Following the unexpected house price boom in the second half of 2020, plenty of people will be looking to strike whilst the iron is hot and sell their home in 2021.
Activity is predicted to be particularly intense in the first few months of the year, despite further lockdown threats.
Last-minute buyers will be scrambling to complete before the end of the government’s stamp duty holiday on 31 March.
Estate agents say that you should sell your home sooner rather than later, as prices could fall
In addition, the full economic effects of the pandemic are yet to catch up with many people’s pockets.
Government support schemes such as furlough are still in place, and some housing market analysts are predicting that price growth could taper off as the year progresses and these schemes begin to wind down.
‘If you are thinking of selling then you should do so rather than later,’ says James Hyman, head of residential sales at estate agent Cluttons.
‘Going into 2021 there is going to be more supply and, from some, an increased urgency to sell, which is going to have a detrimental effect on capital values.’
So how can you get ahead of the competition? This Is Money asked estate agents for their advice on how to sell your home quickly – and get the best price.
Make it appeal for the Covid era
Before listing your home, think about ways to increase its value.
Right now, usable outside space and a place to work from home are high on buyers’ wish lists – so it pays to tick these boxes.
‘If you have an outhouse, then make sure it is cleared and not just used as a dumping ground’, says Narendra Gandhi, partner at Winkworth’s Ealing and Acton office in West London.
‘For many buyers, this could be valuable office space for those potentially working from home,’
A well-kept garden is even more essential. In December, Nationwide reported that nearly 30 per cent of people considering moving home were doing so because they wanted a garden, or to be near parks and other outdoor space.
‘If you have a garden or roof terrace, get a gardener or landscaper in and make a real feature of it,’ says Hyman.
‘A well landscaped garden, which has been cleverly designed to feel like an extension of your home, can add 10 per cent to a property price.’
A landscaped garden has become an even bigger selling point during the pandemic
Tackle those small DIY jobs
When there are lots of homes on the market, presentation is more important than ever.
Quick, cheap jobs such as cleaning carpets, touching up paintwork, re-grouting bathroom tiling or jet-spraying the patio can make the difference between getting an offer or not, according to agents.
First impressions count for a lot, so make sure your front door, front windows and front garden, if you have one, are looking their best.
‘Think about touching up your paintwork, for example if you front door has been banged by a pram or a bike,’ says Robin Chatwin, of Savills. ‘It won’t cost you a lot and you can do it yourself, but it shows that your property has been cared for.’
If you get on with your neighbours, it could be worth gently asking them to make sure the front of their house is neat and tidy too – or offer to do it for them – as buyers’ impressions of the street can count for a lot.
Cut the Christmas clutter
If you haven’t already, it is also the time to get rid of any debris from the festive season.
‘Bin your Christmas decorations as quickly as possible, and make sure photos of your home online do not have them in it,’ says Chatwin.
‘You should also de-clutter your home, removing any unwanted Christmas presents. People want to be looking at your flat or house rather than the spiraliser your mother-in-law gave you that you don’t know what to do with. ‘
Agents suggest taking out a storage unit, or confining any unavoidable clutter to just one room in the house.
Cutting clutter and creating space for a home office could attract potential buyers
Get planning permission
If your home is older or has not been renovated for some time, you could consider applying for planning permission for an extension before you sell up.
This shows that the home has potential, and therefore increases its value. It also opens it up to buyers who may be looking for more space than it currently offers.
‘Obtaining planning consent for an extension or even a complete new lower floor will ensure your home stands out from others available in the street,’ says Marc Schneiderman, director at North London estate agent Arlington Residential.
If you have the time, you could even carry out a project such as a loft or garage conversion. Adding an extra bedroom to your home adds around 15 per cent to its value.
Applying for planning permission for an extension could increase your home’s value
Pick a good agent
Once your home is looking its best, it is time to get it listed. Your estate agent will be doing most of the legwork when it comes to selling your home, so picking the right one is a good place to start.
‘Research the agents that are most active in your locality, and look online to see what they have sold in your area and the type of properties they are selling,’ says Ghandi. ‘Some agents are more recognised for selling flats, others for selling houses and so on.’
She also advises grilling them over the phone to find out what they can offer you.
‘Call estate agents and question them personally,’ she says. ‘As the seller, you need to feel comfortable and confident in the agent who could be entrusted with what is probably your main asset.’
Get the price right
Any estate agent will tell you that setting a high asking price does not usually get you the most money for your home. This is because it could put off viable buyers, resulting in less competitive bidding.
In a crowded market like today’s, you may even consider going substantially lower than your home’s value.
‘A very effective route to take is to quote a guide price of obviously less than the property is worth,’ says Schneiderman.
‘This will result in attracting fairly immediate attention from multiple buyers and will in turn lead to multiple offers. If your agent handles a competitive bidding situation correctly, you should ultimately achieve a price that is reflective of the property’s value.’
House prices increased in many areas of the UK in the last half of 2020, but by choosing to list yours below market value you could end up getting more competition and a higher bid
You should also consider what you think your onward purchase will cost when deciding on a price for your current home.
‘This is an opportune market for upgrading and your priority should be to focus on your onward purchase, establish what it is going to cost you and then price your current property accordingly,’ says Hyman.
‘Hopefully, this will mean you can market your property competitively which will speed up the chain.’
Some sellers will offer incentives such as paying the buyers’ stamp duty, or including contents such as furniture, to try and make their property stand out in the crowd.
However, Schneiderman says this approach could put certain buyers off.
‘Buyers are wise to the fact that these measures are effectively ‘enticements’ to make homes more appealing,’ he says. ‘Generally, buyers are only interested in one thing – knowing that the price they are paying is representative of the value of the property.
‘The best marketing strategy is to be willing to sell at the perceived market price.’
How to speed up a sale
If you’re serious about getting your property sold quickly – perhaps if you have already secured your next home and want to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday yourself – it could help to vacate your home ahead of time.
Equally, if you have an interested buyer but have not found a place yourself, you may also consider renting in the interim. Risking losing your buyer by keeping them waiting might be unwise, particularly if house prices do fall later in the year.
‘Sellers who are prepared to move into rental accommodation and offer vacant possession are more likely to move before the stamp duty holiday deadline,’ says Gandhi.
‘Pricing competitively will also help, as buyers seek value for money.’
And by getting your buyer in before the stamp duty deadline, you provide an incentive for them to get moving.
‘If you are fortunate enough to secure a buyer at a price you are happy with, but have not found somewhere to buy yourself, then consider renting to keep the chain in place,’ says Hyman.
Asking your solicitor to have all the documents in place ahead of time can also speed things along.
Vacating your home may help your estate agent secure a deal with potential buyers
Make viewings easy and Covid-safe
With social distancing in place, buyers are doing extensive research on potential homes online, so ask your estate agent to get a virtual video tour of your home made as part of your listing.
‘Having a really good virtual tour of your house – you want to push that as much as possible,’ says Savills’ Robin Chatwin. ‘For many buyers, the first viewing is taking place at home on the sofa.’
When the time does come for in-person viewings, making your buyers’ lives easy can go a long way toward getting an offer.
Covid-safe house viewings are possible if everyone wears a mask and washes their hands
Arrange viewings at times that suit them, and move your car out of the driveway if you have one so they have somewhere to park.
Some buyers will be nervous about going into someone else’s home during the pandemic, too, so do what you can to set their minds at rest.
‘There are ways to do it without taking risks with your health,’ says Schneiderman. ‘People should wear face masks and wash their hands, and you can open the doors and windows and stand in the garden while they look around.’
Make it feel like a home
After spending so much time at home recently, buyers want to see properties that they can see themselves enjoying spending time in – so it is more important than ever to make your house feel like a home.
‘Make your property look as though you love it,’ says Chatwin. ‘It’s the year for loving your home, as we’ve all spent so much time in them.’
‘Even if it doesn’t work for you any more, people want to see you and your family enjoying yourselves there.’
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