Top tips to get you moving
Estate agents are frequently asked by sellers if there is anything they should change about their house to help sell it.
The stock answer from estate agents is usually: "Oh gosh, no, it's lovely. Sign here."
Over the years I have become more aware of how many sides there are to estate agency, but the most important is that of trust.
Clients choose an estate agent, not because of a suit or a flashy car, and not because of the number of houses sold or websites used – it comes down to the client liking and trusting the estate agent.
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All too often, buyers say: "I can't believe they allowed their house to be viewed like that," or "why would anyone leave their house in that state before a viewing?"
Well, there is a common denominator there – the estate agent.
All too often, the agent is worried about losing the property if anything potentially critical is said. But the absolute opposite is often true. Your client is expecting advice and help to get their property sold.
So, when you walk around with your vendor before the house is photographed and goes on sale, and you talk about those things which will make the house appear more attractive to the buyer, you will usually find they are very willing to assist and will make the changes.
I'm not talking taking walls down, or re-landscaping the gardens but here are some simple things that are the frequent clangers buyers mention.
BATHROOMS AND KITCHENS
Everyone says that bathrooms and kitchens sell houses – it's true. Good, clean kitchens and bathrooms will always be crowd-pleasers, while stunning kitchens and bathrooms instantly have the wow factor, and buyers visualise themselves in both. But not if they are smelly, lack hygiene, are full of dirty dishes or have overflowing baskets of laundry, draped wet towels and an odour of damp feet. Clean around before each viewing. Buyers pick up that clean energy the moment they walk through your door.
Imagine yourselves on a viewing. As you open the front door there is the overpowering stench of bins, the curry from last night, kippers from the weekend, damp trainers from Thursday night's run, all topped off with a soupçon of wet dog to create the ultimate of evil nasal assaults.
No fields of daisies on a spring afternoon here, more a wrecking ball for the senses.
Don't let yourself fall into the same trap. Living somewhere, you become used to certain things, so remember your buyers have never seen your house and will be excited to see it so make the experience a hugely-positive one: banish the trainers to the shed, store bins outside, try not to have strong-smelling foods the night before the viewings and, if at all possible, keep man's best friend outside.
Ask the agent to get to the viewing earlier than normal and open a window or two.
Clutter and general untidiness will have your buyer heading for the door quicker than you can say "storage solutions".
Viewing a property full of clutter has the same effect on the brain as bad smells, it creates very negative emotions, it will make your house look smaller than it really is, and will act as a distraction to the buyer.
Tidy more things away, or ask your estate agent about any good storage solutions in the area. This can be relatively cheap and will start the removal process early.
LET THERE BE LIGHT
Entering a dark house is not the best feeling for anyone, especially the buyer, though it is very easy to avoid. When a house is too poorly lit the buyers tend to wonder what you are trying to hide. Replace dim or burnt-out light bulbs with high efficiency, bright bulbs. Why not pick up a few stylish lamps that will add to your décor too?
Take advantage of big windows. Make sure they are clean and don't allow your drapes and curtains to block any natural sunlight.
If it is cold and wet outside, light the fire – who can resist? If it is a bright sunny day, get the rear doors and windows open which will serve three purposes: showing how quiet your property is, how light it is and how your garden becomes another reception space in the summer.
Very high on the applicants' hate list is the owner showing the applicant around the house first time.
It is nerve racking enough being a buyer, but even harder to evaluate a property fairly when the vendor does the viewing.
You are paying your estate agent to sell your house after all and for most of us, it is one of the biggest parts of the job. Make us earn our money. There is real danger the buyer will also give you inaccurate feedback. Should they not like it, they are very unlikely to give you their real opinion.
Once you have a buyer who likes the property and has made an offer, step in and tell the buyer why you fell in love with the property, how nice the neighbours are and where the sun is in the summer.
Bear in mind that none of these will alter the value of the property, but they will formalise and confirm a perceptive desire to purchase and hoist your property above the opposition which is just what you want – the advantage.