This Is The Way To Sell Your Home
House-hunters are few and far between at the moment. How can you increase the saleability of your home and ensure it attracts an offer?
You won't find them in the high street, peering through the local estate agent's windows. You won't find them online, scouring the property search engines. And you certainly won't find them in your sitting room, eyeing up your home and considering whether they should put in an offer.
Unfortunately for sellers, the arrival of the credit crunch and the resulting increase in mortgage costs means house-buyers are a bit thin on the ground at the moment.
In fact, according to property valuation company Hometrack, the number of new buyers registering with estate agents in May fell sharply by 7%. Meanwhile, the average number of weeks that a property is on the market for increased to 10 weeks -- almost twice as long as May last year.
The result? Sellers are achieving just 92% of their asking prices, on average. That's the lowest level in the survey's seven-year history.
So what can you do to make your property more saleable? How can you ensure it attracts a good number of buyers, even in this faltering market?
A Winning Combination
There are two ways to ensure a property flies out of the estate agents' window:
There is nothing that will put buyers off
There is something that will turn buyers on
The best properties combine both.
What Puts Buyers Off?
According to a survey by Co-operative Financial Services, house-hunters are most likely to be put off by smells -- particularly damp (26%), followed by tobacco (25%) and drains (19%).
Nationwide, on the other hand, claims cigarettes and pets are the worst smells, adding that `DIY disasters' and `poor building work' is most likely to turn off buyers.
Halifax, meanwhile, claims buyers think limescale or mould build up are among the most undesirable features of a property. Many buyers were also put off by properties that didn't have parking spaces or gardens.
And if the property did have a garden, Halifax found the following `features' would put buyers off:
Cat or dog mess
Being overlooked by neighbours
Overgrowing plants and weeds
Concrete or tarmac areas
Children's Toys and equipment
Personally, however, I'd take most of this research with a pinch of salt. I mean, really, any buyer who is put off a property by a gnome belongs in Bedlam anyway.
On the other hand, it is common sense to ensure that your house is in tip-top condition before you show it to buyers: i.e the wallpaper isn't peeling off the walls, there's no mould growing in the bathroom and it doesn't smell of socks and bananas.
So tidy up. Fix anything that needs fixing. And do it all before the estate agent comes round to take a picture (or insist on a new one).
Remember, the property is about to go on a blind date with the next love of its life. It needs to look good.
What Turns Buyers On?
This is a little bit more difficult to answer. After all, every buyer is different. But here's what, according to my research, appeals most to buyers:
1. A white front door. A survey by the Co-operative found that a white front door is the most desirable, followed by red, blue, green and brown. Unpopular colours, meanwhile, included pink, orange, yellow, purple and grey.
2. A celebrity neighbour. Some pundits claim a celebrity neighbour can make a property more desirable to buyers. Then again, it could work against you if you live next to Pete Doherty...
3. A green home. Even environmentally unfriendly buyers know that double glazing, central heating, energy-efficient boilers and loft insulation are worth having -- so if you've got it, don't be afraid to flaunt it.
4. A good school. According to Alliance & Leicester, schools are the single most important local amenity for house-hunters, with newsagents and pubs following close behind.
In fact I could go on forever: a brand new kitchen, a brand new bathroom, period features, a Jacuzzi, a view of a snow-capped mountain...
You get the picture. The list of what buyers want truly is endless. But, at the end of the day, all of it fades into the background next to the final, but most important, wish on their wishlist: a low price.
For example, my flat, when I initially saw it, had a bright red kitchen, damp in every single room and a yard covered in weeds. Did it put me off? No way -- because the price was right, which meant I could afford to put the rest right, too.
As A Last Resort, Lower Your Price
So, the harsh reality is, no matter what colour you paint your door, if you are desperate to sell and you can't find a buyer, you may need to lower your price.
A compromise -- as an alternative - would be to register the property with as many different estate agents as you can. The one who is successful may end up charging you a higher commission fee than they would have done, had you registered exclusively with them. But on the plus side, your property will get a lot more exposure, and the agents will compete to get you a buyer.
There's no doubt that sellers are facing tough times. If it were me, I might want to make a back-up plan, such as renting out my home or sitting tight until the market picks up again (as it almost certainly will).
If you don't have that luxury, try not to despair. Remember, you don't need thousands of house-hunters to eye up your living room. You only need one. The right one.