Paul Wilson muses on the property market. Is it a good time to sell?

8th March

The snow has melted and, although we had sales complete last week during the horrendous weather, most people don’t start to think about selling or moving until Spring is in the air.

Credit:Farrow & Ball. Card Room Green Front Door

It is not surprising there is an element of uncertainty out there in the world of home movers – just scrolling through the headlines of housing market related articles recently on the internet had me completely confused. “Property Prices to Slump”, “Housing market so quiet estate agent is letting his client’s homes on Airbnb”, “It’s buyers’ market” they all shouted, in tones of woe. Then, with another flick of my right-hand index finger on the mouse wheel “House Prices Surge”, “Prices continue to increase”, “Shortage of homes to sell”. I think if I hadn’t been doing this job for 38 years now, I’d be a bit bewildered too.

But those headlines are an overview of the whole country, they do not necessarily show a true reflection of the what is happening just around Heathfield.

My answer to the age-long question of “Is it a good time to move?” is always a resounding “Yes”, if it is the right time for you. The property market is what it is and it’s down to your chosen estate agent to adapt to market conditions and keep you fully informed of what is happening within the micro-climate of property sales around your home.

Certainly, for us, 2018 has started astoundingly well, with new sales agreed more than 100% up on last year and showing no sign of stopping. Most of the buyer activity for us is currently for property priced below £500,000, but again we find that this is usual in the early months of a New Year – demand for higher priced homes tends to kick-in after the Easter holidays.

So, if you have decided that this is a good time for you to move, what next?  Well the first thing NOT to do is to get the estate agents over. Generally, they will price your home as they see it, so get the house and gardens ready first.

Preparing your home for viewers, or “staging” as it’s called, is important. It will not only ensure your property is sold faster but can also potentially add thousands of pounds to its value. There is no need to go to extremes, it is still the home you will need to live in during the months of marketing and sale process, but the following will give you a good idea of what to consider.

Credit: Country Living at Carpetright

Declutter – but don’t depersonalise

Get rid of any excess stuff that has accumulated. Potential buyers need to be able to envisage what the property would look like if they were living there. Some viewers find this difficult, so make it easy for them to see all the fantastic living space you’re offering them.

Don’t make it look too sterile, like a corporate hotel – leave some personality. Apart from anything else it gives unimaginative buyers ideas as to what they might do. People often “buy” a lifestyle as much as a property, so present your home to show the lifestyle they could enjoy there. Do remove bulky and excess furniture that makes the room feel small. Why do people need so many chairs or cabinets? Tuck things away in the garage or temporary storage or use EBAY or a local auction to dispose of items that have run their course. The added bonus of decluttering at this stage is less work when it comes to actually moving.

A fresh lick of paint

Giving your walls a fresh lick of neutral paint will make your home seem lighter and bigger. You certainly don’t have to do the whole home, but while you might love bright red or lime green, your buyer probably won’t. Do give the front door a new coat of paint if it needs one, after the front garden it is the first thing that the buyer will see. Visit the B&Q website for ideas like the ones shown here, using colours from their extensive paint ranges.

Repair and clean

Now is the time to tackle all those silly little 10-minute jobs that you never got around to; a poorly hung front gate, untidy front garden, holes in walls, broken door knobs, doors that won’t close (or open), cracked tiles (both roof and bathroom/kitchen variety), torn or threadbare carpets (a well-placed rug can provide a cosmetic quick fix). Many buyers want to move in without making changes, so allow for this.

Then get cleaning, everything needs to sparkle. Mouldy mastic in the bathroom or kitchen is particularly off-putting. People will accept dated fittings that are clean over funky modern ones that are dirty. Polish wooden floors, take a duster to every hard surface and air the house. Consider getting some “Viewing Only” towels and bedspreads which are put out only for the viewing, then put away again immediately afterwards.

And do tidy up the garden. Cut bushes back, clean the patio and furniture of lichen and dirt, if the weather allows cut the grass. Even now in the depths of winter colour can be added with a few cheap bedding plants. Although none of this garden work will add value to your home, it will make the home feel cherished and make it more likely to sell as people visualise themselves using the garden

Make it look pretty

Make sure all windows have curtains or blinds, bare windows will make a place feel unloved and impersonal. This can be done quite cheaply through charity shops and budget online retailers. Plants and flowers bring colour, life and a pleasant smell to a room, a bowl of fresh fruit on your kitchen worktop also sets the right scene.

Credit: Bay & Box Large Window Box Amalfi Black

Get the right smells

Bad smells are the single biggest turn off for prospective buyers. Don’t just cover them up, fix the source of the smell. Clear drains, wash bins, open windows, air the kitchen from old cooking smells, get rid of furniture that is embedded with cigarette smoke. A trick I read to overcome the smell of stale tobacco smoke is to place bowls of vinegar around the house and leave out for three days. No doubt your home will now smell of vinegar but this will disappear when you open the windows.

Conversely, good smells can make a property feel like an alluring home. Even though most buyers are aware of the old trick of freshly baked bread or fresh coffee, these do still work.

Showing the property

It doesn’t matter how good a sales person you are, or how much you love your home, leave the viewings to your estate agent to do. It’s their job to know what things to say, what to highlight and what to downplay. They should be masters at answering any tricky questions and if they have done their homework, they ought to know what each individual potential buyer’s main criteria are and will highlight the parts of your home that match their needs.

Lastly, if you are not contemplating moving straight away, do consider any major improvements or conversions that will significantly improve the value of your home. If there is an obvious loft conversion, for example, why leave this benefit to the next owner to cash-in on? If you don’t have the spare cash to do the work, just getting the relevant planning consent will add value, making the adaptation/conversion a definite option, not possible.

For further information on getting your home ready for sale, or other property sales advice, contact Paul Wilson at Rowland Gorringe, 70 High Street, Heathfield 01435 864233