Tips for selling your house
Every property is different in terms of size, location, value and character, but there is one common denominator with every property; if you are selling it, you want to sell it quickly. Delays in selling a property are rarely a good thing. It usually means the property isn’t appealing to the market you are trying to sell it to. That could mean it is over-valued for the area, it needs a lot of work doing to it, or the area itself is not one that people are wanting to move to.
Some of these issues are easier to solve than others, but ultimately, delays in selling your property can be stressful, can be expensive and can result in you missing out on the dream property you wish to move to.
The flipside of this, of course, is that if your house sells quickly then it is attractive and appealing to the right market. But making a property marketable can be difficult. After all, you can’t move its location. So in one sense, how quickly you sell your house depends on whether it’s a good idea to buy it in the first place. Not many people are thinking that far ahead in the excitement of buying a property, but you should always have one eye on whether this would be an attractive property and/or location in a few years’ time when you might be looking to sell. Being stuck with an unattractive property can lead to financial disaster further down the line.
You also can’t make an old property newer, but there is lots you can do to improve the appeal of a property, to add value and hopefully to sell it quicker, and this is a comprehensive guide to everything you need to consider.
Before undergoing a property valuation
You should have a good idea on the appeal of your property before you put it on the market, you can research similar properties in your area online and see what value they have, but in order to establish the true value in today’s market you need to get it properly valued.
Research reputable estate agents in your area with a view to choosing around three to give you separate valuations. Maybe you could use ones that have sold recently in surrounding streets. You can also try an online seller, a high street seller and a small local seller, just to get a good spread of opinion. You can of course decide to sell the house yourself ultimately, and whilst this saves a lot of costs it takes time and makes it harder to advertise the property. So this is an option open to you, but it doesn’t stop you getting a proper valuation from an estate agent in the meantime.
When getting a valuation it is not too important to carry out jobs on the house in preparation, unless it is something structural that will knock a few thousand off the valuation. Ultimately, you are not trying to sell the property to the estate agent and they are not looking to be impressed by your décor. They can see through certain things in the home and establish a true value without you spending money decorating or fixing everything. They also won’t be looking in cupboards, in the loft or asking lots of questions. They are experienced and will be able to provide an accurate valuation quite easily on the back of a five-minute walk-around. Of course, however, on the day it is courteous and simple common sense to have a tidy round to make the property look and smell attractive.
Preparing your property to go on the market
Once you have a valuation you can prepare to put the property on the market. The estate agent may advise you to carry out certain jobs to help sell the property. Expensive home improvement jobs such as a new kitchen or bathroom or new decking in the garden are not worth the expense compared with the money you will get back in value. And also, don’t forget that people generally want to make a new home their own, so let them spend the money. However, there are certain jobs that probably are worth looking at:
Electrics – anything unsafe or if re-wiring is needed should be addressed.
Roof issues – anything fundamentally wrong with the structure or integrity of the house should be looked at.
Gutters – this affects the functioning of the house and may also affect the kerb appeal.
Alarm systems – good home security is important when selling a property.
Boilers/central heating – people will ask about this so an investment in making sure it is functioning and efficient is wise.
Repairs – it makes complete sense to carry out repairs like holes in the wall, broken door knobs or leaking showers leading to damp in the room below. It looks bad visually, but also suggests you haven’t looked after the house and raises an alarm as to what else might be found.
Environmental Performance Certificate (EPC) – in order to improve the rating of your property you might have to carry out jobs on the boiler/central heating, but also gas and electrical supplies, or draughty windows.
If you choose not to carry out these type of jobs then be prepared for them to be raised in surveys further down the line. At this point you will either have to do the job anyway, or negotiate the cost to be taken off the asking price. It may be easier just to do it, but this isn’t the same for non-essential jobs.
This is extremely therapeutic in that it starts the process of getting you mentally prepared for moving. You can say goodbye to a lot of rubbish, it makes the property much more appealing to a potential new owner in terms of first impressions of a property and also it provides yourself with much less stuff to move to a new home.
Decorating is not expensive and helps to sell the property, but there is no requirement to do the whole house unless it REALLY needs it, and you should also be relatively conservative with your choice of décor. This is not the time to put your personality on the property with ‘niche’ design ideas for wallpaper, paint colours or even provocative paintings or wall art. Keep it neutral and let people viewing see pretty much a blank canvass that they can move into and quickly make their own.
This is a big factor in selling a home, because many people will drive past a house to get an impression of it before they even make arrangements for a viewing. And even on a viewing it is the first thing people see. So what the property’s exterior looks like could be a clincher. It would be a bit of a stretch to invest in new double-glazed windows throughout the house, but maybe get any hedges, bushes or grass cut and trimmed, repair the fence, weed the driveway and paths, and paint the front door, fencing and maybe the guttering and fascias and soffits. Consider getting the pointing re-done if it looks like it needs it. Make sure there is no clutter and rubbish piled up outside, and buy some attractive plant pots or decorative bushes to stand by the front door. If you think it is worth it, invest in some outdoor lighting in case people drive past in the dark. It doesn’t need to be expensive, just something to create a bright and welcoming impression.
Quite apart from the costs of buying a home, which presumably you are also going to do – and more of this later – there are also costs involved in selling a home. So before you do anything you should sit down and address all these, to make sure this is the right time for you to move.
Fees – look at your mortgage situation and establish what it will cost you to move to a new property. If you have a variable rate mortgage it might not cost you anything, but if you are in the middle of a fixed rate period or have a tracker mortgage, it could be more complicated. Usually, your lender will be able to give you a figure for what it will cost to end the mortgage and pay it up early. Or you may be able to transfer it.
Estate Agents – if you are using an estate agent, then they will usually give you an upfront cost for their services, which includes everything involved in selling a property, bar the conveyancing. It is worth considering this before thinking you can just do it yourself.
Conveyancing – you will have to pay for a solicitor to deal with surveys, land registry searches and documentation, deeds, exchange of title and contracts etc.
EPC – you need this in order to be able to sell the property. It only carries a small cost, but a survey might result in small jobs as mentioned above.
Removals – you will need a professional team to help you move, so be prepared for the cost. Again, this is only a small cost but adds to all your others and needs budgeting for.
In today’s property market, viewings are usually still in person, but people also expect to get a good impression of a property online before they even make an appointment to see it physically. Many estate agents host good photos of a property online as well as arranging viewings, so all the points in this section apply to preparing for viewings, but also in preparing for photos to be taken for brochures and to put online.
This is not simply a tidy-up job on the day, this is a deep clean that you might otherwise only carry out once a year, or maybe even never. In that case, consider getting a professional in, because we are talking about the kind of cleaning that requires some elbow grease. This could be shifting limescale, cleaning tile grout, removing a build-up of grease from the kitchen, or mould stains in the bathroom.
Again, this is not last-minute touching-up, but is getting to the root cause of long-standing issues. So get the drains cleaned out and deal with any issues of damp. Maybe get new carpets or curtains if you have a pet or if you smoke and the smell lingers. Often you won’t be able to smell this in your own home, so maybe get an independent opinion from a friend or family.
This is your big chance to create a first impression, so get a checklist together and run through it before every viewing. This should include:
Vacuum the whole house.
Clean the toilet and bathroom.
Put clean towels out and fresh linen on beds.
Empty internal bins.
Open windows prior to a viewing to get fresh air circulating around the house. If it is the middle of winter time this wisely, if it is warm enough leave the windows open, unless this draws attention to external noise.
Cut the grass and hedges where applicable.
Make the kitchen sparkle – this is possibly the most important room and can be the central focus of a family’s activities, so clean cupboard doors, worktops, the hob and make sure doors and handles are secure.
Open all blinds and curtains to let light flood in and make the house feel airy.
If it is cold, put the heating on and make the home feel inviting and cosy.
Consider putting a mirror or two up, they make rooms feel bigger and more comfortable.
Put fresh flowers in vases in key locations, and also fresh fruit in bowls in the kitchen.
Put lamps on in dark rooms to make them inviting, and maybe put a soothing candle on in the bathroom.
Prepare the family – avoid the kids arguing or reaching a frenetic point in a FIFA tournament, maybe take the dog out for a walk, even if it’s obvious you have a dog. Essentially, make sure no one is doing anything which could cause embarrassment or a lasting negative impression.
At the same time as all this, it is important to leave some sort of character in a property as you are trying to sell it, otherwise people get an antiseptic impression, like it is a hotel. So whilst we talk about clearing up and de-cluttering, you should also make the home cosy, comfortable and lived-in. So maybe leave subtle traces of your lifestyle on show; a nice, full wine rack for example, if you play a musical instrument leave it stored on display, have some quiet and appropriate background music playing and some books, newspapers or magazines on display. People also talk about tricks like providing nice smells. So it might sound far-fetched, but bake some bread or a cake, or some buns just prior to the viewing. Or have a big pot of fresh coffee on the go. This doesn’t have to look stage-managed and all helps provide a vision for what a new family can do in a new home. Essentially, think back to what really appealed to you when you looked around the house for the first time, and does this still apply?
Questions to be prepared for
If you have opted to use an estate agent to carry out viewings, then you may be able to take a backseat here, but chances are these are questions you will be asked at some stage. Some of these could influence the success or otherwise of selling the property. So make sure your answers are honest and consistent with other information available to people viewing the property. Don’t forget, if something isn’t uncovered during a viewing it will be picked up during a survey, so it is almost impossible, and therefore completely pointless, to try and cover something up such as damage, or underlying work that needs doing.
However, common questions you should prepare answers for include:
Why are you moving? People want to know if there is something wrong with the house/area, and if there is a completely logical work or family reason, make sure they know about it.
Why something doesn’t work. Save yourself some embarrassment and check light switches, central heating, showers, alarms etc all work.
What work have you had done? Be prepared to explain what you have needed to invest in, they might also want to see guarantees or any outstanding warranties on certain things.
How old stuff is. It might be the house itself, a boiler, double-glazing or decking, but make sure you can provide good information where asked.
Have you had many people looking? Often this is a tactic to see if you have had any other offers yet, but people generally want to know how popular the property is and what they are up against.
Things to avoid? Don’t pretend you are a legal expert. So if someone asks you about boundaries, title deeds or local planning issues, just explain politely that your solicitor is best placed to explain that. If there is something that would likely cause a problem in the sale, you will know about it already so that’s slightly different, but anything else, don’t dig yourself into a hole unnecessarily.
Tips on how to sell your house quickly
Taking into account all of the above, you can fully prepare and give yourself the best possible chance of selling your property as soon as is needed. But there are other things you need to consider and which will certainly help in the house-selling process.
People will be nosey – prepare for people invading your personal space and to give up your rights to certain freedoms. People will be nosey and will want to look into cupboards, drawers and of course rooms. Small things like storage are important to people, so don’t get upset or defensive when this happens, as people could get suspicious and put off.
Be prepared for second viewings – if someone is really interested they will come back for a second viewing. So don’t take this as a nuisance or a hindrance, and be consistent in how you set up the home because it must have worked the first time, although baking ANOTHER loaf of bread might be a bit of a giveaway. That said, they might come back at a different time of day, so make sure the house is presented appropriately, in terms of lighting, heating and security.
Negotiate – it is common for people to under-bid in the first instance, so don’t panic and accept the first offer you receive, be brave and see if they hold their nerve. Take advice from your estate agent and be prepared to negotiate. Your home has been valued at a certain price, so you should fight to get that if you can, but at the same time you need to be realistic as to what offers are on the table and, in the circumstances, what is the common sense thing to do.
Appoint a good conveyancer – this appointment is key to things progressing well and to plan. There are nearly always hold-ups which can cause stress and panic, and aren’t necessarily the fault of your solicitor, but do your research and appoint someone ideally for both the sale of your home and the purchase of another one. Which brings us to our final point…..
Have a new home in mind – some offers on a new property will not be accepted until you have sold your current home. This is a bit of a juggling act and can be extremely nerve-racking when things suddenly move quickly, but you should be looking for a new property at the same time you are taking viewings on your own. This enables you to act fast and decisively. To the same end, you should also have a valid mortgage offer on hold and have a good handle on your costs. This will all help you sell quickly and be able to move as and when needed so that the sale you have worked hard to secure, doesn’t collapse.