Property myths: Misconceptions about selling your home
Published: 30/07/2020Absolutely everyone we meet has a different story. Why they bought the home they live in; why they’re selling it now; what they’ve enjoyed through their time in residence. Indeed, one of the many delights of estate agency is hearing all these tales and listening to hopes and dreams for the future.
While we’re talking to people about their move and discussing whether we’re the right agent to sell their home, there are a number of commonly and mistakenly held beliefs that raise their heads alongside the individual concerns of each particular owner. These beliefs surface so regularly that almost everyone we meet expresses one or more of them, so it’s clearly time to voice them properly, in public, and for all to see, to finally clear the air and send them back from whence they came.
So let’s get straight to work.
PROPERTY SELLS ITSELF
We’ve never sold a property to someone who didn't want it, but there's a whole lot more to finding a buyer and seeing a sale through to completion: viewings are just one small part of getting your move to happen.
We all know that feeling we get when we view a property that feels like “the one”. In truth, that feeling has little to do with the estate agent, the seller, the decoration, and sometimes even the location. There’s something special that happens when we stand out front, walk up the path, go inside and wander around. We can’t explain it, but somehow the property feels just right.
But we don’t experience that feeling until we’re there, and even after agreeing a price, that feeling isn’t enough on its own to keep a chain together, deal with unexpected legal issues, challenge the results of a survey, or myriad other hurdles.
Here’s a quick list of some of the things a property doesn’t do:
write an thoughtful description and take photographs;
list itself on an estate agent’s website and property portals;
build a register of potential buyers from enquiries on other properties and additional marketing;
listen to what people need and explain why your home is worth their consideration;
contact people to view, then follow them up, then follow them up again, and again;
bring potential buyers round from other viewings when seeing what lights them up;
give you constructive advice from viewing feedback to keep your strategy on track;
negotiate firmly to get you the best price by demonstrating and standing by your home’s value;
check out people's chains and financial position to ensure their offer is a good one;
challenge surveyor’s low valuations by using evidence of comparable sales;
liaise between solicitors to help speed up the conveyancing process;
find creative solutions to legal problems if the sale hits an impasse;
stay in touch to keep you constantly in the loop about the current state of play;
hold your hand and offer support from beginning to end.
You’d be surprised how many buyers initially dismiss a property they go on to own, from what they see on a portal or a website: many viewings would never happen without a conversation to highlight the qualities that might otherwise be missed from a glance online.
It’s not just a question of waiting for the phone to ring.
SOLE AGENTS ARE LAZY
If your agent only gets paid when they sell your home, why they’d wait around and sit on their laurels is anyone's guess. Obviously this story comes from people’s bad experiences, or those of friends and family, but only one agent will sell your property and one good agent is all you need: just make sure to ask them questions and challenge them on anything you want.
Does their valuation seem pleasingly but unrealistically high; are you tied to a lengthy contract; will they charge you even if they don’t find you a buyer; how do they actually go about marketing your home; how often will they stay in touch? Getting the answers to these questions will give you an idea of the reality of their service.
Speaking for ourselves, we love a good grilling! We want you to be fully confident that we are completely on your side and completely capable of selling your home, so ask us anything you like.
There is also evidence that buyers will use a multiple agency status against you. Having your property appear multiple times on the portals with various agents isn’t exactly a show of confidence in your own home's saleability: it might leave you looking a bit desperate, resulting in opportunistic lower offers. That doesn't mean you won't eventually sell, but it can create an obstacle that doesn’t need to be there.
Finally, multiple agency will leave you out of pocket – quite simply it costs more than sole agency. We think your money would be far better spent treating yourself to new furniture for your new home!
FAST SALE = UNDERPRICED
This narrative assumes that estate agents just want their fee and not the best deal for the seller. £1,000 extra to you is just a few pounds for us, so why would we bother to push for it? It’s a trust issue, so let's unwrap it a bit.
Not that every property does sell to the first viewer, but the concern is something of a self-contradiction. On the one hand, you’re worried that selling to the first viewer means your property is underpriced, but on the other hand a big criticism of estate agents is sending unsuitable people to view.
Ultimately, one viewing to find the right home or buyer would be a wonderful thing for everyone. The prospect of moving is exciting, but the process of viewings can become tiresome, particularly if properties and people are not being matched correctly by estate agents. That is, after all, exactly what we’re here for: to help the process, not to hinder it.
So, even though it doesn’t usually work out that way, our mission is to only bring people who we believe are likely to buy your property, starting with the very first viewer. The alternative is to only bring unsuitable people to your home until you’ve had enough rejections, and then send in the person we know would buy it all along. The only achievement there is a delay in everything for everyone.
Going back to why we’d bother negotiating an extra £1,000 for you when we’d only get the price of a coffee for ourselves, that’s down to three things:
we are acting entirely on your behalf;
we want you raving about us to your friends, family and neighbours;
we want the buyers to know we’ll work hard for them when they come to sell.
Wasting your time and wearing you down is a terrible strategy: it doesn’t build trust and it doesn’t build a great relationship. In fact, it would leave you justifiably telling everyone you know to avoid us like the plague.
So just because every viewing doesn't turn into a sale, doesn't mean it isn't a cause worth pursuing.
EVERYTHING HAS TO BE NEUTRAL
Nonsense. If your home has beautiful decor, then your property is going to be popular. Think rich colours from Farrow & Ball, or delicious wallpaper from John Lewis, or navy kitchen cupboards with gorgeous copper handles… These are all supremely photogenic and aspirational.
It's an interesting state of affairs that people are told to neutralise their decor to sell; then to freely add their personality and decorative style when they live in their next home; then to neutralise that one when the time comes to sell again: it’s a hamster wheel you don’t need to be on.
There is hardly a buyer in the land who expects to view properties and experience their exact personal taste duplicated in someone else’s home, and almost nobody would dismiss a property out of hand simply because the living room was painted a colour they wouldn’t pick themselves. On the contrary: as a nation obsessed with property we are always looking at ways to improve or change our decor. And when we do, we hardly ever pick beige!
There are, of course, some occasions when decor will have a negative impact, but these usually involve more than the colour of paint. If a home was covered in 80s flocked wallpaper then clearly someone is going to have quite an undertaking to remove it all, just like yellowed walls, ceilings and woodwork from smoke (and its accompanying odour). And if an interior is just too specialist (a living room designed as the bridge of the starship Enterprise, for instance) there would need to be some acceptance of a reduced return on investment.
NOBODY PAYS THE ASKING PRICE
Oh yes they do, and sometimes they pay even more.
Us Brits aren’t really brought up to haggle, which is probably why we’re so bad at it. Sellers insist that they’ll never get their asking price; buyers think they should offer less than the asking price; sellers get offended when someone offers less than their asking price; then they go and offer less than the asking price on the property they want to buy.
Nobody really believes they’ll get 10% off and sales are rarely agreed at 10% less than the asking price, but the merry-go-round continues. It’s a part of life that, like so many things, is not entirely necessary, but we nonetheless put ourselves through it to prove that we did at least try.
When we visit people in their homes to talk about their move, sellers are often entirely convinced that whatever price they ask, it must absolutely be more than they are likely to achieve. As though, even if they only asked £1, everyone would refuse to pay it, simply out of principle.
So let’s put this one to bed.
Your asking price can be at, above or below the price you are aiming to achieve: it’s simply a strategic figure to generate interest. You might want to straddle two price bands on the property portals (£300,000 will have twice the audience of £299,995); you might want to ask for offers in excess of a certain figure to set a baseline; or you might want to simply avoid all the haggling and set a fixed price.
Every strategy has its merits and depends very much on your property, so if you are being advised that it's impossible to achieve your asking price no matter what, then you are talking to a poor negotiator.
Has this changed your beliefs around the way your property should be marketed, or are you unconvinced? We’d love to know what you think and to answer any questions you have about the process of selling your home.
So whenever you’re ready, drop us a line or give us a call to talk about your move.
Berkhamsted office: 01442 863000
Tring office: 01442 820420