms is right for their circumstances.
How do we make our house seem as big and welcoming as possible? That’s what you need to ask yourself; particularly if the market is not as strong as it has been in the past.
First impressions count! So what does the front of your house look like? The brick-work/render? The driveway? The garden? Anything you can do easily and affordably to improve that first impression will be time and money well spent. It’s called ‘kerb appeal’ – do what you can to maximise it.
On the inside, how do you make your house look as large as possible? Well, it’s mainly about floor-space but don’t forget about your wall-space.
The more empty floor-space and wall space there is, the bigger the house will seem; or to put it negatively, if your rooms are full of furniture and there’s stuff everywhere, you aren’t doing yourselves any favours.
But what can you do? You have a family perhaps and you have to live while the house is being sold! Of course but there are things you can do and also, if you’ve presented and priced the house correctly, it should sell fairly quickly, so you don’t necessarily have to keep up the pretence for too long. That said, the buyers will want to come back at least once after their offer has been accepted so don’t revert too quickly to stuff everywhere.
So what exactly can you do? Well, firstly, it’s a good excuse for a proper clear-out of all the ‘tut’ that we accumulate over the years ‘just in case’ we might need it one day; Secondly, you probably have a loft – and so do your friends / relatives. Also, your friends/relatives may have a garage that you can store some things in for a few weeks. Believe me, if you are honest with yourself about having too much stuff to make your house appealing to buyers and remove the clutter and thoroughly clean and tidy in advance, it will reap dividends for you.
Now to one of my pet hates – strong unpleasant smells. I will simply say again that you are doing yourself no favours if people are looking around with the background smell of stinky dog or the wonderful curry you’ve just had or are making for tea. You may like or have got used to these smells but your buyers won’t want to hang-around too long. Organise viewings around your habits or preferably organise your habits around the viewings – it should only be for a few weeks and you DO want to sell the house for the best price and as quickly as possible.
I’ve said before that you have to be honest with yourself about your house. Does it need a lick of paint here and there? Are there things that are obviously broken and in need of repair? Don’t ignore them and try, hard as it may be, not to look at your house through rose-tinted glasses. It can be hard I know, especially if you’ve lived there for many years, but once you have decided to sell your home, you must do it properly to get the best price and sell quickly.
Finally, don’t forget that there is usually scope for knocking through a wall to make larger open plan space somewhere and/or to build an extension. If the location is right and the budget is available, this can add value to the property while making it more suitable for their needs at the same time. Point this out to them!
This is always the tricky one and there are no right or wrong answers as to how much you should ask for your property. It will depend if you are in a steadily rising market or in a more subdued market in which case you should be prepared to accept reasonable offers.
You should get advice from local agents but please do beware of those who tell you what they think you want to hear just to get your business. It will often lead to disappointment and you can become dis-heartened.
My one big tip when dealing with an Estate Agent is this: DO NOT SIGN A CONTRACT THAT FORCES YOU TO USE THE AGENT’S SERVICES FOR MORE THAN 4 WEEKS! They want your business, just tell them that if they won’t change their contract, you’ll go elsewhere. 4 weeks is plenty of time to get the property on the market and conduct sufficient viewings to see if the price they recommended was right or way over the top for the current market.
However, you can also help yourself by doing some homework in advance. You’ll get an idea of whether the agent is being realistic or over-valuing to get your business.
The easiest way is to look on the property portal websites,Rightmove and Zoopla. They hold the Land Registry information so you can see both what similar homes in your area are on the market for now and importantly, what similar homes have been fetching in the last year and more. For many of these sold properties, there is a wealth of information still available, so look at the details, photos, room sizes and location factors to see how the property compares with yours.
To summarize then, you have to stop looking at your property through rose-tinted specs; see what buyers will see; smarten the house up inside and out; make sure you or your agent have the key positive points ready and price it sensibly, particularly if the market isn’t booming.
I am very happy to give advice – just call or email me.