Selling Your First Home in 2017

Selling Your First Home in 2017

March 21, 2017

Selling Your First Home in 2017

As a homeowner, you’re probably acutely aware of the value of your property. With house prices so high, and the value of real estate constantly climbing, all homeowners have an eye on the future value of their home and the potential for “trading up” and climbing the property ladder. As we’ve discussed in previous articles, 2017 could potentially be a very good year in which to sell your home, as the real estate market looks set to become more favourable to buyers in the coming years. Therefore, if you’re looking to trade up into somewhere larger, nicer, or in a more expensive area, 2017 could well be the year to do it.

In this article we’ll talk you through the nuts and bolts of selling your home, guiding you through the entire process so that you’re informed at every step of the way. By the end of this guide, you’ll know just what to do to sell your home, how to get the best price, and how to close the sale; given a thorough understanding of the principles of selling your home, you should then be fully equipped to put your house on the market for the right price. This first article deals with the first steps to take towards selling, and how to lay the framework for a successful sale.

First Things First – Why Are You Selling?

             The first thing to establish when selling your home is your motivation. What is it that you want to achieve from selling your home? We can take it for granted that you’ll want to make a profit (or to at least break even), but what will you want from your new house – more bedrooms, better parking, better schools or better transport links? Perhaps you want to downsize now that the kids are gone, and want to cash in on the value of your large family home, or perhaps you’ve been offered a job in a new city (or country) and have to move for it.

The reason this is important is that it gives you some context for the sale. You need to know what your goal is at the end of the day, because this will help you to answer many important questions further down the line. Perhaps you want to start a new business, and need to free up equity in your home in order to start it – in this case, downsizing your property is only one solution, and a home equity loan might be a better choice.

Thinking through your reasons for selling can also reveal reasons not to sell; for instance, you might find that the type of house you’d like to trade up to is way more expensive than your current property, and would require you to take out a very large mortgage. Without knowing why you want to sell, you shouldn’t begin the sale process. You should be selling with a firm goal in mind, and selling shouldn’t be an open-ended speculative process.

When Will You Want to Move?

             Once you’ve established why you’re selling, you need to know when you want to go. Again, selling shouldn’t really be open-ended, and you should have an idea of what your ideal closing date will be. If you’re moving for a new job, then this decision is an easy one; you’ll have to be out by the time your job starts, so you’ll want the sale to be done by then. If there’s no such external pressure, though, it’s hard to know what date to pick; aim for perhaps 6 months in the future. Assuming that it takes a month to prepare your house for the market, a month to find a buyer, another two months to complete all the paperwork, one more to move and another month for safety, and you’ll have a ballpark idea of how long it will take to conduct the sale.

Six Months is Too Long; How Can I Sell Quickly?

If you’re under pressure to move soon, six months might well be too long to wait. In this case, it is possible to shave time off the sales process, but it’s important to know where it’s best to save time. Something crucial to bear in mind is that if you’re under pressure to sell quickly, the buyer will have the upper hand when it comes to negotiating a price. They know that time is on their side, and as your moving date approaches you may accept a last-minute lowball offer just to get the paperwork signed. To avoid this, you’ll want to get the property on the market as quickly as possible, to give yourself as long as you can to find a buyer and agree a price. This doesn’t mean you should rush it, but it does mean you should act sooner rather than later; the faster you start negotiating with a buyer, the easier it’s going to be to get the right price.

Some good tactics for expediting a house sale are listed here:

Offer a Competitive Valuation: Don’t excessively under-value your property, but present buyers with a bargain. This will draw in more offers, and since your agent should make buyers aware that they’re getting a good deal it’s unlikely that you’ll receive many of bids below asking price (in fact if you get enough interest, it’s possible that you’ll receive higher bids than your property’s actually worth).

Prioritise a Cash Buyer: Avoid the “housing chain” if you can, and find someone who’s already prepared and ready to buy. Remember when you bought your house for the first time? This was part of what made you attractive to sellers, the fact that you didn’t need to sell your home before buying theirs – now you see why, because it can be very important that a buyer can act quickly.

Advertise Well: Don’t just pop a few pictures on Rightmove and be done with it; make sure you’re working with an estate agent who has a good grasp of the market and can find you buyers. They should be putting your property on all the major property portals, organising viewings and ensuring that your property is properly marketed both on and offline.

Laying the Groundwork For Your Sale

             So, you know why you’re going and when you’re planning to complete by. Now you can start to lay the foundations for your sale. Your first steps should be to consider whether you’ll sell the home yourself, or through a real estate agent – obviously, an estate agent brings plenty of benefits to the table, but in the modern day any homeowner can list their homes for sale. It’s tempting to save on agent fees by conducting the sale yourself, but before you make the decision you should consider a few differences between selling with an agent and selling privately:

Selling a House is a Lot of Work: You won’t see a lot of the “behind the scenes” effort that goes into finding a buyer for your home, but real estate agents work hard to present your property to the right buyers and convince them to make an offer. Going it alone isn’t a case of filling in the odd form; there’s a lot to do, and it’ll be your job to make sure it gets done.

Conducting Viewings: If you sell yourself, it’ll be your job to handle enquiries and arrange viewings, and you’ll also have to find time to show prospective buyers around your home. This can take a big chunk out of your day, and if you’re trying to sell quickly you might have dozens of viewings to conduct in a short space of time.

Advice and Insight: Actually accessing the market isn’t really what an estate agent brings to the table. Their experience and knowledge of the local market coupled with their expertise in the business of selling and buying property makes them an invaluable resource for a seller (especially a first-time seller), and can really smooth things out. Though you’ll have to pay their fees, they can often secure you a better price overall, and you’ll end up ahead in the end.

Throughout this guide we’ll assume that you’re selling through a reputable local estate agent. For experienced sellers who can spare the time to handle all the work of selling their home it might well be a viable option to sell privately. However, for first-time sellers, it’s a wise choice to use an estate agent instead.

How Can I Find an Estate Agent?

             Or, to phrase the question more appropriately, how can I find a good estate agent? It’s not tricky to find an agent in your local area, but choosing which one to use can be problematic. A good first step is to find an agent who is currently selling similar properties to your own, ones in the same likely price range and ideally within the local area. The idea is to market your property to buyers who are looking for houses like yours, as they’ll likely be looking at the agents which have the most appropriate properties for them.

Once you’ve found a few possible agencies, contact them to discuss your requirements and establish what they’ll charge. It’s usually a good idea to phone, if possible, so that you can get a feel for how they’ll treat you as a seller; remember, you’ll be working with these people for several months at least, so it’s important that you choose someone who’s friendly, polite and informed (not just the cheapest). Ask friends and family for recommendations, too, because if an estate agent’s performed well enough to warrant a personal recommendation they’re definitely worth considering.

What Questions Should I Ask My Estate Agent?

When you first contact an estate agent, it can be hard to know where to start. You’ll need to get an idea of what sort of agency they are, and what you can expect from listing your property with them, so make a short checklist of questions to ask them and note down what they tell you:

What are their fees? Agencies usually charge a percentage of the sale price +VAT, somewhere between 0.75% and 3.5%, which is payable upon completion of the sale. Check if this is conditional on their selling the home, or whether they’ll still need paying if another agency sells it.

Are they exclusive? Some agencies prevent you from listing with multiple agents. This is a bad sign, since a good agency should be willing to work to sell your property before their competitors do.

What does this include? Are there any additional fees which you’ll have to pay? You might be charged extra for a “For Sale” sign, for floorplans or for 360 degree photos of a property, and you should establish exactly what you’re going to get for your money

How will they market your property? This is the agent’s chance to show off their local knowledge and track record, and they should be able to give you an idea of what they can offer you which their competition can’t; if they sound unsure, or can’t provide many answers, this is a warning sign.

Which property portals do they use? Rightmove and Zoopla are the two top UK property portals, and many agents use both. This provides access to a very large market of potential buyers, which is good news for you. However, some estate agents have signed up to OnTheMarket.com, which was established by a group of estate agents. This provides an excellent way to reach another group of buyers, but the terms of the portal stipulate that each agency can only use one other portal, either Rightmove or Zoopla. If your agent is a member of OnTheMarket, you’ll want to know which other portal they intend to list your property on.

These questions should give you a good idea of which real estate agency can offer you the best service. Don’t be tempted to pick the cheapest option, since there’s a lot more to selling a house than simply listing it; you’ll need an agent who’s experienced and will be able to sell your house quickly and for the right price.

Selling Your House in 2017

             So far, we’ve talked about the basic foundations of selling your home. In the next article in this series, we’ll discuss how to set an asking price, and what you can do to prepare for the sale.