It pays to do research before you start to sell your home

With stacks of information on the internet, there’s no excuse for not doing your homework before you sell your property. Sharon Dale reports.

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Selling your home is one of the most stressful life events but you can reduce the anxiety by being well-prepared.

Before you put your property in the hands of an estate agent, it pays to do some homework on price, presentation and the time it might take to sell.

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This way there shouldn’t be any great surprises when an agent values your house and you can also check out the competition.

While years ago this would have been difficult, all the information is now at your fingertips.

The two big property portals, Rightmove and Zoopla, both feature sold prices on their websites and they are postcode specific, while www.home.co.uk features details of asking prices and time taken to sell.

Doug Shephard, director at Home.co.uk, says: “Given the current economic conditions, there are considerable regional differences in the property market, both in terms of pricing and the number of homes being placed onto the market. Vendors need objective data to provide important local context to inform their discussions with estate agents.

“Property prices are in a constant flux and it is vital that an initial asking price reflects the features of the individual property but is also in line with local trends. Pricing too high will discourage buyers. Pricing below the local market average can raise suspicions amongst potential buyers.”

He adds: “Understanding the relationship between the asking price and actual selling prices in a local area will highlight any signs of unrealistic price inflation and ultimately help set the vendor’s expectations. Vendors should also note that asking prices are normally set slightly higher in the spring and early summer than at other times of the year. This is especially the case in second home markets.”

You can also use portals to check out the competition from both the outside and inside. Assessing selling time is notoriously difficult to estimate and is dependent on factors such as price, location, condition of the property and demand.

Home.co.uk has a “typical time on the market” section on its site and Doug Shephard says: “Marketing times vary enormously across the country, ranging from 159 days in Newcastle upon Tyne to just 61 days in Brighton. Therefore, it’s vital to get a localised view to properly align your selling time expectations.”

The best way to do this is to find a good estate agent. No amount of internet surfing can beat great local knowledge.

A website won’t tell you what your property’s strengths and weaknesses are and it won’t tell you why the house down the road sold for £325,000, while yours is valued at £30,000 less. An agent will also act as a buffer between you and your buyer and should negotiate hard on your behalf. They will also reassure you when your sale falls through at the last minute.

To assess which local agent is best, ask friends and neighbours for recommendations. Browse the agents’ websites and check how effective they are. Are they easy to navigate and are they fast enough? Also check to see if their For Sale boards are eye-catching.

Perhaps most important are their property photographs. Are they professionally shot or are they poor quality?

There are some shocking examples of how not to do it. It is not uncommon to see unmade beds, loo rolls piled on top of the toilet cistern, overflowing waste bins, washing up left in the sink, houses covered in snow because they were shot in January and it’s now June and cars parked outside obscuring the ground floor view of the house. The list is endless.

Pictures sell properties. If none of the local agents have good quality images, then consider commissioning your own using a professional photographer.

This can cost from £300 upwards but is well worth the expense. A good picture can entice a prospective buyer to view and a bad one can lead them to dismiss your house.

Also ask if the agent includes floor plans on their brochures as they are an enormous help to buyers. The layouts help them decide where to put furniture and can also give them ideas on using the space.

Finally, ask the agency about its marketing strategy and its presence on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Then carry out a secret shopper exercise. Call the branch as a prospective buyer and pop in and test the reception you get in person. If staff are friendly, polite and helpful you know that you and your buyers will be in good hands.