31 March 2012

Diary of a potential house seller - Part I, April

The time has come for us to downsize. At present we have a spacious four bedroomed house, plus a large downstairs annexe - and there are only the two of us.  This house was fine when my mother lived here too and we were full of students during the summer months, but now, even with two lodgers, we rattle around.  Pictured below is the house's front view which belies the size as the house is extraordinarily deep it's and spread over three floors.

Step 1: how to sell?   This house is quite distinctive, even unique and would be ideal for the right people, perhaps with a multi-generational family, or with home-run business - or both.  But finding them would be quite a trawl. 
We're set back from the road, behind other properties - often not even the postman knows we're here - so a 'for sale' board wouldn't be much use, even if we did advertise widely.  Because of this, we've decided to use a local estate agent.
 View from front of the house - summer evening (above) and winter stupendous sunrise (below)
Step 2: find and instruct an agent.  We've had visits and appraisals from three agents and the price to ask for the property was pretty consistent but they all said that so much would depend on finding the right person as this isn't a run-of-the-mill house.
What was interesting was the quotations for selling the house.  These varied from  between one and a quarter per cent to two percent - quite a difference - considering they were all offering a more or less similar service.
We have chosen one near the bottom of that range, mainly because the valuer obviously knew her job, knew the area, was business-like whilst still being friendly - and most importantly, seemed to know what she was talking about.
Step 3: Make house presentable.   Other half is busy doing all those diy jobs which have been waiting, or half done, for several months (or years!?). 
Meanwhile, I'm tidying up outside, making it look like an easy-to-look-after garden, and cheering up sad corners.  Also I'm busy sorting out stuff and packing away things we won't need for several months.  Lots of it (but not nearly enough!) is being passed to local charity shops or put on freecycle.
Of necessity, these jobs are taking a very long time but we're away for a few days soon so don't mind working so hard now.  On our return the house will officially 'go on the market' and I'll post the details on here.
Step 4: Made a wish-list.  We'd like: three bedrooms, two bath/shower rooms, good sized rooms, views, a shop nearby, also public transport links and not too far from doctor/hospital.  A bungalow or dormer bungalow would be preferable.  We had a look around the areas where we're interested in living and visited some estates agents.  (The latter was a bad idea as now we're being inundated with unsuitable property details)
Step 4: Tidy up, sorting stuff into three piles, rubbish, charity shop, keep.  Then decide what of the 'keep' stuff can be packed, after all, we don't know how long we'll be 'in limbo' selling the house....

Step 5: Ongoing job: take stuff to charity shop and giving away stuff on freecycle which charity shops won't accept  - or appreciate - (meeting some really nice people at the same time).  We didn't realise all this would take quite such a lot of work and time!

Step 6: pressure washing the patio and clearing out the gutters - what a dirty job!  (Memo to self: do this job more than every five years then it won't be such a long job)

Step 7: Kirsty Allsop's battle plan for sellers says:

  • Fall back in love with your home: this will help ignite the enthusiasm of would-be buyers.
  • Go with the golden mean: get three valuations for your house, and go with the one in the middle.  If it isn't the figure that's been suggested by the estate agents which you like the best, ask them if they will go along with it anyway.

  • Test-view your property: invite your tidiest friend around, and ask them to tell you what leaps out at them as unappealing - it's hard, but be objective.
  • Leave no DIY job undone: nothing is a bigger turn-off for a would-be buyer than seeing half finished jobs.
  • Redesign any empty nests: if your children have moved out, redecorate their rooms. Don't leave them as gloomy little shrines that will remind your purchasers that, one day, their children will leave them, too. 
  • Leave prospective buyers alone: do not follow them around the house like a lost dog. Offer them a cup of tea, which they will probably refuse.  Then tell them that they're welcome to wander around at will.  There's an outside chance they'll rob your house, but it's a minuscule one.  If you're constantly hovering over them, asking what they think, they'll be thinking more about how to respond to you than whether they like the house.
  • Have the premises desexed:  If you're a single women, clear out the books on dating and bunnies off the bed.  Single men should ask their mothers to make the place look civilised and to put out clean towels.  Otherwise, you risk alienating half the world the moment they walk in.
  • Don't seem desperate: even if you are.  Buyers are on the look out for any indications of this.
  • Especially - Don't tell your estate agents you're desperate:  If you happen to let slip that you're having to move because you are getting divorced, or having a baby, or both, they simply cannot prevent themselves from spilling the beans.  They just can't help themselves.
  • Tell part of the truth: if buyers ask awkward questions about why you're moving, use phrases such as 'it seems like the right time, or 'to be nearer friends and family', and make sure to say 'we've been very happy here'.  It's best if there's a grain of truth.
  • Keep asking your agent: always ring for feedback after a viewing.  If no-one's making an offer or, worse still, if no-one is even coming to view be brave and ask your estate agent why.  Are you asking too much ?  is there something that's putting  people off? What could you do to help sell the property?
  • Buy a new kettle: and a new toaster and bed sheets.  All the nice things that you're going to need for your new house, and which you're going to take with you when you go.  But also things which you're going to put on show now, in order to sell y our current place.
Next step:  The estate agent's coming this Monday to take down detailed particulars and take photos - and we haven't nearly finished tidying up and titivating the place.  
The first agent fell through as, when she came to take details, suddenly there were all sorts of extra charges, not included in the original quotation.  So we've put that firm on the back burner.
Now the 'new' agents seems pretty dynamic and keen, so - as long as we can curb his enthusiasm to put our price down to sell quickly - we have faith that he'll be able to help us.
We've still been busy outside: painting fences, tidying up the paths and drive. Sweeping up leaves and blossom, weeding and pruning.  
We've bought two hanging baskets to put at the front of the house, also compost and flowering annuals to plant in the window trough.  However, it's been rather windy, and very cold for the time of year, so have yet to plant up the trough.  

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