Guide to buying and selling

By at home

Most of us have been sitting out the recession, hoping that the housing market will start to move again. But for some, life events may mean that moving house is a must, or it could be the perfect opportunity to pick up a great bargain. With the market favouring buyers, now might be the time to grab the best deal for your money

Buying property
At the moment, the market is better than it has been for buyers for many years. Here’s how to get yourself the best deal for your money
1 Buy hard
• Buyers have the advantage at the moment so negotiate to get the best price. Look at how much houses have been sold for in streets nearby and put in an offer for 10% less. If that’s rejected make it 5% less.
• ‘If you’re buying, haggle hard,’ urges Phil Spencer, property expert and presenter of Location, Location, Location. ‘Lots of properties have been on the market for a long time and as long as you can raise the capital, it’s a buyer’s market. Whilst the price of your house might have fallen by 15%, so has the one you’re looking to buy.’
2Sell yourself
• You need to make sure that your seller knows you are in a good position, so don’t hold back on selling yourself. For example, make it clear if you’ve got your finances in place, you are chain free, and ready to move straightaway – these make you an attractive proposition.
• Reiterate this to the estate agent, as he will pass on this information to the sellers.
• Ask how long the house has been on the market, because if it’s been on for a while the sellers will be more willing to accept lower offers. If the price has already been dropped, the sellers may drop it again.
3Know your market
• It may seem ruthless, but find out if there are any repossessed properties for sale in the area you are interested in, as the sellers will be keen to get rid of the property and may accept low offers to get it off their hands.
• Property auctions are another way of finding a bargain but you will have to pay a 10% deposit immediately after a successful bid and be able to pay the remainder within 28 days.
• Look at price comparison sites to find the best mortgage while interest rates are low, and have it all in place so you are ready to move as soon as possible.
• Get to know your estate agent. Trawling the internet is good way of knowing what properties are out there, but if your estate agent is on the case for you, then you’ll be the first person he rings if a suitable property comes up. He’ll be looking a sale too, so it’s a win, win.

What happens if a sale falls through?
The number of sales that have fallen through has soared over the last 18 months, and in 2008, an average of 40% of agreed sales failed to survive to completion.
For many sellers missed completions often result in missing out on buying another property. This means a financial loss because money will have been sunk into solicitors, estate agents, home information packs and survey and mortgage fees, often in excess of £2,000.
It is worth seeking advice from a reputable agency such as the Citizens Advice Bureau if this is the case, because you don’t want to lose out on more than you need; CAB can advise on your legal position, too.
If you’ve already sold your home and the sale of the house you are buying falls through, you could effectively end up homeless until you find another suitable property.

Selling Property
It is a tough market for sellers at the moment, but there are ways you can make sure that when you come to sell your house you get an offer that’s close to your asking price
1 Set the right price
‘Putting your home on the market at a realistic price and being upfront with your agent about any issues that could impact on future negotiations and deals, should ensure the smoothest route to finding a serious buyer in today’s market,’ says Steve Lees, head of marketing at email4property. Get several valuations from different agents, so you know you have a realistic price. If you need a quick sale it might be worth under-cutting other people selling in your street.

2 Be upfront

‘Now, more than ever, it helps to build trust with your potential buyer. Be clear about your own reasons for wanting to move, and be ready for questions about the property, neighbours and the locality,’ says Steve.
Guzundering is when the buyers pull the price down at the last minute. The best way to avoid this, according to Steve, is by being upfront about any potential problems from the start. ‘It may be tempting to skirt over any underlying issues, but buyers often cite new concerns over potential problems with the property as a reason to lower their offer. If everything is out in the open from the start, buyers will have little excuse to do this.’
Leave it to your agent to do any serious negotiating. It is in his interest to see that the property achieves the best possible price. An estate agent has a greater capacity to be objective about your home, and will also be aware of the local market and its limits.

3 Get it organised
Get your home information pack (HIP) together and any paperwork your buyers may be interested in, such as planning permission and building regulations for any work carried out on the property. Certain aspects of the pack, such as local planning issues or conservation issues in your area are beyond your control, but potential buyers will be interested in your property’s energy performance, which you may be able to improve. Having adequate loft insulation and using energy-efficient light bulbs is a start.

4 Tidy up
As soon as you put your house on the market, start to remove all the clutter and any mess from your home because all it will only make your home look smaller. You may even want to consider leasing storage space to house any non-essential items that you’ll want to take with you and only keep the vital furniture items on display.
Ensure the view through the front windows is appealing, too. Rooms inside should be kept tidy (even when you’re not expecting a viewing, don’t be surprised if people stop and have a good peer into your home to see if it might suit them).
Now’s the time to start detaching yourself from the memories you have and try not to be sentimental about your home. Keep personal items to a minimum- it makes it easier for viewers to imagine themselves living there one day, and not you.

5 Make repairs
Potential buyers will be looking at everything (in close detail) and damaged walls can put doubt in their minds. Make sure that you have your home inspected for any wood destroying organisms and get the problem sorted before you start selling. The paint on the walls should not be peeling, and ideally carpets should be neutral. Tidying up the front of your house by painting the front door and windows and keeping the garden free of weeds, will make a good first impression and give your home ‘kerb appeal’. A lick of paint will keep your home looking its best. You may call it shabby chic; buyers will just see shabby and walk,

Money sense…To sell your home faster and for a higher price, start thinking of it as a product you want to sell to a willing buyer. Remember, buyers can generally find several houses that are similarly priced, so your product must have an advantage over the competition if you’re to get a sale at a price you want.

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