To sell or not to sell... Phil Spencer on the home truths that make a difference

With the new year just around the corner, many people will be thinking of selling their homes '“ and property guru Phil Spencer has some tips. Vicky Shaw reports.

Whether you're thinking longer term or considering putting your property on the market soon, TV's Phil Spencer has some advice.

Home owners now stay put for an average 19 years before moving, according to a new report.

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Barclays Mortgages teamed up with property analysts Hometrack to find out how often homes change hands – so why are people staying put for nearly two decades typically?

TV property expert Phil Spencer, a spokesman for the Barclays Mortgages home improvement report, says there are good reasons many people are opting to stay put for longer.

“The cost associated with moving has increased significantly in recent times, with agency fees, removal costs, etc,” he says.

“Without a booming housing market, home owners perhaps haven't generated equity in their homes that they would have done in previous decades that would have enabled them to take another step up the ladder.”

Spencer says those who do decide to sell their properties should think about how they present their homes to potential buyers.

“I've been involved in the housing market for over 25 years and, as with all things, there are trends. There are elements of fashion and, as with clothing, fashion changes, so be careful of that and don't go too far out on a limb.

“There was a trend for open plan and generally opening things out, but I'd say that's changing again.

“More en-suite bathrooms have been prioritised recently. They take up more space and don't always add huge amounts of value when re-selling, so it will be interesting to see if this lasts. Pantries and larders are also on the up, as we crave more and more space.”

He says the biggest pitfall for home owners making improvements is simply bad DIY.

“It's obvious when something has been done cheaply, we should all be mindful of that. You also need to be realistic with the space you've got. Every property has a ceiling price and as long as you're aware of that, then you're good.

“I would say you need to be consistent. I've seen expensive bathrooms in cheap houses and it can look very out of place. Always match the price bracket of fittings to that of the house.

“Also, not to make things too personal to you and your taste and lifestyle. If you're doing it for you, great, but if you want to re-sell be careful. You always need to appeal to the largest possible denominator – there is a reason people use magnolia!”

Spencer says a decision to move requires careful consideration.

“Do the maths and your research. Work out how long you would be able to stay in your property if you improved,” he says.

“Is it worth it? What would it be worth having done the work? It's a big decision, and it's rare that the answer is obvious. If you've done your research, then go with your decision and stick with it.”

He says it is also worth making garden improvements if possible: “Treat your garden the way you would treat another room. Outside space can be as valuable, if not more so, than another room in the house. I'm pleased to say people have realised this and are spending more time and effort on their gardens.”

When it comes to buying, Spencer says that purchasing either a ‘‘doer-upper'' or a turn-key home which needs no work is a matter of personal choice.

“Each to their own, to be honest,” he says. “Some people are in the right stage of life to do a project, and some aren't. Last time I moved, taking a project on was the last thing I wanted to do. I was changing areas, which meant changing schools, and I just wanted a home I could move straight into.”