It's your move
To give yourself the best chance of selling your home for the very best price, a strategy is vital
And that strategy begins with identifying the ideal estate agent for you. You may choose to obtain valuations from several different companies and beware false prophesies of high prices from those who hope to win your instruction. You might want to request examples of bricks-and-mortar deals achieved on recent, comparable properties. Also, tempting though the smallest fee may be, think of the bigger picture.
“It is absolutely essential that your agent knows who is buying in the market where you are selling,’ says Claire Reynolds, director and co-head of prime central London residential at Savills. “For example, over 50% of the buyers in Marylebone are international so it is no good using a local-only agent who doesn’t have the links to tap into half of the target market.
“It is important to be realistic about the price, especially in the current climate,” adds Reynolds. “The more realistic you are, the more buyers will be interested, so asking less can achieve more. At viewings, if the price is too high, people tend only to look for the negatives whereas if it is realistic, they focus on the positives. Psychology is at work.”
Start at the very beginning
First thing’s first, you need to entice the next occupant of your house to step over the threshold. These days buyers can view property online 24/7 and it’s easy to swipe left looking for the next best thing; stunning photographs count. Professionals know about best angles and optimum lighting, but they may also have more fundamental suggestions.
“Once you have decided to sell your home it really becomes a product and it is important that your product looks better than the competition,” says Deborah Richards, founder of Maddisons Residential, which operates in Kent and Sussex.
“Staging is about creating an illusion and dressing your house ready for potential buyers,” she explains. “It makes your house appear larger, brighter, cleaner, warmer and more loved. Most importantly of all, it makes people want to buy it.”
Now, there’s staging and staging – anything from a vase of daffodils on the kitchen island and setting the table for dinner to renting contemporary furniture and creating the full show-home effect.
“Staging really helps with empty properties,” says Caroline Pickering, owner of Style My Home consultancy. stylemyhome.com “When no one is living in a property it can feel sad, but filling it with the right sort of furniture and accessories helps make all the difference.”
In a lived-in, busy home, removing some items – heavy wooden furniture or that tatty sofa – makes sense. If they’re needed for the next place you lay your head, store them in the garage or a rented unit.
Investing in the fresh eyes of a stylist, together with a smattering of their accessories can produce the latest interiors magazine look in hours.
“I am constantly buying pieces as I see them,” says Pickering. “I don’t know how many console tables I own! And you can never have too many cushions. Orange and yellow cushions on the sofa can make a home feel alive.”
“I tend to take an all-or-nothing approach to redecorating,” says Reynolds. “Painting part of the house or replacing one bathroom can date the rest.”
Richards is a believer in defining each space clearly: even if you use the dining room as a gym or teenage den, placing a table and chairs there redefines the original purpose so buyers aren’t left wondering. Signpost in the garden too – whether it’s al fresco weather or not, perfectly placed outdoor furniture adds space that’s full of blooming potential.
Making a good impression
Slip into the shoes of a potential buyer as they stand on your doorstep and ring the doorbell. First impressions count – is the front door freshly painted or flaky? Does the garden look cared for and easy to maintain? Can you see (or worse, smell) the bins?
A clean house – windows, carpets, mirrors, oven – is the bare minimum. And although it may sound early, it may sound exhausting, so too is the bigger, bossier cousin of tidying: decluttering. You may not quite aspire to Marie Kondo perfection but a little bit of ‘ruthless’ goes a long way.
“People want to walk in and imagine the house is their home,” says Reynolds. “The buyer needs to be able to see themselves there and very few people have the vision to look beyond paperwork on the table and wet laundry hanging about. You need to present your house as if it is a hotel.”
Replacing half-empty bottles of supermarket shampoo with upmarket brands, introducing subtle scents and playing soothing music all help with mood. Fluffy towels and ironed bedlinen add to the picture. In winter, keep the house at a welcoming, rather than ‘best keep our coats on’, temperature.
Depersonalising, by removing photographs and any unusual artworks or statement light fittings reduces the chances of buyers being distracted. You want them to walk away talking about what they loved, not what was weird.
Stay or go?
Opinions clash on the stay or go approach to viewings. It’s entirely personal.
“It can feel to people as if they are trespassing if someone is tapping away on a computer or cooking supper during a viewing,” explains Reynolds. “And without the homeowner present, buyers are more honest. That means an agent can overcome any objections immediately and by breaking down the barriers, there is more likelihood of making the sale.”
However, for second viewings being closer at hand for questions about neighbours or the community makes sense.
Once a buyer has fallen in love and made their offer, maintain the momentum. Have paperwork ready to go – including a solicitor’s sales pack and, for leaseholds, a management pack. Being able to say “we accept and can exchange in two weeks” is empowering. It might also allow you to sit back and relax in your decluttered, tidy, boutique-style home.