The summer holidays often spark life-changing decisions, which is why September is a prime time for job hunting, divorce and making plans to move house.
Those about to put their properties on the market could face some stiff competition, which is why it is essential to prepare well before the “For Sale” sign goes up.
The first job should be to make sure the house looks its best, inside and out, and owners are not always the best judge of what needs to be done.
“It is difficult for an owner, particularly an owner of a much-loved family home, to be objective and impartial. That is the responsibility of the estate agent,” says Edward Hartshorne, Director of Blenkin and Co. in York.
“As the first ‘viewer’ we are able to put ourselves in the shoes of potential buyers and this is fundamental to our understanding of how to prepare a property for sale. It also means that we sometimes have to traverse difficult ground in order to provide our clients with clear and dispassionate advice.”
Knowing from experience that the windows or the “eyes of a house” can attract or repel, Blenkin and Co. recently advised a client to paint their brown timber frames a fetching shade of cream.
“It was a difficult conversation to have but it worked and they took our advice and painted the windows. The uplift in value was immediate and the house was instantly more appealing to buyers,” says Edward, who adds that for properties in the middle to top-end of the market, rewards can be reaped from spending a few thousand pounds on paintwork, carpets, sprucing up the garden and weeding the gravel drive.
The well-worn advice of clearing clutter, fixing anything that is broken and toning down loud colour schemes is also applicable.
Once a home is spruced up, it’s time for photographs.
There are some shocking examples of bad property pictures. 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. Not to mention fuzzy, badly lit photos with no thought given to composition. The list is endless.
Pictures sell houses. Most of the top agents use professional photographers. If yours does not and you are not happy with their images, then consider commissioning 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.
Edward Hartshorne says: “Top notch photography and smart presentation is key, particularly given the fact that a single, leading photo online can make or break the successful launch of a property.”
Richard Welpton of Beverley-based Quick and Clarke agrees: “A good agent should have an eye for what will make a person spend longer looking at each photograph.
“I think the viewer should be left with a feeling of homeliness and that’s why I don’t always agree with the idea of clearing away all the family photos or the children’s toys. You are not just selling a house, you are selling a lifestyle.
“It sounds obvious but I would also emphasise that the property needs to be spotlessly clean. Dirty houses do not sell.”
Most agents now include floor plans on their brochures. If yours does not then insist on one. 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.
The property description should be compelling but not too wordy. Most estate agents now agree that brevity is now essential.
“Some homeowners want to include enormous amounts of detail about a property’s history but I try and dissuade them from doing that,” says Richard.”People have very short attention spans these days and they have neither the time or the inclination to read wordy brochures.”