I don't profess to be an expert in the property market, but having just recently sold our house in under three weeks, in what everyone seems to be describing as a 'dificult time' and buying our new house at £15k under their asking price, I thought I would share some tips and experiences, and hopefully save you some cash (and stress) if you're moving home soon. Granted, you could take the DIY approach and sell it yourself, list it on ebay and do your own conveyancing, but frankly selling your house is stressful enough so I'm not going to recommend you take it all on yourself. But even taking the traditional route, there are ways to be smart about it.
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Selling your home
1. Get the best agent.
Research your local estate agents thoroughly. Look at their adverts in the newspaper - how much space do they take; how do they lay them out; are their descriptions good; what are their photos like etc. If you are moving home, chances are you will have registered with some agencies as a buyer already. How do they deal with their buyers? Are they prompt, courteous and helpful? What are their brochures like and do they send through appropriate property details to meet the needs of the buyer? How do they conduct viewings? Do they have a track record of selling property similar to yours and in your area? Very importantly, are they linked with internet sites such as Right Move and Prime Location.
2. Get plenty of valuations.
Once you've decided which agents you'd like to work with, arrange appointments for valuations. I'd recommend getting as many agents round as you can. We organised for 5 different agents to come to ours - lots of people commented that this was a lot, but to be honest it was no hardship. Estate agents are surprisingly flexible at the whiff of an opportunity to sell, and we booked valuations one after the other, an hour apart and they were all done and dusted in an afternoon.
This gave us a good idea of the 'real' value of our home. Several of the agents openly admitted that they didn't really have a clue about property prices in the current climate, and it really was a case of 'suck it and see'. As with any market, an item is ultimately only worth what someone is prepared to pay for it.
The 5 valuations gave us a range which varied by over £50,000! 2 agents valued our house at X or just under, 1 valued it at X + £10,000, 1 at X + £15,000 and the other at X + £50,000. In the end we asked to be marketed at X + £20,000. It just goes to show, if we'd only invited one or two round it might have been a very different story!
3. Negotiate rates.
Having a wide range of estate agent's quotes should also put you in a position to negotiate on percentage fees and length of commitment for sole agency. Again, these varied wildly between the 5 agencies, so play them off against each other. The agent we opted to use was persuaded to drop their fees by 0.25% and reduce the contracted period of sole agency from 12 to 10 weeks. Remember, when you are talking about the total sale price of your house, a quarter of a percent is a lot of money!
4. The internet is your friend.
Make good use of sites that detail market prices and actual sale prices of properties (as opposed to asking prices). Some good ones are Zoopla; Net House Prices and Mouse Price. These will help give you a better idea of the actual market prices for your neighbourhood. If your home is being benchmarked against a neighbour who has recently sold, be prepared to demonstrate why your house might be worth more - ie you have a bigger garden; off-road parking; new kitchen etc etc.
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5. Added Extras.
Once you have an offer, or someone considering making an offer, consider whether there are items or added extras you are prepared to to include in order to seal the deal. Obviously some items will be classed as 'fixtures' but if you have free-standing items such as cookers; fridge-freezer; wardrobes etc (even curtains and blinds) you may be able to offer to include these in the sale when negotiating your price. This worked well for us as the property we wanted to buy had built in appliances and furniture, so it was no issue including our existing items in the sale. However, if this is not the case where you are moving to, make sure you weigh up the cost of buying replacements for your new home - it might not be cost effective! It can also have the added bonus of reducing the amount of bulky items you have to pack and move!
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Buying your new home
Do as much research as you can. View as many properties as you can. Even if they are not to your taste, it will give you a better understanding of the marketplace and put you in a better negotiating position. Get yourself on every agent's mailing list, preferably by email - that way you will see new properties first. Ask lots of questions of the agent when viewing - is there much interest in the property? How long has it been on the market for? Are they prepared to accept an offer?
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Before making an offer on the house you decide on, check out those property price sites again. Check what the neighbours have sold for recently. Is the property over-valued (remember mine was 'over-valued' by one agent by tens of thousands of pounds - did these sellers just go with the greedy valuation?). Check out the area thoroughly. There may be something in the neighbourhood that doesn't necessarily put you off, but you could still use it as a bargaining tool. Drive around the street, park up and see the comings and goings. Visit during the day, in the evening and at weekends. What's the parking like? Is the traffic busy? Is it hellish at school-run time?
Negotiate hard. This is not something I am good at, or indeed comfortable with! If your partner is better at it, leave that part to them. Play to your strengths as a buyer - are you in a position to move quickly, have you sold your home, is your mortgage already approved? Lots of people will downplay a property in order to get the price reduced. It's very common, so don't feel bad about saying things like 'we'll need to put in a new kitchen', 'the roof needs some work' etc etc.
My final tip is to sign up for the Home Move box. Full of samples and essential you need when settling in, as well as loads of money-off coupons and offers. You can sign up for the pack via your estate agent, or fill out the form online and it will be delivered straight to your new home in time for your arrival.
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I hope you've found some of these tips useful. It can be an incredibly stressful time, so if you have any other hints, please do share them via the comments box. x