We are hearing a lot about the housing crisis – a lack of housing in general and, in particular, affordable housing. There seem to be a number of reasons for this, including developers not building houses or building fewer houses, land banking (where developers buy land but then sit on it without building in the anticipation of the land rising in value), and properties that are left empty.
One other factor is the number of older people living in properties that are bigger than the owner needs or wants. This can result in what are, essentially family homes, not being accessible to growing families. It has been suggested that incentives (such as waiving Stamp Duty) should be offered to such owners in order to encourage them to sell up and move to smaller properties freeing up the property ladder.
There are of course many reasons why people want to downsize. A larger property is likely to be more expensive to maintain and have higher bills, the property may no longer be suitable for the owner in terms of layout or practicality, the owner may want to be closer to family for reasons of support to be nearer grandchildren. Owners may prefer to have a property that is easier to lock up and leave freeing them to travel. Whatever the owner’s reasons for downsizing does present certain challenges.
Do you have a much loved toy? No matter how old we are it’s likely that we have some item from our childhood that we would never get rid of. It may be out in full view or hidden away in a cupboard, perhaps even forgotten about. Whatever it is and wherever it is, there is something about it that means we can’t or don’t want to see it go.
Our home can sometimes be like that. Especially if we have lived there a long time. We have created memories – the raising of children, years spent with a partner, the effort of creating a loving and comfortable home. This can create difficulties when the time comes to move. We can, even subconsciously, sabotage a sale.
If you have lived in a property for a long time then letting go of those memories is very hard. As Elsa sings in Let It Go in the film Frozen “And one thought crystallises like an icy blast I’m never going back, the past is in the past”. It can take time and don’t rush. You have to be in the right mindset. My top tip for anyone struggling with the idea of selling their current property is to focus on the reason or reasons you are selling – whether that is reducing worries or exciting new opportunities.
The House Buying Process
If you haven’t moved for a while you may be confused by the changes that have happened in estate agency and it’s important to understand the shift that has taken place in how people search for properties. Historically, estate agents all had premises on the High Street and buyers would visit all the local agents, collect brochures and then decide which ones to view. Nowadays house hunting primarily takes place online. Buyers visit one of the property portals online, enter their search criteria and a selection of available properties pops up. Buyers scroll through their feed and click on the properties they want to find out more about. It’s important to stop potential buyers scrolling past your property in their feed.
Choosing An Estate Agent
Choosing your agent is vitally important and there are lots of options. As well as High Street Agents, we now have agencies that operate purely online and some that are hybrid. Fees vary widely as does the involvement of the seller who may be responsible for arranging and conducting viewings. What are you comfortable with? In my experience, most buyers prefer to view with the agent. They feel less inhibited about discussing changes they would make to the property. After all, most of us are polite and don’t like to criticise a person’s home in front of them and it can be very helpful to buyers to be able talk about options and how they might make a property work for them.
My top tips for choosing an agent.
- Choose a local agent who has good knowledge of the area
- Choose an agent who has experience of selling your type of property
- Choose an agent who is proactive in marketing their properties and finding buyers.
Who’s Going to Buy Your Property?
When selling it’s essential that you understand who is likely to buy your house because, in order to generate interest and offers, you need to get the right people through the door. You might be selling the family home which has four bedrooms, kitchen, dining room and a good sized garden. The people who are most likely to buy your property will be families. It helps when choosing your agent and it’s important that your property appeals to the right buyers from a marketing perspective.
Styling Your Property
Your home needs to appeal to the type of person who is most likely to buy it. Coming back to the example of the family home, your home needs to be presented to attract families. Demonstrate that the house has the requisite number of bedrooms by putting beds and some bedroom furniture in them. If you have been using one or more bedrooms for other purposes such as a hobby room or study turn them back in to a bedroom. This is because a lot of people struggle to visualise so you need to show them that there are the specified number of usable bedrooms. There is term for this – Home Staging
What is Home Staging?
It’s a question I often hear. The concept of staging a home for sale originated in the US where it has become part of the selling process. It has been in the UK for some years now but is still not widely known about, which is a shame because I believe that it should be a integral part of the way in which we sell our homes. For me it is all about maximising the potential in your property which, after all, is normally your biggest asset so it makes sense.
I would always recommend preparing your home as soon as you have made the decision to sell, before instructing your agent. If you stage your house first then you know that the house can be marketed straight away and it enables you to “hit the ground running” as it might be said. Staging is also an option to be considered if your property has been on the market for a while without selling – it’s an alternative to a price reduction or change of agent.
If you are out of practice at moving home then the prospect may be overwhelming. Where do you start? What do you need to do? If you have lived in a property for any period of time it becomes familiar, like that comfy pair of slippers. If something is familiar it becomes part of the background. The difficulty when selling is that because you are so used to it you don’t notice it. Your buyers though, will see your house with a fresh pair of eyes, just as you will when you are viewing properties to buy. It’s worth considering some of the most common pitfalls.
Downsizing means moving to a smaller property, so one concern you might have is not being accommodate your possessions in your new home. We all accumulate possessions, they may be items we have been given or inherited, mementos from a holiday or simply things we have chosen ourselves when shopping. Ornaments, photos and artwork in particular carry memories. These things are actually what makes a house our home. We may keep them for their sentimental value or because they suit our lifestyle. However, when it comes to selling it can mean that an extra piece of furniture makes a room feel cramped or the overall look is eclectic rather than harmonious. Read my blog on decluttering here
When watching property selling programmes such as Secret Agent or Selling Houses I am struck by how frequently the presenter will give advice on an aspect of decoration only for the participant to respond ” …but I don’t like ….” Colour is one of those choices that people have strong opinions about. Remember the object is to sell your home, it doesn’t matter what you like because you are not going to be living there. Your personal taste isn’t the issue, it’s what buyers want that counts.
Approach your house from the perspective of a buyer. Assuming you are buying your next property, do a couple of viewings to help get in the right mindset (never view a property for the fun of it, it isn’t fair on the seller). You may be surprised how different you feel compared to how you feel about your own property. Be hyper critical, buyers will be!
All the things we have accumulated reflect us and who we are as people. I love to see the family photographs either individual photos in frames or the result of photo sessions turned into artwork. Personality can be reflected in the bright and bold decor, holiday souvenirs or furnishings. The problem arises when there is too much of the homeowner’s personality in the property. You are walking round on the viewing and it almost feels that the homeowner is there with you. This can inhibit the prospective buyer from picturing themselves living there. I am not advocating removing all personality, it is possible to go too far and make a space feel sterile. As with a lot of things it is a question of getting the balance right.
A common problem if you’re downsizing because of the “empty nest “ is that some of the rooms are unused and neglected, they have morphed into a bit of a dumping ground. For example a bedroom could have been given over to where you do the ironing or it may be where you stash the boxes of Christmas decorations or the suitcases because that makes them more accessible and putting them away in the loft. Space is at a premium, your prospective buyers might want a particular number of bedrooms they might want a home office, they might want a workspace. When selling it’s very important to maximise the usable space even if buyers ultimately choose to use a particular room for a different purpose. The starting point is to identify your target market, this will enable you to get forms a sense of the purpose which is most likely to appeal to your potential buyers.
In summary, downsizing can be incredibly hard to do. There can be an emotional attachment to the property which makes it difficult for you to let go and think about leaving the property. If you haven’t moved for a number of years then all the different aspects involved such as choosing an agent, instructing solicitors, finding a mortgage broker if you need one, looking for a property to move to, can seem bewildering, even overwhelming.
You may not have done anything to the property for sometime and are aware of this but you’re not sure exactly what you should do. I can advise you on changes that would benefit your property to enable it to appeal to those who are most likely to want to buy your type of property. If you need someone to help to implement, or help you implement, the changes I have recommended, then I can do this.
So if you are planning to downsize, or you’re downsizing and are already on the market but haven’t sold, then do give me a call on (07745) 876182. I offer an initial free, no obligation chat and cover the Wirral, Cheshire and North Wales