It was great speak at the Women’s Institute Centenary Fair in Harrogate on 3rd September (www.thewishow.com). It was an amazing event which celebrated the achievements of the WI over the last 100 years, and also showcased the diversity of its members and everyone who is involved. It’s not all ‘jam and Jerusalem’ (although some of the cakes were very yummy!)
I was talking about ‘How to be a Savvy Seller’ and revealing my tips, tricks and advice for those who are thinking about selling their property. For those of you who weren’t able to pop along, but would like some pointers, here’s my recipe for a successful sale:
1) Know how much your property is worth before you start: Weigh up before you start:
This is really important, as it rarely pays to be over-ambitious in terms of what price you can achieve when you come to sell. Start by taking a look on one of the property search portals and see what else is on the market that is close by that is similar to yours (you could also look in your local paper and in estate agents windows to get an idea). Maybe use one of the free online valuation services, like Zoopla, that will give you an instant, free indication of value. Also, take a look at the historic sold prices in the area; sites like RightMove provide this sort of data for free. Top tip though, you’re really only interested in properties that have sold within the last 12 months (6 months in London). Any older than that and the market will have moved on so the historic price isn’t so relevant to what the place is worth now. Also, remember that every road has a ‘ceiling price’ which is very, very difficult to break through, so it pays to do your research before you start so that your expectations are realistic.
2) Carefully choose your estate agent or selling platform:
They’ll be the shop window for your property, so take your time and make sure you get the best on the job. With the new breed of hybrid and online agents emerging, there is of course the potential to save a lot of money, as many charge ‘fixed fees’ rather than a percentage commission. However, you do need to know what you’re paying for. Many provide a ‘menu’ of services, so you pay individually for each element, such as floor plans, photos, Energy Performance Certificates, writing your particulars, or even attending viewings. Always check to see what’s included and get it in writing. If you’re considering a traditional agent, make sure you understand their fee structure so you know up front what you’re getting yourself into. Get three potential companies in to provide a market appraisal; when they provide you with their recommendation of what it’s worth, ask them to prove it by showing you evidence of similar properties that are currently on the market for the same amount, or other properties like yours that they’ve sold recently. Most importantly, always use a qualified estate agent. Whether they’re an online platform or traditional high street agent, it’s so important that the person who is dealing with the sale of your home has undertaken specialist training and exams, undergoes regular assessments to make sure they’re up to date on all the latest legislation, and has had a full criminal record check (DBS check as it’s now called). Make sure your agent is either a member of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) or the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. Every estate agent, whether high street or online, has to be a member of one of the three Property Ombudsman Services by law (The Property Ombudsman, Ombudsman Services or the Property Redress Scheme) but that’s not the same thing, so don’t be fobbed off. Either they’re qualified, or they aren’t! Don’t be afraid to ask, and always look for the logos on their website.
3) Don’t sign your life away: I always recommend that people only sign on with an estate agent or online selling platform for six weeks initially. That gives them plenty of time to get your viewings going and test how effective they are. Generally speaking, it takes 12 viewings to get an offer (9 on average in London) so if you’re not getting folk through the door, then you need to go back to your agent and ask why. Generally speaking, it will be one of three reasons – either the asking price is too high, the particulars aren’t sexy enough to entice people to book a viewing or, sometimes, because your agent or selling platform isn’t being proactive enough. But before you pass judgment, ask your agent his or her opinion about your property and take their advice on board. They know the local market and do this every day for a living, so their input in the process is vital. If, having tried the market they think you either need to give the place a makeover or reconsider the price, then that’s what you may need to do in order to attract your golden buyer. However, if you think that another company could do a better job if you’ve taken my advice at least you’ve agreed up front that you only have to list with your current agent for six weeks, which is much better than being tied in for 3 months (which is the standard agency contract). Make sure whatever you agree in terms of your commitment to the estate agent or selling platform is agreed in writing. Most will ask you to sign a contract, so read it very carefully and if you don’t understand anything, don’t be shy about speaking up and asking them to explain it more clearly.
4) Get your solicitor or conveyancer on board early:
The best time to appoint a solicitor or conveyancer is the same time you appoint your estate agent or selling platform. Why? Well, think about it. Whilst your agent is working hard to prepare your particulars a get you a ton of viewings, your solicitor or conveyancer can be preparing your Sales Pack for you, which will take around a month to sort out. That way, the day that you get your offer you’ll be good to go, rather than having to wait at least a month before you can get moving. See? Makes sense! The other reason for getting your lawyer in line before you start is so that you can shop around to get the best deal. Sure, your estate agent may be able to recommend someone, but they may not necessarily be the cheapest, and there are some fantastic online conveyancing services out there who offer brilliant value for money packages if you’re on a budget, as well as offering a very efficient service. So, as with everything else in life, it pays to shop around. Make sure though that you appoint either a solicitor who’s a member of the Law Society, or that your licensed conveyancer is a member of the Council for Licensed Conveyancers. Also, once your estate agent has prepared your sales particulars, get your solicitor or conveyancer to review them for you. That’s because as the Vendor, you are legally responsible if they are incorrect, not the estate agent or selling platform. So, belt and braces, get them checked by an expert to make sure you avoid any nasty situations down the line.
You’ve only got one chance to make a first impression with buyers, so make sure you give your property the best chance possible to woo them. First off, have a good old tidy up and spring clean. It’s been said so many times, but it’s really important that people can see the space on offer and visualise how they would use it, so de clutter and make sure that every last available bit of the place is shown off to its best advantage. Dirt is a no-no, and really does put people off, so spend a weekend spring cleaning and getting your place ship-shape. Then keep on top of it with a quick whip around before every viewing. If you’ve made some, shall we say, ‘adventurous’ interior design choices, it may pay to neutralise the odd feature wall. I’m not saying you have to go for bland beige throughout the place, but just knock back on anything really bright so that it’s more appealing to the majority. Got a front garden? Keep the grass mown and the flowerbeds tidy. Same for your back garden; get rid of grotty outdoor furniture, spruce up your patio and tidy up your shed. People want to see what they are getting for their money. I’m not saying you need to spend a fortune to create a show home, but these are the sorts of things that really do help to sell houses. Remember, the majority of buyers will do a ‘drive by’ before their appointment, so if they don’t like what they see on the outside, they are unlikely to bother coming round to see the inside. A few hanging baskets or bay trees either side of your front door is always a nice touch, as are sparkling clean windows and fresh exterior paintwork.
When it comes to selling, always think, “Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail.” By doing your research to understand the value of your property, getting the best agent and solicitor you can on the case and then spending time to prepare and present your home so it’s as appealing as possible, you’re giving yourself the best chance to attract a buyer and achieve the right price. Yes, it does take a bit of time, but the more prepared you are now, the smoother things will go when you get the magic phone call to say you’ve had an offer. Being lazy rarely sell houses.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to have another slice of that Victoria sponge…