Thursday, 13 March 2014

Selling your home- tips

I really enjoyed last night's Twitter mortgage chat, hosted by Go Compare (#GoCoMoneyTalks). Thanks to A Thrifty Mrs for bringing it to my attention- her blog post about it can be found hereI found myself joining in by contributing tips, not so much about mortgages themselves (thought I'd leave that to the experts!) but about selling your home. I have only ever sold a property once, but it was a really good experience so I thought I'd share some tips with you. 

My husband and I bought our first home together in 2006, a big, ex-council-owed two bedroom flat. I loved our flat, but since we bought it when we were both newly qualified teachers (and still on "probationer" wages), the only properties we could afford needed a lot of work. For the next 6 years, with the help of my father-in-law (fountain of all DIY knowledge!) we made it feel like our own. In 2012, we made the decision to have a family, and to put our flat on the market in order to buy a bigger place. Within a week, our flat had sold, with 3 bidders! Not bad going in the current financial climate. Here is how we did it...  I've included some pictures- excuse the quality, they are taken from the brochure when we bought the flat, and the brochure when we sold.

Choose the right conveyancer 

It can be really tricky to decide which conveyancer to use when selling your home. Some companies will try to tempt you to choose them, by inflating the price they estimate they will get for your property or by offering deals on price. I think it's worth inviting at least 3 estate agents round to view your home, listening to what they have to say, and weighing it up. Look on websites like Rightmove and see which adverts you like the look of- consider tone, photography and amount of information given. Ask for recommendations from friends, neighbours and family. An increasing amount of online companies are offering this service now too, at a lower cost, but we decided against this because we wanted that extra marketing that only a bigger estate agent could offer. In the end, I think this worked for us, as the estate agent we chose got a lot of viewers through the door for us. 

Clear away junk and clutter

Our flat wasn't massive, but we wanted to capitalise on the space we had as much as possible. To do this, we completely emptied our flat of anything we considered to be junk, or "clutter"- giving things to charity, putting larger items in storage, and even packing boxes to store at our parents' houses. We were pretty ruthless, and even emptied the cupboards- we wanted prospective buyers to appreciate how much storage space we had, not to open cupboard doors to reveal our "stuff" crammed inside. I actually loved the feeling of having such a clear living space, and I do think it made our flat more appealing to buyers. 
When we bought the flat... the living room
See how much bigger it looks minus clutter?

A bedroom when we bought in 2006
When we sold: guest bed folded away creates space
Invest a little in decorating

When buying a new place, it's easy to want to put every penny you have towards that difficult-to-save deposit. However, investing a small amount in painting and dressing the property you have can really pay off long-term. I think we spent about £200 in total on paint, DIY items and accessories to make our place look as good as we could. During a bank holiday, we roped in a friend and gave every room (including the hallway) a fresh coat of paint. Paying attention to detail, we did small jobs like re-sealing the bath and fixing wobbly door handles. Our flat really did have a fresh and attractive feel to it, and I overheard a few viewers comment on the fact that it was in walk-in condition. 
Hallway re-painted, and with fresh flowers
Bath re-sealed and room re-painted
While you may want to, you can't always afford to make big changes to your place before you sell it. For example, we hated our kitchen, which was dated and falling to bits, but could never afford to replace it with a new one. We did make a few changes to it, which I think made the overall feel of the room a lot more modern... on a budget! We replaced the old-fashioned tiles using a "faux tile" system called Easy Tile- this cost around £40. Painting the space behind the cooker black created a cleaner, less messy look (and a sample pot of paint for £1.99 was enough to cover the area.) Making a little extra effort to address small details is key. 
The kitchen in 2006- dated and yuck!
2012: Small, inexpensive changes updated the kitchen
Sell your lifestyle 

When potential buyers come to view your property, you want them to aspire to have your life there. This means creating the overall impression that you are happy living there, so they can imagine feeling the same. Make it feel like a home- burn candles, play music softly in the background and reveal a little bit about your life there. Some "selling your home" guides advise not to have photographs and personal things on display, but I disagree with this! 

Let the viewers walk round without you for a while- this gives them the opportunity to imagine it is their home.  I remember this feeling from the house we ended up buying- I was pregnant at the time, and when we went into the "child's bedroom" on our own, I knew I wanted it. 

Always be ready for viewers! 

When the advert for our flat went live, I didn't imagine quite how many viewers we would have, so quickly. Within an hour of the advert going up, the estate agent was on the phone asking if we could show a viewer round. We even had people knock on the door, having seen the "For Sale" sign in the garden. Often, you will get very little notice of a viewing, so it is vital that you and your home are always ready. Hold off getting into your pyjamas until a reasonable hour (normally for me, any time after 5pm is fair game!) Make sure you take your bins out regularly, replace dead flowers, and keep on top of your cleaning. It will seem like a lot of work at the time, but remember that viewers will make up their minds very quickly. 

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