Three years ago I sold my first home, bought my second and learned a few valuable lessons along the way. My first purchase in 2009 was a straightforward, textbook process. The second time around I found myself in uncomfortable new situations I wasn’t prepared for. I’ll be honest, I was a bit naive and I paid the price. I hope my experience of selling my home can help others, so I’ve pulled together a few thoughts.
Channeling a bit of Buzzfeed, I’ve given this a theme. Who doesn’t love a good post that’s been shoehorned in to a barely relevant grouping? I know I do!
Since selling a home can be hell, here are my Seven Deadly Sins of selling a house…
Your tastes are unique.
I’m sure your house is lovely. However, chances are your taste is probably not the same as anyone else. People have to be able to see themselves living in your home, and not everyone has the ability to see past your unique personal touches. I say ‘unique’, I mean ‘completely bizarre’ obviously.
When I was preparing my home for sale, I returned all the walls to a neutral colour. We had a bright orange bedroom wall (don’t ask, I still have nightmares) that we repainted white. It opened up the whole room and made it look so much bigger.
Surely it’s common sense. A shocking pink bedroom might have been perfect for your little girl, but the family with four blue-loving boys may subconsciously dismiss your home as too much hassle. If you’ve ever watched one of those TV shows where a professional helps you sell your home, that’s normally the first thing they do.
TIP: Return your home to a neutral palette so people don’t have to work too hard to imagine living in your home.
Your time will come.
Try not to be disheartened if the neighbour’s house sells before you. It’s all about timing. You never know the circumstances of their sale, so don’t feel envious when you see the ‘SOLD’ sticker going up.
Who am I kidding? I was obsessed with how my neighbour’s houses were doing, especially before I put my own up for sale. Rightmove offer an email alert service which will notify you of any new or changed listings in a selected area. If you save a property, you can also track any other changes, including Sold STC (subject to completion), reduced asking price, or taken off the market completely.
Though it seems a bit obsessive, it’s also a really handy way of keeping an eye on the overall market. If a similar property in a neighbouring area dropped their price or came back on the market after being STC, I would know we were in for a longer wait. I could see trends emerging in my area and adjust my expectations.
TIP: Set up email alerts to keep an eye on what’s happening in your local area.
Your time will be wasted.
You’re going to get a lot of tyre kickers if you don’t screen viewers properly. We asked our estate agent to make sure people who visited the house were legitimate viewers, as we’d heard horror stories from friends. You would be surprised at how many people enquire without being in the position to buy. Some people see it as a day out and lots of people just want a classic snoop around the place.
Even with screening, you won’t always get an offer from every person that enters your house. Not everyone will love your home, so try not to get pissed off even if you think “this is it”!
Treat it as a learning experience and make the most of it. It’s like a ‘high risk’ experiment. If you have a particularly good (aka pushy) agent, get them to find out what the viewer liked and didn’t like about your house. Most times they will be polite and say it’s just not for them, but you might get lucky and receive an honest answer. If you do get good feedback, adjust your plan accordingly. You never know, the smell from that dead rat under your coffee table may have put someone off after all…
TIP: If you’re going with an estate agent, make sure they can weed out time wasters and get them to collect feedback from viewers on what they liked and (most importantly) didn’t like.
You have to make an effort.
Make sure the place is looking good, especially for the listing photographs. In my obsessive viewing of every property that comes on the market, I’ve noticed that the houses that stay on longest normally have the worst photographs. It doesn’t technically mean that the key to selling your house is in fancy photography, but I imagine there’s something to be said about a first impression…
Let’s be blunt here. It takes two minutes to pull all the rubbish out of the shot and show the room in its best light, yet most people can’t be bothered. Nobody wants to see that empty toilet roll on the bathroom floor next to a pile of magazines. Hide all your kids toys and get rid of that extra chair you’ve shoehorned into your awkward shaped living room. Nobody has to see what’s behind the camera, it’s the finished photo you’re after.
Buyers need to be spoon fed the home’s potential. That’s what you’re trying to convey – what it could be, not how you currently live in it. Try to take a step back and imagine each room from a viewers perspective. It can be hard when you’re so used to the place, but taking the time to see things through fresh eyes can really help.
TIP: Take a walk around your house and imagine you’re a brand new viewer. Make sure the photos convey the potential of the house, rather than how you actually live in it.
You can’t cut corners.
Spend money on the best services that you can afford, especially solicitors/lawyers. Using cheap legal representation might be adequate if everything is straightforward and textbook, but if something unexpected happens you will need someone who knows what they’re doing.
I know this first hand. I stupidly went down the cheap and cheerful route when selling my house. The resulting mess caused a lot of stress, not to mention a crash course in conveyancing law. When things started to go sour after the contract was signed, we needed someone who understood what was happening and what our rights were. The solicitor we used was no help at all, like a chair in a suit. We had to do it ourselves with the help of some friends which cost us a lot of time, sleep, wine and grey hair. I don’t recommend it. Well, maybe the wine…
Think of it as insurance – you pay the premium and hope you don’t need it.
TIP: Get yourself the best legal representation you can afford. It’s always worth it.
You should be realistic.
The official valuation of your home isn’t always what you get in your pocket. The real value of your property is only what people are willing to pay. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less. Pick a number you’re comfortable accepting and go with it. Unfortunately we live in the real world, and unless you live in a crazy property hotspot, you’ll need to be realistic if you want to sell.
Hanging out for that extra few quid can put you in to house-selling-purgatory. There are houses in my area still available from 2012. It’s five years later and the price hasn’t budged an inch – neither have the occupants. Imagine five years of scrambling to tidy the place for viewers? I’d rather sell at a realistic price and move on to my new home than be stuck in ground-house-hog day for years.
It’s about more than just the book price of your home. Think about the effort and time it takes to go through the house selling process, and include that in your valuation. How much value do you put on your time and convenience?
TIP: Decide on a number you would be comfortable selling at and don’t get too hung up on the book value.
You can’t fall in love.
Try not to fall in love with another house before you’ve sold, or are at least close to selling yours. It puts you in a very weak position and can give you serious stress.
I know, I know. It’s not easy. I didn’t follow my own advice on this one, and ended up in a horrible position where I was being pressured from both sides. I stupidly fell in love with a new house and as a result I had a lot more to lose from the selling process, which the buyers used to their advantage.
TIP: Keep your eyes averted and try not to look at other houses until you’re sure of an offer. Perhaps even rent for a while so you’re out of the chain altogether.
There you have it: my seven deadly sins and tips to selling your house. Even if you’re guilty of all seven, chances are you’ll be ok. I’m writing this from my new home and survived to tell the tale.