Thinking of selling your property? Get some expert tips and insights on the UK Property market

Selling a property can be a daunting process, but with the right guidance, you can navigate it successfully.

Here, Chris Hodgkinson, Managing Director of House Buyer Bureau and an industry expert with over 20 years of experience of buying and selling properties, answers some common questions and provides valuable tips for prospective sellers.

1. How do I make sure my estate agent is working hard enough to get my property sold?

Chris: Communication is key. Regularly check in with your estate agent to discuss progress, marketing strategies, and feedback from potential buyers.  Be proactive an ask for updates on viewings and offers, but a good agent should be providing you with this anyway. 

If, after 4 weeks, you are still waiting for your first viewing then consider changing your agent and setting a more realistic asking price. 

We’re seeing more buyers returning to the market in 2024 so if you have priced your property correctly you should be getting viewings.  Don’t be fooled into thinking your agent will automatically be working hard to get you the best price just because they’re on commission.  If an agent earns 1.5%, then a £10k difference in the sale price which is worth a lot to you, is only worth £150 to them!

2. Why does it take so long to complete the sale of a property, and can I shorten it?

Chris: The timeline varies, but several important factors can make a big difference. The legal work done by your solicitor can take months – particularly if the property you’re buying or selling is non-standard, leasehold or has issues with the legal title.  Local searches can take months to come back from Land Registry, and your solicitor won’t finalise contracts till all their queries are satisfied.  Mortgage lenders are much faster than they used to be, but can slow down if they think you, or the property are a riskier proposition.  Some simple tips would be:

·        Be prepared with paperwork: Make sure you find key documents at the start of the process (EPC, Title deeds) and complete the property information and seller information packs quickly to avoid delays.  Your solicitor can’t act for you till those are fully completed.

·        Choose a proactive, experienced solicitor: Conveyancing is a particular type of legal work, so find a solicitor who does it a lot.  They will know how to minimise delays and work through problems quickly.

·        Consider alternatives: If you really need to sell quickly then you could sell to a property buying company (like House Buyer Bureau).  Like other property buying companies we have developed closer ties with who we use all the time as they can deliver a quality service at a faster pace.  We also take a different view on things like searches where you can take indemnities out to speed up the process if you have the expertise and risk appetite. 

3. Is it sensible to accept a lower asking price if it is a cash buyer?

Chris: Cash buyers often seek discounts due to their ability to proceed quickly.  It’s always worth giving serious thought to a cash offer as these sales are quick to complete and rarely fall-through, as there is no chain or mortgage application involved that could delay things.  But you should also consider:

4. How do I avoid gazundering?

Chris: Gazundering occurs when a buyer lowers their offer just before you’re due to exchange contracts. It isn’t illegal but it is generally frowned upon.  You tend to see this sort of thing in a “buyers’ market” where it is the buyer who holds most influence.  You can’t prevent it, but you can minimize it by:

·        Building rapport: Maintain a positive relationship with the buyer and be clear about your minimum acceptable price from the outset.

·        Challenge statements: If the buyer says they need to reduce their offer due to the “amount of work required” then get your own estimates of work needed or ask for their evidence to support their claims.

·        Don’t feel pressured: Remember, it is your property to sell.  Don’t feel pressured into accepting less for it than you want.  One way to reduce the risk is to exchange contracts quickly once you agree a price as this reduces the time window for renegotiation.

5. How do I make my property stand out from all the others that are for sale where I live?

Chris: When there are lots of properties locally for sale it can be tricky to stand out, but here are 4 simple things you can do to give yourself the best chance:

·        Curb appeal: First impressions really do count so tidy the garden, repaint the front door, and fix any visible issues.

·        Clean and tidy: Show off your home in its best light, so declutter, depersonalize, and try and make it so the prospective buyer can imagine themselves living there.

·        Professional photography: High-quality images attract more attention online so make sure your estate agent has done a good job with staging your property and producing quality pictures.  Don’t have too few or too many - 15-20 should be fine.  Fewer than 10 and you won’t show enough, and more than 30 and people will get bored.

·        Realistic Pricing: Set a competitive asking price without undervaluing your property.

6. What data sources do you rely on when looking at valuing a property to work out what it is worth?

Chris: There are dozens of online free and paid for resources that you can tap into.  The trick is to use more than one to get a rounded view of a property.  A lot of the properties we value are remote to us so we rely on what we can find out online and via speaking to local agents. We consider:

·        What’s going on locally: We use tools like Rightmove to find out what percentage of similar properties on the market have sold, so we can determine the strength of local competition.

·        Comparable properties: We look at what properties similar to the subject property have sold for in the past 6 to 12 months to get an idea of real value.

·        Economic indicators: Locally we look at employment rates, transport links, amenities, and planning permissions.  Nationally we consider if interest rates, and mortgage rates are likely to change in the months ahead.

·        Challenge and check: We don’t rely on the automated valuation models (AVMs) that you can use on sites like Rightmove and Zoopla.  We tend to find these models over value properties.  Often you must think hard about who is offering the valuation service and what their intent is – for example an estate agent is inclined to over-value a property when trying to win the listing as they want the seller to choose them - so their valuations are likely to be optimistic!

7. How will we know if the property market is performing better or worse than expected?

Chris: Reading around is the best way to keep on top of property trends.  The major lenders all share monthly stats, as do the big property portals.  Land Registry and government stats tend to lag as they are based on completed sales.  You should always look at local data as well as national trends, and there are a few ‘leading indicators’ that give clues about future trends.

·       Average time on market: If properties are selling quickly, it’s a positive sign that the local market is healthy.

·       Price trends: You might think that you’d want to see property prices always rising but remember that for a property to sell it must be affordable for buyers.  We tend to look at how local property prices perform vs local income levels to assess whether current prices are affordable, or if a correction is on the cards. 

·       Local stock levels: If local agents are advertising lots of stock, it can be a sign of a quiet local market, and if there is very little stock it can suggest a lot of demand.

·       Consumer confidence: Undoubtedly this is one of the biggest factors affecting the market.  Buyers and sellers alike want stability from an economic and interest rate perspective as it lets them plan and make decisions with more confidence.  We’re always looking out for changes in consumer confidence as we know it can trigger rapid changes in how the market behaves. 

Chris finishes with some advice: “Confidence is a massive factor in the property market. So far 2024 has started very positively with the highest levels of new listings for years – so sellers are coming back to the market.  And we’ve seen a reduction in the number of transactions falling through – suggesting buyers and sellers have adjusted to a new ‘norm’ in pricing following a year of instability in 2023.  Both are very good omens for 2024.  But remember that if you’re looking for a guaranteed, cash sale, in a timescale that you control, then you should consider talking to a professional property buyer like House Buyer Bureau.”

To find out more about House Buyer Bureau click here