Wondering how to sell your home in 2020? Buying and selling a home are the largest transactions we’ll ever make. This process is arguably trickier than ever in the current climate, but here’s a guide on how to navigate the process in these new challenging times.
Where do I start?
Technology is now a key factor, something no aspiring seller can afford to ignore with as many as 98% of property searches now starting online. The move to digital isn’t just about swapping your local high-street agent’s window for your laptop screen, though; it’s signalled a huge change in our expectations. Twenty years on from the launch of digital property portal Rightmove, the market for online house sales is ever more specialised with sites such as The Modern House and WowHaus both dedicated to modernist architecture, and no-frills options including Yopa, Purplebricks and Free.co.uk.
Free's founder Ray Rafiq explains: "We can do everything and anything from our smartphones. We'll look back a year from now and wonder why it wasn't always the done thing to sell our own homes, using just our phones.”
How do viewings work?
The biggest change of the digital era has been the sheer number of properties buyers are now able to scout. And the Covid-19 crisis has increased the use of virtual viewings, where sellers show a walk-through of their home online to potential buyers. This means your home’s image matters more than ever. ‘Buyers still have their budget and checklist, but ultimately it’s all about the photos they see,’ says Claire Reynolds of estate agent Savills.
‘I liken the property portals to a dating site for housing,’ adds Annie Doherty, director of home-staging agency House Doctor.
‘It’s all swipe, swipe, click. If your first picture isn’t giving a great impression, it’s an opportunity lost.’
How do I prepare my home for viewings?
Home staging, where an agency comes in to declutter and restyle your home before it goes on the market, is soaring in popularity, with growing numbers of estate agents running this service alongside their regular business. ‘Most projects we do cost between £3,000 and £6,000, so it’s a relatively small investment,’ says Natalie Fernbach, director of home staging firm Cullum Design.
If you opt to go it alone, take some tips from the professionals. ‘First of all,’ says Paloma Harrington-Griffin, founder of the Home Staging Association, ‘look at your home with new eyes. Things that you’ve got used to may stand out to others, for example, an old carpet or blinds that don’t work.’ Character is good but you still need to ‘de-personalise’ the decor in order to appeal to as many buyers as possible. Repaint walls in neutral shades and remove anything potentially off-putting. If you’re doing major renovations, such as kitchens and bathrooms, consider how you can maximise their worth, perhaps by insulating walls or installing underfloor heating; these can boost your home’s energy rating.
Even the smallest tweaks matter. ‘Dress the sofa with cushions and throws for that subliminal feeling of comfort, says Rebecca Hunt, director of interior design firm Suna. ‘Clean the windows and invest in a good home fragrance,’ says Natalie Hall, associate director at property developer Londonewcastle. ‘You need to show that real people live here, by mixing old and new and having some books around,’ she adds. Finally, Annie recommends repainting the front door and doing a deep-clean before having your home photographed. ‘Think white glove clean,’ she says. ‘Pay special attention to appliances, floors, cupboards, woodwork and bathrooms.’
A time-consuming but important task is ensuring that rooms demonstrate their function. ‘Many buyers find it hard to see how a space could work for them,’ says Tabitha Pethick-Money, associate director at interior design firm Taylor Howes. ‘Show each space to its full potential; if a room can be used as a bedroom and study, then it’s worth doing.’ During this process, you’ll have to move some of your possessions, says Faulkner. ‘If I’m selling, I pack up everything I don’t need for the next six months. Focus on clutter – you don’t want stuff on floors, crowded shelves or boxes in the garage.’
What can put off potential buyers?
Experts agree that the cardinal sins for sellers are untidy rooms and over-personalised decor, which can alienate or create an ‘imagination gap’, where buyers fail to see themselves living in your home. The challenge of making a property appealing is compounded by the fact that buyers are split into two polarised brackets, says property expert Kate Faulkner. ‘They’ll either be interior lovers who want to buy a wreck and do it up, or they’ll want a home they can move straight into,’ she says. ‘If you’ve got something that’s half and half, it doesn’t suit either set.’
So what are current buyers looking for?
People are also living in one place for longer, a trend that Claire attributes to the increased costs of moving. ‘So buyers are looking to future-proof their purchase,’ she explains. ‘They want a property they can extend later, say with a loft conversion or rear extension.’ Certain rooms are going out of fashion, too; dining rooms, which look ‘almost like museums’, are often cited, says Claire. Instead, buyers crave open-plan kitchen-diners and flexible, combined spaces, such as bedrooms with en suites or walk-in wardrobes. With more of us working from home, an office or study can also be a big lure, adds Christian Dixon, sales manager at Foxtons.
Does my home have to be eco conscious?
While looks always matter, buyers are digging deeper into whether a property is a wise buy. Kate points to the growing awareness of energy efficiency. ‘As bills have gone up, people are considering this much more,’ she says. ‘When looking online, you can see a property’s EPC (energy performance certificate) rating at a glance. The average is D, but you should look to improve on that if you’re selling.’
Buyers are also growing savvier when it comes to mobile phone signals, download speeds and climate-related issues such as flooding, Kate adds. Gadgets such as CCTV, Nest and Hive can attract a tech-loving buyer, but you’re better off focusing on the basics to improve that EPC. ‘Even small, inexpensive changes, like swapping light bulbs for energy-efficient ones, will help,’ says Kate.
Do I need an estate agent?
Many new-generation websites offer no-sale, no-fee deals, but if you choose this route you might miss out on an agent’s knowledge of your local market, as online forms tend to cover a bigger patch. Auctions are another option and can be less stressful if you need a quick sale, says Kate. You could also explore a DIY sales portal, such as Sarah Beeny’s website tepilo.com; you won’t have to pay agents’ fees, but the drawback is you’ll have to do all the viewings and negotiations yourself, and your home won’t appear on sites such as Rightmove. This might mean it takes longer to sell, and fetches a lower price.