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Property: How to sell your house in a slow market

property: thatched cottage with a for sale sign
Spring is usually the optimum time of year for selling a house. Photo: Getty (Tom Merton via Getty Images)

This is traditionally the best time of the year to be selling a home – between March and June – but while the property market is nowhere near as bad as many people had feared at the start of the year, it’s not a golden age either. According to Zoopla, in March, the time taken from first being listed to going under offer has risen 71% in a year – that’s 15 extra days. Buyer demand is still down 43% in a year, so if you want to sell, there are some golden rules.

Be realistic from the outset

Zoopla emphasised that if you’re serious about moving, you can’t afford to over-price your home. The property will get most attention when it first hits the market, so make sure it’s priced properly when it does. It means getting three quotes from different estate agents, and not having your head turned by the one claiming to be able to get you far more than the others.

Deal with the off-putting

You need to take a good look at your house from outside, then walk round inside, and make a note of anything that a buyer might not like the sight of – from an overgrown garden to flaking paintwork and shabby carpets. You need to deal with as much of this as you can – within reason. Clearly installing a new bathroom is fairly extreme, while repainting the front door isn’t beyond the realms of possibility.

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Think about dressing it

Only you know what you’re prepared to live with while you’re selling, but consider how to show off each room to its full potential. If, for example, you have a ‘junk room’, it’s going to work much harder for you as a study or spare room. It’s also worth thinking about whether every room needs all the furniture that’s in it. Some of it could live in the garage for a while, or if you’re planning to get rid of it when you move, clear the clutter early.

Make sure your estate agent is doing their bit

The photos should be good, and the description enticing. If you think there’s a feature they’re not making enough of, raise it and ask for changes. You could consider doing a video tour, which will help you stand out to prospective buyers.

Check you’re happy with the viewings

Some people will want to do them themselves, others would rather leave it up to the agent. If you’re doing it yourself, make sure you draw attention to all the plus points, and linger in the best parts of the house. If the garden is your greatest asset, start there. If the agent is doing the viewings, make sure you’re there for the first one, so you’re confident they’re up to the job.

Read more: What to do if you're facing a remortgage nightmare

Be prepared to be flexible

The Zoopla figures show that prices are getting discounted by an average of 4% at the moment. In a buyers’ market, there’s every chance you will receive some cheeky offers, so be prepared for that. Work out in advance how low you would be prepared to go in order to secure a sale, so you’re not wrong-footed by an offer.

Ask for feedback

If there are lots of viewings and no sale, don’t be afraid to ask the agent to get feedback to find out why. The agent is going to need to persade viewers to answer honestly without sugarcoating their responses, otherwise you’ll get lots of vague points about it not feeling right. If the price is too high, or the state of the roof is scaring people, you need to know.

Young couple moving house. They are sitting in back of the removal van amongst boxes.
If you have a choice of buyers think carefully about who is most likely to see the sale through all the way to the finish. Photo: Getty (Tara Moore via Getty Images)

If you have a choice, pick the right buyer

In the current market, someone who still has to sell their own property or get a mortgage could run into more trouble than someone who has sold and has finance in place. The selling window isn’t hugely long, so if you end up waiting for a buyer who pulls out after a few weeks you’ll have lost precious time.

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Consider making yourself more attractive

If the buyer is worried about being part of a chain, you could consider selling up and renting for a while, so you’re the end of the chain, and the process is easier for everyone.

Be committed to making the move work

The entire process can be horribly frustrating: your buyer may ask all sorts of questions you don’t see the point of. However, it’s going to be up to you to answer them fully and quickly to keep the sale on track. You should also keep on top of your solicitor, and if there are hold-ups, keep chasing: it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the oil, so make it easier for them to help you than to try to keep ignoring you.

In the final analysis, some homes will just take longer to sell. At the moment, more expensive properties are proving harder to shift, and London it takes an average of 44 days. Overall, the key to success in a market like this is to be realistic – about price, time frames, and just how arduous the whole process can be.

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