Although your asking price doesn't necessarily reflect your sale price, it should most definitely relate to it: ask too much and you could end up with no enquiries at all, or a bunch of viewings from people who expect more for their money; ask too little and you might find yourself with a parade of unsuitable and cash-poor bargain hunters.
Getting your asking price right means reaching the most people who are likely to buy your home in the shortest space of time. Correct pricing has become something of an art with the price bands set by the property portals and they should form a key part of your pricing strategy. They determine how your property sits among other homes on the market, how many suitable buyers will see it, and how many of them are notified by alerts.
Although we have a register of potential buyers we can call when a suitable property becomes available, we know that not every house-hunter is talking to estate agents yet. Buyers can search on their own terms, whenever they want and wherever they are, so we must consider how to reach these elusive types before they dismiss a property online.
Remember: there is no "between you and me they'll take an offer" button, so it's vital to use the price bands to your advantage.
If your photos look terrible, then your chances will dwindle. Great photos are essential to make a positive first impression and they consist of two critical components: how you prepare your property for photographs, and how the photographs are actually taken.
Despite what you may read, it's not essential to overly stage your home with seven rows of pillows on every bed in a vain attempt to copy the Four Seasons Hotel in New York. People will happily buy a property with two pillows on a bed, but you should definitely make sure that bed is made, and that you have a general tidy up. Hide cables, toys, bins (yes even the Brabantia one in the kitchen), brooms, excess coats, shoes, paperwork and anything else that distracts from the good stuff: you don’t have to formally declutter just yet, but you do need to get the clutter out of sight.
If you have a garden or a balcony then it's particularly valuable right now: not just because it’s the summer, but also because Covid-19 and lockdown have sent outdoor space rocketing up the priority charts of buyers. If there's nowhere to sit, then buying a small table and chairs can make all the difference in a photograph - and later on viewings - by showing the world you have somewhere outside to spend time and savour.
If you’ve been eyeing up new bedding, towels or cushions for your next home, consider buying them now: as well as giving yourself an early treat, your new textiles will add photogenic styling and saleability into the bargain.
Whether your agent is using a professional photographer or taking the photos themselves, the priority must be that their listings look brilliant. A simple check across the websites of different estate agents will show you the quality of their photography, and whether you're happy for your home to be given the same treatment.
Making sure your home reaches the right people is key to finding the right buyer, so check with your agent to see how they go about marketing the properties they list.
Ask if your home will appear on one or more of the major property portals, often the first – and sometimes only – port of call for people beginning their property search.
Does the agent also present its listings on its own website? Not every agent does and some don't even link to their listings on the portals, so it's worth checking to see whether you'll benefit from — or miss out on — this useful form of promotion.
Does the agent have a list of qualified potential purchasers who they can contact about your home, or do they simply put your property online and then wait for enquiries to come in?
Do they use blogs, social media and content marketing to engage with the neighbourhood in a way that reaches your neighbours and others? There are people who may not be registered with an agent but who are nonetheless potential candidates to buy your home.
How do the agents’ property descriptions and details look? Being able to spell is good, but being able to sell is vital. Do their descriptions smack of enthusiasm and expertise, or are they dry and dreary? Would you be happy to have your home described in the same way?
And do the agents have For Sale signs? You might be surprised to learn that some agents don't. Very often your neighbours, their friends and other visitors to your neighbourhood will either be interested themselves, or know someone who is: a board can even spur someone into action who wasn’t actively looking to move, but is inspired to take the plunge when seeing their dream home go up for sale.
Tidying up for photos is one thing, but keeping your home ready for viewings is another.
Viewings can happen on any day of the week and at any time, sometimes with little notice. It could be that, while we're showing another property, it becomes clear that what the viewer really wants is somewhere like yours. If they're a hot prospect, we’ll be looking to get them round to your place immediately, so it's essential for you to manage your home in a way that keeps it viewing-ready.
Small jobs can make a world of difference: do the washing up in the evening, or put the dishwasher on when you leave for work; make the beds (without the worry of plumping 14 pillows); chuck laundry in the basket; hang up towels after showering.
For an easy – and nutritious! – presentational lift, keeping a bowl topped up with fresh fruit on the coffee table, dining table and/or kitchen worktop is a quick and cheap burst of vitality and colour, while keep curtains and blinds open will ensure you home looks bright and breezy, rather than dark and gloomy.
Everyone will make allowances for the colourful and inescapable presence of kids’ toys, but they don't need to form an obstacle course. Buying a couple of crates from somewhere like IKEA will give you an easy place to drop the toys when the children go to bed, keeping the floorspace clear of debris.
A quick note here on decluttering, and what it really means. What you're looking to avoid are piles of stuff, overflowing cupboards, and surfaces drowning under accumulations. Look at photos of well-presented homes that are currently on the market and get yours to the same level.
You really don't need to live like a minimalist, but for anything that’s surplus to requirements: box the belongings you wish to keep and put them in the cellar or loft; give away or sell the things you no longer want; put into storage anything that can't be stored at home.
It's no good getting everything else right if your agent is glum and negative. While enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm, proactivity and imagination breed viewings and sales, so do your homework.
A really good trick is to book your market appraisal by phone, rather than online. By speaking direct with someone in the agency, you’ll learn first-hand how they talk to potential fee-paying clients in their initial conversation. If they leave you excited at the prospect of their visit then you’ve probably found a good one, but if you’re left cold and uninspired it might be wise to explore elsewhere.
You could also secret-shop them by enquiring about a property they have on the market to see how they deal with buyers. Do they go deep with your requirements, ask about your ability to buy, then suggest a viewing and even some alternative options, or do you need to do the hard work yourself? Your experience will tell you exactly what you're getting.