I’ve just been perusing through a couple of “How to sell your house” guides, and I think I’ve just lost the will to live. Two words: Total junk.
The entire ‘Top 10’ results in Google is populated by some pretty extraordinarily flimsy articles! Shockingly, many of them are contributed by extremely popular property websites that really should know and do better. Alas, they all pretty much shared the same primitive drivel: ‘eliminating clutter’ and ‘applying a fresh lick of paint’ is the magic formula. I mean, seriously? Who doesn’t know ‘clean and tidy’ sells? What about all the other steps that is required to sell a home efficiently?
While those are key steps, they’re not exactly useful tips that most competent people with a shred of common sense didn’t already know! If selling a home boiled down to throwing and cramming everything into cupboards, and painting the entire house in a ‘neutral’ colour then why would anyone even need help (i.e. fish around for useful articles)?
Long story short, I was so disappointed by the articles (and Google) that I’ve been reluctantly forced to put some much needed meat onto the bones. I’m going to start from the top to bottom, so feel free to jump in where relevant…
How much is your property worth?
First things first.
Before even contemplating a sale, we need to know how much cash we should expect to get for our home. Right? Right!
Many people make a fatal mistake at this very first step, and that is by approaching one estate agent, which is typically the one closest from their doorstep, and solely relying on their assessment. STOP right there!
Do NOT do that. Get multiple valuations from different sources, and will provide for a much much accurate and realistic valuation. So many properties get left on the shelf because they’re overpriced, and equally as devastating, many fly off the shelf because they’ve been undervalued.
Here are a few methods of getting a valuation:
- Look on Rightmove and Zoopla for current prices
- Get valuations from a few local agents, not just one!
- Use free services online which provide information on how historical ‘house sale’ statistics- specially how much recent properties in your area actually sold for!
Use as many methods as possible!
How much will it cost to sell my house?
Here are some typical and estimated costs of selling a home:
|Estate Agent Fees||
High-street Agent: 0.75% – 3% of sold price|
Online Agent £495 – £1,695
|Conveyancing Solicitor||£500 – £1,800|
|Home Report (Scotland Only)||£500 – £700|
|EPC (Energy Performance Certificate)||£50 – £120|
|Removals||£300 – £1,200|
As expected, the majority of the costs is incurred on estate agency fees, particularly when using an high-street agent! The best way to cut down on estate agency fees is by using an online agent, which is discussed in detail further down!
Do I need an Agent at all?
Common question, and I totally get it.
Putting their insanely high costs for their services aside, estate agents have scorned much of society with their greasy personality and snake-oil sales tactics, so it’s not surprising that many are looking for alternative solutions.
Ok, so let me answer the question directly first: yes, you can market and sell your property anyhow you wish, even without an agent. Whether that be through social media, word of mouth, local newspapers and/or pin boards in your local corner and grocery stores. However, I’d have to say that those methods are probably the least effective means in this digital day in age. Dinosaur tactics, if you will!
In my opinion, if you want the best possible chance of selling your property, you will need to work with some ‘form’ of estate agent. Operative words being ‘some form’. Currently, the only way to get your property onto the biggest UK property portals like Rightmove and Zoopla is via an estate agent. However, you don’t have to work directly with your local estate agent do to that, you can use an “online estate agent”, which maybe the solution to those looking to do it without an agent.
Online Vs Highstreet Agent
Long gone are the days where going to our local high-street agent and being savaged by their insanely high fees is the norm, and the only means of selling our homes. It’s over! That was yesterday’s news and today’s fish ‘n chip paper! And thank God for that.
Vendors now have choice between using an online estate agent to sell their property privately and the traditional high-street agent! The most notable difference between the two (and the one that most people care about) is that online agents are a buttload cheaper.
According to HomeOwners Alliance, high-street estate agents charge a percentage fee anywhere between 0.75% and 3.5% of the agreed selling price. So if we base an example on a 2% fee for a property that sells for £100,000, the agent’s fee would be £2,000. Now compare that with the average cost of an online agent, which is £600! So that means a £1,400 saving! So the potential savings are gigantic! Perhaps that explains why so many are jumping ship from the traditional route.
I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty details in this post, but I do want to make it abundantly clear that you don’t have to use your local estate agent to sell your home anymore, and by using an online agent you could potentially save thousands! Most online agents operate nationwide, so they’ll be able to market your property for sale whether it’s Scotland, Wales or England. So it’s worth looking into Online Estate Agents and then deciding which type of agent you want to use.
Tips for working with High-street Estate Agents
Less might be more!
This is crucial.
Don’t just work with an Estate Agent that values your property with the highest price tag. Find out what their fees are first. In the long run, they could cut into a healthy portion of the sale price, and that could end up being the most costly option.
Always do the maths before making any commitments!
Also, ensure you get confirmation of the total bill on paper! Estate agents are notorious for riddling their T&C’s with nasty hidden and extra costs.
Do you want to be tied to one agent?
This is a choice you will need to make, but I can the majority of people will NOT want to shackled.
Many agents will try to tie you into an exclusive contract, which means they will be the only agency that can deal with your property without incurring a penalty.
Agent’s Marketing Strategy
I personally wouldn’t recommend using an agent that does NOT advertise their properties on Rightmove AND Zoopla! They’re currently the two biggest property portals in the UK, and most agents generate the majority of their leads from them. If you want as many eyes on your property as humanly possible, then statistically speaking, you want your property on both of those websites!
Some of the smaller agents will only advertise on one or the other, but that’s only because the fees for marketing on those websites are allegedly astronomical, so it’s not always financial viable for all agents!
Find out where and how your agent will market your property. It’s also worth enquiring about the localised marketing they do e.g. newspapers.
How long does it take them to sell a property?
Find out how long it currently takes the agent to sell a property from the day it’s put on the market. Each estate agent should have a figure based on their internal sales data.
Be warned though, I wouldn’t take their answer is gospel, but it’s still interesting to know their answer.
Quick house sales for cash
I’d be amiss if I didn’t throw this curve-ball; the option of selling your home to a specialist “Quick House Sale” company.
It’s certainly not an option for everyone (95% of people), but if you’re desperate for a quick cash sale and don’t mind selling for below market value (approx 80% – 90% of the going rate), then you could wrap this up quickly by going straight to a Quick House Sale company.
Here’a a guide on quick house sale companies.
Good photography won’t directly sell your property, but they will have a direct impact on how the amount of enquiries you receive, which means they will have an indirect impact on the efficiency of your sale. Needless to say, More Enquiries = Better chance for a sale. Learn it, love it, live it (did I get the order right? I always forget)!
I’m baffled when I go onto the likes of Rightmove and see properties with total bullshit images; whether it be due to poor angles, dark and dingy lighting and/or clueless compositions that show the corner of a room! It almost makes me question whether the owner wants to sell the property. Even worse, is when I see properties with NO images at all. I mean, WTF, who is actually going to enquire?
The thing is, Rightmove and Zoopla do NOT allow individuals to directly advertise on their website- you need to go through an estate agent! So that means an agent approved each and every one of those photoless adverts, and those riddled with inadequate photos. Unbelievable!
Whether you’re using an online or high-street agent, make sure you use professional property photography that will actually sell your house! If your agent is responsible for taking the pics, make sure they’re actually of quality. If they’re not, kick up a fuss, or abandon them, because that clearly means that they either have no idea what they are doing, or selling your house is not in their best interest! I’m not totally ensure which scenario would be worse.
If you’re responsible for the pictures, and all you have to hand is the camera attached to your smartphone, then get some professional photos taken- it’s not that expensive! You can get them from £85, which includes Floorplans!
Believe me, good photography is crucial to the efficiency of your sale.
So, onto Floorplans. Getting professional floorplans to supplement your advert is recommended, because it gives potential buyers a good idea of how your house is laid out. If you’re using a high-street agent, it should 100% be part of the deal. While getting as many enquiries as possible is crucial, you also don’t want to waste time- floorplans are a good way to prevent that:
I’ve already written an indepth blog post on Why landlords should use professional photography when looking for tenants, but the same principles apply when selling a property…
In my opinion, perhaps not as crucial as the photography, but it’s up there on the scales of importance- to have a strong description/details of your property to maximize the enquiries.
Once again, it’s not important who is managing the sale, whether you’re selling privately or using an high-street agent, the important thing is that the description is done properly! So if you need to bust some chops to make it happen, then do it!
Your description should include the following:
- List of all rooms
- Size/measurements of all rooms
- Local amenities
- Public transport links
EPC (Energy Performance certificate)
Whether you use an estate agent or not, you must provide an Energy Performance Certificate for the property by law. An estate agent should do this for you, but as a private seller you can still organise it yourself rather easily!
Make your property presentable
Ok, ok, ok! I know in the opening of this blog post I had a mental breakdown because of all the generic and flimsy articles on “how to sell your home” being polluted with bog-standard tips that was based around ‘presentation’, all of which a chimp wouldn’t be educated or surprised by. I’m going to cover those exact tips now! In my defence, I did say they were crucial, albeit as obvious as saying that the sky is blue. However, for the purpose of making this guide ‘complete’ I gotta’ mention them…
Keep it neutral
This is a classic; this tip is in every guide, and there’s a good reason for it… it’s important!
Every step taken to prepare your home should focus on this being the end game- to make the property look as neutral as possible, so it appeals to the most amount of people. If you’re going to repaint, if you plan on staging your house… make the end result look neutral, or as neutral as possible!
This step is particularly crucial if you’ve stamped your own unique style all throughout the property. To what may come to your surprise, not everyone will appreciate vibrant red and purple walls; such distinctive and striking styling choices may make it difficult for prospective buyer’s to see beyond what’s in front of them, and that may cause a stumbling barrier.
Clutter is the devil!
People like being able to envisage what the property would look like if they were living there, which is often difficult to do when every square inch is occupied with junk. It’s important to create as much space as possible, and usually, the best way to do that is by getting rid of all the clutter. Be warned though, clutter WILL mostly consist of the items which you consider ‘prized possessions’. So you may need a little “reality check” before coming to terms with what you need to get rid of.
For most people, declittering will consist of a two-step process! First step is to make a few dozen trips to the local dump and disposing of the junk that’s been accumulated over the years. Second step is to box, cram and hide clutter out of sight.
Rearrange furniture to maximise space
Consider removing or rearranging any bulky furniture, because they’re good at making a room feel awfully small. People are obsessed with space; people want to swing cats around without making any contact! The bigger your property/rooms look, the more enticing the proposition becomes.
Light and airy is cool!
Fix & Clean
Patch up and repair any visual eye-sores that may scare potential buyers away e.g. holes in walls, broken doors/windows, and throw away the rotten rugs.
Bear in mind, buyers are looking for the best deal possible, so they will always look for faults in your property, hoping it will help knock down the price. So if there are major problems, weigh up whether they’re worth fixing.
Needless to say, ensure the property is thoroughly cleaned; tiles sparkling, carpets dust free and cobwebs swept away!
Fresh paint sells
It’s true, giving your walls a fresh lick of neutral paint will make your home seem lighter and bigger.
If your house is contaminated with dated wallpaper and/or dark, grubby walls, this might be a particularly important step to take!
There’s an argument for the front door being important to create a good ‘first impression’. I believe it, although I’m not sure how much of a deal-breaker it is, but it’s still worth adding to the list.
If your door is painted and is in particularly bad shape, whether it be smothered in a distasteful colour, or flaking to pieces like a foot with a bad case of athletes foot, it could be time to finally sand it down and repaint.
Make your home welcoming from the offset.
The sniff test; bad smells kill!
Bad smells are one of the biggest turn offs for prospective buyers, and it’s crucial to find the source of the smell and resolve the problem, as opposed to covering it up with airfresher. In most cases, airfresher and other artificial fragrances will only make the bad smells more potent. Moreover, overpowering fragrances can also often be a clear sign of obvious deception, especially when trying to hide the smell of dampness and mould!
Clear the drains, wash the bins after they have been emptied, open windows, air the kitchen from old cooking smells, get rid of furniture that is embedded with cigarette smoke, and wash any grimy bed sheets.
If you or any other resident is a smoker, look for guides online on how to eliminate the smoke smell. There are plenty around.
The kitchen & bathroom(s) are key areas
Arguably the two most valuable areas of any house is the kitchen and bathroom(s), which means they can easily make or break a sale. That’s why it’s important to pay special attention in those rooms!
Both these areas are worth ‘staging’, which may include fresh flowers, a bowl of fruit, and even new furnishings. Moreover, it’s worth spending a little extra on professional cleaning services, because they’ll have the equipment and experience to do a deep clean, which always goes a long way. Most professional cleaning companies will have pretty inexpensive “end of tenancy” or “move out” cleaning packages.
If you feel like your kitchen and/or bathrooms are in dire straits, and it seems like you would be ‘polishing a turd’ if you even attempt to give it a clean… at least make it clean and tidy. Do the best you can, but realise these rooms are key!
Don’t neglect your garden
We’re a nation obsessed with BBQ’s, probably because we only have a very limited amount of days where the weather permits them! Your back garden should look like a space for entertaining.
Many sellers wrongfully neglect the garden, but it can be a real selling point, especially for the family market! The same principles apply to the garden as with any room in the house- declutter, clean, and make it look spacious! So cut back the bushes, clean the patio and furniture of dirt (or throw them away), and cut the grass. Money doesn’t need to be spent on staging as long as the garden is neat and tidy.
Selling your home
If you’re using an agent to take your viewings, you should just leave them to get on with it. There’s nothing really for you to do. However, if you’re selling your property privately, and you’re taking on the responsibility of viewings, here are a few tips:
Don’t be an estate agent.
Yeah, I said it :)
You should answer questions about the property honestly. And if you don’t know the answer, say that, but tell them you will find out and let them know. Trust me, burying yourself into a hole of lies and deceit is not a good idea.
Be flexible with schedules
To maximize your chances of a quick and efficient sale, you need as many people to view your property as possible, so you need to be flexible with your time. If that means you need to put your social life on hold temporarily, then so be it!
Give them space
Give all prospective buyers the opportunity to freely walk around the house and ask any questions.
On a sidenote, you should store away any valuable items, because you just never know… you just don’t!
Prepare to be asked questions
Most buyers will ask a common set of questions, so you should be prepared. Here are a few of them:
- How much is the council tax?
- What are the neighbours like?
- How much do your utility bills cost on average?
- What are the local schools like?
These are all questions you should already be able to answer, but if you have a goldfish-like memory, you may want to have all the answers written in biro pen on your wrist, like you’re cheating for an exam.
Conveyance Solicitor / Paperwork
You’ll need a Conveyance Solicitor to prepare and handle all the boring legal paperwork and formalities, there’s no avoiding it! Here are a few off-the-top-of-my-head tippets of advice:
Get a good one!
Trust me on this, a good conveyance solicitor is worth their weight in gold, so it’s important to do your due diligence when choosing one!
I’ve used a pretty God awful one in the past, and they were responsible for horrendous delays. That’s the main problem with using an idiot conveyance solicitor, they can slowdown, and even be the reason for a total collapse!
Fixed fee quote is crucial!
I always recommend using a conveyance solicitor which operates by a ‘fixed fee’ pricing policy, so you know exactly how much you will pay.
Prices drastically vary so shop around
From thing I have noticed, prices vary drastically for exactly the same service. So it’s always worth shopping around.
Your Agent will probably recommend you a Solicitor
Most estate agents will recommend for you to use their in-house or affiliated solicitor because most of the agent’s receive commission for the referral. Needless to say, they’re not competitively priced, so don’t feel obliged to use them.
Reviews, recommendations and reputation matter!
As said, getting a good solicitor is imperative because they will be responsible for a large portion of the entire process of selling your home.
Whoever you decide to use, or shortlist, make sure you do research! A simple Google should unearth a lot of information. I’ve read A LOT of bad reviews about some pretty notoriously bad solicitors, but they continue to get business because some people simply don’t bother doing research. Baffling.
Choosing the right buyer
Yes, this is really a “thing” as choosing the right buyer, especially when you’ve received a few offers (common during a booming market).
Remember, the person who offers the highest price isn’t necessarily the best choice.
It’s important to find out important details about each party that has made an offer; find out how they plan on financing the property- cash buyers are the best. Are they in the middle of a chain? If so, has their property sold or is still on the market? The larger the property chain, the greater chance of collapse.
By picking the wrong buyer, you can end up having a long and painful sale, especially if you fall victim to a scam like ‘Gazundering’, which is when a buyer threatens to pull out just before exchange of contracts if the vendor doesn’t reduce the price! Shameless tactics, but sadly it happens!
Essentially, assess each buyer and determine who is statistically least likely to cause any issues.
Holding the deal together
Holding the deal together is often the hardest stage of the transaction when buying and selling a property. The longer it takes to reach exchange of contracts, the greater the chance of the entire deal falling through. It’s important to keep in regular communication with your solicitor to find out what stage you’re at. Stay in contact with your Estate Agent as he/she can pass on information regarding the buyer- it’s equally as important to know the progress of your buyer as well as your own.