Why do some properties get snapped up in days while others languish for months? It’s easy to blame the market – but could it be that those slow-to-sell homes are overpriced or recent renovations are not hitting the mark? And what should you do if your home falls into that group? We asked a team of Houzz pros for their top tips on getting your home ready for potential buyers.
Professional advice from: David Hurn of Jacobsen Black | Ed Woolgar of Marsh & Parsons | Lonnee Hamilton and Jemimah Barnett of London Realtor
Underprice rather than overprice
“The most common mistake we see in this current market, is vendors overpricing their homes,” says Lonnee Hamilton of London Realtor. She continues: “In order to win the instruction, many agents will go along with what the vendor insists is the market price, only to have it sit on the market for a long time until the price is lowered later on.”
Time spent on the market in a declining market means that your home is decreasing in value, rather than increasing. “So it’s much better to price it competitively at the beginning and get the property sold, rather than hoping and waiting for someone to overpay,” adds Hamilton.
There is also the potential for higher offers if several buyers are interested and this can help to get the selling price up to where you believe it should be.
Time it right
Traditionally spring is the perfect time to sell your house; as the days grow longer and gardens begin to bloom, buyers return to the market to view properties in their finest state.
However, houses can, and do, sell at other times of the year – the knack is to put yourself in your prospective buyer’s position and think about what is going to motivate them to buy. For example, “autumn can be an ideal time to put your property on the market if you are looking for a motivated buyer who wants to move in time for Christmas.” says Ed Woolgar of Marsh & Parsons.
Schedule viewings during the day
“Viewing properties during sunlight hours allows buyers to gauge the quality of natural light coming into the house, so daytime appointments are ideal in this respect,” says Woolgar.
“Polish any glass in the house: light fixtures, chandeliers, glass tabletops, glass inserts in cabinets, mirrors – it’s an easy way to add shine and sparkle,” says Hamilton. “And clean the windows. You want to make sure that it looks sparkling from the inside. Light and shine catch the eye.”
Make yourself scarce during viewings
Don’t worry if you are at work when potential buyers come to view the property. In fact, this is often beneficial. “Buyers often feel more comfortable asking questions and expressing their opinions on a property, as the fear of causing offence is removed,” explains Woolgar.
They are also more likely to make themselves at home, try out the sofa, and generally picture themselves living in the space if the owner isn’t there.
Don’t ‘panic renovate’
The kitchen is commonly recognised as the biggest selling point of a home, but you don’t need to splash out on a new one to make a quicker sale. After all, your tastes might not be the same as those of your buyers and the cost will eat into your profit margin.
“Sometimes sellers spend a lot of money on a renovation, but that’s the first thing the buyers say they are going to change,” reveals Hamilton. “Likewise, don’t bother with a renovation that is too cheap. Buyers can immediately see that you’ve skimped on price and materials and, once again, that’s the first thing that they will want to rip out.”
Minimise the presence of pets (sorry)
You love your pooch, but prospective buyers might not feel the same way, or may even be allergic to dog or cat hair, so if you have a pet, you’ll also need to minimise signs of his or her presence before viewings.
“Make sure your home is cleaned every day to reduce pet smells,” says David Hurn of Jacobsen Black. “Keep pet toys to a minimum, and remove them and feeding bowls when viewings take place.” Ideally, pets should be out of the house when prospective buyers call.
Create that welcome glow
It’s essential that you don’t forget about the outside of your home: after all, this is what potential buyers will see first. If you have mould on the walls, think about renting a power washer. “It’s less expensive than an exterior paint job, but it can make a difference,” says Hamilton. “Likewise, if there are spider webs outside, sweep them out. Then, just before a viewing, turn all the lights on, indoors and out – even small side lamps: the more light the better.”
Photo by Laura Butler-Madden
Don’t make it personal
Pack away knick-knacks and take down family photos – too much of ‘you’ makes it hard for buyers to see themselves in the home. “The idea is for the home to inspire the buyer to imagine their life in it, not admire what you have,” explains Hamilton. “My advice to middle-aged or older couples is to acknowledge that your buyer is probably going to be younger than you are. Dated heavy furniture, rugs, lamps and loads of family photos age the home.”
Groom your garden
Don’t forget the garden: it’s important to mow the lawn and trim bushes so they don’t look difficult to manage. “People want a garden that’s low maintenance,” says Hamilton. “It should be inviting and not look like it will suck up every weekend for the next year to get it under control.”
Then add some bright colour with inexpensive plants – a cheap way to improve the overall impression of your home. Just make sure you keep the garden looking healthy – again, to make that crucial good first impression. “Water everything – from the plants to the driveway,” says Jemimah Barnett of London Realtor. “Water makes the plants look lush and green, and it makes the driveway look uniform.”