House sales often drag on for months, but they do not need to. Here are the best ways to fast-track your next home move.
Selling your home is a doddle at the moment. Easier and quicker than ever. Isn’t it? In London, certainly. There are between seven and 10 buyers after every home. But there are farther flung parts of the country where it’s far from a sellers’ market. Here are our tips on how to sell your house in 24 hours.
1 Lights, make-up, action
You’re putting your home on the stage. Unless it looks appealing in the photographs, you won’t find an audience. William Tellwright, manager of John D Wood, has a sales service that specialises in pre-photo shoot spruce-ups. “Our photographers will plump up cushions, re-pleat curtains and de-clutter work surfaces,” he says.
A good idea is to hire a home-staging firm such as Housewow (www.housewow.co.uk). They reckon you should spend up to two per cent of the asking price on temporary beautification. This includes deep-cleaning the carpets, putting fresh flowers on the tables and hiring impressive furniture.
2 Be ready to scramble
“A vendor who is prepared to have viewings at short notice, and to keep their home in a suitable state is definitely preferable,” says Gerri Moore, director of Hunters. They know what they’re talking about. They put a bungalow in Enderby on the market at the close of business one day, conducted several viewings the next, and sold the property within three hours, for the full price. First, though, check the agent’s particulars. Research shows that sales brochures without spelling mistakes sell homes three times more quickly than those that contain errors.
But what is the best day of the week to go public with a listing? Friday, because that’s the day house-hunters plan their weekend viewing schedule. You want your house to be near the top of the property search engines.
3 Don’t always go for the highest valuation
Think twice before going with the agent who says your house is worth £20,000 more than a rival firm suggests. “It’s always tempting to go for the highest price, but if the market changes and your property is still sitting around six months later, it has cost you money,” says Will Watson of Middleton Advisors. “Choose an agent with a strong history of similar property sales in your area .”
4 Put out the word
Tell everyone that you are selling – neighbours, shopkeepers, friends and friends of friends. Use social media to spread the word, including Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. These are all free, so use them to your advantage. You never know where an unexpected buyer might spring from.
5 Play hard to get
When north London agents Aston Chase wanted to sell a prime property in Hampstead, they advertised in the newspapers, and turned down all requests from buyers for a viewing. It was let slip that the owner wanted to make pre-sale improvements. This generated what Aston Chase’s director Mark Pollack calls a “fever-pitch level of interest”. It worked. The plan resulted in “ a virtually instantaneous sale at a very substantial record price for the area”.
6 Start packing before you’ve even sold
Ideally, before the photos have even been taken. People won’t see your family snaps as charming bric-a-brac, but as house-shrinking clutter. “Try to look through the eyes of an incoming purchaser,” urges Matthew Abernethy of Kay & Co. “It’s your home, but they are viewing it as their future home.”
7 Sell in a conservation area
Buying in a conservation area is almost a cast-iron guarantee that the value isn’t going to drop. Witness the two-bedroom ground-floor apartment in the St Leonards area of Exeter, which was sold within 24 hours by Wilkinson Grant, for £145,000. The same agents sold another three-bedroom, listed property in Exeter in 48 hours, without the buyers even viewing it (oh all right, their parents did).
8 Time for a trim
Cut back sprawling leylandii which can often obscure the house and block out light. If you have a large tree so close to a house that it raises fears of subsidence and foundation-wobble among buyers, they might think that an expensive survey needs to be carried out before they consider an offer. “Remove all vegetation you reasonably can,” advises William Wells, residential director at Essex and Hertfordshire agents Mullucks Wells.
9 Provide extra rooms
Not another wing, but a strategically placed boot room, perfect if potential buyers have muddy children or dogs. If you’re selling in the winter, make sure you light up a log burner, with piles of freshly-chopped wood beside it. And don’t forget outdoors. “A garden with a sunken area and firepit for the adults, and a separate kids’ area with a treehouse is a real winner,” suggests Adam Hesse, director of Aston Mead estate agents in Surrey and Berkshire.
10 Know where your deeds are
You can’t sell a house unless you have the title deeds. The wrong time to start looking for them is when your solicitor has a buyer on the phone, wanting to complete. “Apart from anything else,” says Howard Elston of Aylesford International, “delays in the legal process are the most common reason for properties not selling, and can give a buyer time to change their mind.” If you have extended your home, make sure you have the planning consents available.
11 Leave no space unused
“It’s a big turn-off,” says Anita Kohn of Living in Space. “If a family is likely to buy your property, transform a neglected dining room into a second living room.” Add space wherever possible to create family areas.
12 Evict your tenants
Jamie Lester, of Haus Properties, suggested to a vendor that the best way to sell her property was to serve notice on the tenant, repaint and appeal to a young family looking for their first home. “We re ceived 45 enquiries and 10 offers,” he says. It sold for £857,000, well over the asking price of £775,000.
13 On the case
Send emails every couple of days to everyone involved: estate agents, your solicitors, their solicitors and surveyors. “If someone’s not pulling their weight, flag this up,” says David Pollock of Greene & Co. “Nobody likes to look silly in front of others.” Whether you are in the white heat of London or the more sedate markets elsewhere, it makes sense to approach selling your house as you would any business deal. Be professional, punctual and to the point, then watch your house fly off the shelf.