There are only 49 days until Christmas. It may sound sound like a long time, but for those trying to move house, it is not nearly enough: those having luck with marketing their homes will find themselves already in the thick of negotiating with buyers over the final sum to be paid for their property.
According to new research by Which? Mortgage Adviser, haggling for a home is more common than sellers might like: in the past five years, 66 per cent were successful in buying a home for less than the advertised asking price. Buyers were particularly successful at haggling in Wales, Birmingham and Manchester. But sellers should be wary whatever town – or, indeed, country – they are in.
To help secure the best possible price for your property, here are six tips to successfully negotiate with buyers.
1. Be fair with your pricing
The most important step of all is to make sure that you have fairly priced your home to begin with: without a fair starting point, you will not have a leg to stand on when the negotiating begins. Get your home valued by several estate agents, check your local market, bear in mind wider financial conditions and whether you will need to accept a loss in order to shift your home. With luck, you may be able to price your home at an attracting enough price point that a buyer will stump up the sum without questioning it.
The chances are, though, that you will not be this fortunate: Which? Mortgage Adviser’s survey found that 73 per cent of buyers have made an offer below the asking price of a home in the past five years. The best response? Make a counter-offer. After all, buyers will most likely start with a price that is less than what they are actually willing to pay.
Rather than counter with your own discounted figure, why not counter at your list price? It will reinforce your property’s value and make it clear that you are not to be trifled with. If someone walks away, they probably were more interested in nabbing a bargain than buying your home – sparing you time and effort trading offers with an incompatible or non-serious buyer.
Alternatively, counter only a small margin below your asking price, maintaining your stand as strongly as possible, while still appearing reasonable.
3. Don’t counter
Why counter at all? Just reject their offer outright and leave the onus with them to submit a new offer – a technique that is more aggressive than counter-offering, but can also be more effective at getting the best price for your property.
4. Hold off offers until a set date
If you allow offers immediately, you could find yourself with several irrelevant offers to bat away – or none at all. Why not try refusing all offers until a specified date? That not only builds a sense of event surrounding your property listing, but also creates a sense of demand, which could spark a profitable bidding war: 25 per cent of Which? Mortgage Advisor’s report said that paying the asking price or more was due to competition for their home, while 21 per cent said it was due to a bidding war.
5. Giver buyers a deadline
Not unlike the previous option, a fixed date can work wonders for your negotiating technique. Giving buyers deadlines with each of your counter-offers will force them to make a decision quickly, leaving you in control of the back-and-forth. At the same time, it also stops your home from being on the market for longer than necessary – something that can make your property seem undesirable to buyers further down the line. In six months’ time, if your home hasn’t sold, you will have to factor that into your selling price and, most likely, lower it.
6. Make sure your home is in prime condition
If pricing your property correctly is the key to fetching the best sum for it, the second most important thing is to keep your home in prime condition: nobody will want to part with their cash for a property that looks like it’s worth half its price.
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Everyone knows roughly how much it costs to buy a home, but selling a home? That’s affordable, right? After all, you’re not the one paying for a new pad. But there are a number of hidden costs involved when selling your home that can easily be overlooked or underestimed.
Before you start budgeting to buying and moving home, let’s break down the costs you can expect to encounter first when selling.
Estate agent fees
Estate agents work on a commission basis, so you can expect the firm you choose o charge a fee that works out as a percentage of the sale price – typically, around 2 to 3 per cent. In other words, the more your house is worth, the ore you can expect to pay.
Private advertising fees
Want to avoid paying high estate agent fess? Selling your home privately is a popular option, with FSBO services such as Sell My Property able to save a lot of money through either fixed fee or subscription charges in advance. Whether they are expensive or not, the most valuable thing is not having a surprise fee to deal with later.
The other option for selling your home is going to auction. This is similar to an estate agent, financially speaking, in that a commission will be owed to the auction house helping to put your home under the hammer. However, you may have to pay additional fees for services such as promotional activity and cataloguing.
One unavoidable cost however you sell your home is the fee charged by your solicitor or conveyancer: costs can vary depending on the level of legal work required and the prestige of the legal company used, but will start from around£200.
Insurance for a property sale may sound odd – this is far from the contents or building insurance you will be used to – but an indemnity policy will cover any defects in the title of a property, such as a missing document. If that is a problem, the insurance would pay the buyer compensation and save you from being saddled with further costs. Insurance is, however, an optional expense.
You may well be sick and tired of paying your mortgage, but for those planning to pay off the loan early, be warned: repaying can cost up to 4 per cent of the outstanding volume. Exit fees for those planning to switch lenders can also apply.
An Energy Performance Certificate is now a legal requirement for a UK home when it is being sold. Estate agents will usually arrange this for you, but if you are selling privately, you will need to organise this. Ordering a certificate costs approximately £60. Use an authorised service only.
Add the above to your budget sheet for moving home, along with removal vans and cleaning companies, and you have a good idea of how much it can cost to sell your property.
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Between the property listing and the legal complexities of conveyancing, staging a home is something theat sellers can often overlook. The process, which involves presenting rooms in your home for viewings, can take time and money, but can also provide a significant pay-off.
According to a survey by the National Association of Realtors, 49 per cent of realtors believe staging usually has an effect on the buyer’s view of the home. Only 4 per cent said it had no impact whatsoever.
81 per cent said staging helps buyers visualise the property as a future home, with more than one in three realtors using staging on all of their homes. The common consensus is that can add between 1 and 5 per cent to a property’s value.
But what should you do and where? We round up the top five rooms for sellers to stage and give some tips for each.
1. Living room
The living room is the number one room to stage. Consider upgrading your sofa, or suite, so that your property looks new instead of old and worn out – especially if you plan to buy a new suite for your new home. If your home is particularly valuable, spending several hundred pounds on a brand new carpet may be worth the potential uplift you can expect in your price. Neutral wall colours should also be considered, while overhead lighting should be avoided if possible: lamps can make a room cosy, while uplighting can make it appear dramatic.
Affordable tip: Buy some new cushions to make your suite seem more luxurious.
Kitchens are the most expensive room in your home to remodel, but they are also the second most important when trying to impress a buyer: it is no coincidence that many sellers improve their kitchens before moving home. Simple steps can involve dusting your ceiling fans and vacuuming all the corners, as well as wiping your surfaces, cabinets (inside and out) and – yes – make sure your dishwater has no dirty dishes hiding in there. Replacing doors or even door handles on your cupboards can also create a new feeling without having to shell out for new units.
Affordable tip: Organise everything in your cupboard alphabetically. This gives the impression of someone who has taken care of their home.
3. Master bedroom
Bedrooms are similar to living rooms: everyone wants to be able to feel comfortable and relaxed in them. Therefore, neutral colours are again the first thing to consider – make sure you dress the bed in linen that coordinates with the wall and also use matching curtains. Remove extraneou furniture from the room: if it’s not a bed, a cabinet, a wardrobe or a bedside cabinet, it’s only taking up floor space and making your room seem smaller.
Affordable tip: Place a lamp on the bedside table to add a sophisticated finish to the room.
4. Dining rooom
Dining rooms are tricky. After all, what can you do with a table and chairs? The answer is a surprising amount. Start by adding any light that you can – a mirror to reflect any daylight coming in from windows is an easy way to do this. Make sure the dining table is a clean, clutter-free centre piece for the room. However, don’t make it too big: remove the middle-section from the table, if possible, so that it requires fewer seats. Setting the table, though, can sometimes be a step too far.
Affordable tip:A vase with flowers, instead of full plate and cutlery service, is a quick way to bring colour and style to your dining table.
Paint, paint, paint. That is the first thing a bathroom needs: a fresh coat to give the room a clean, crisp look. Complement it with a new shower curtain and fresh towels, which, if possible, should be rolled and put on display to create a spa-like atmosphere. A simple piece of art can also add class to a usually un-classy affair.
Affordable tip: Close the toilet lid.
Not keen to stage your home room by room? At the very least, you should thoroughly clean the property and remove any clutter.
Photo: Kendyl Young