1. Choose Your Agent Well
You don't have to sell your home through an estate agent, but if you do, choose carefully. This is always important, but even more so in a slow market where your home is not going to sell itself. Ask friends and neighbors for recommendations, look for agents selling properties similar to your own and ask three or four to come and give you a valuation.
Choose someone who is enthusiastic about selling your house, and someone who sees, and will sell, the positives. Find out where your house will be marketed. Remember, if you opt for an agent that is part of a chain, your house should also show up on the database in other branches.
You will be dealing with the agent on a regular basis, so try to find one with whom you get along. Bear in mind that the valuer may not be the person with whom you have regular contact, so check who this would be and meet or speak to them before you decide.
2. Haggle Over Fees
Do it, and don't be afraid too. Don't accept the agent's first quote without seeing if you can get a better deal elsewhere. The latest Land Registry figures showed prices were down year-on-year, so there is a chance you will be making a loss on your property. With this in mind you should attempt to make savings elsewhere to offset it.
Ask if your preferred agent can match the percentage charged by the cheapest agent, or meet in the middle. A fraction of a per cent on a house sale could be worth a substantial amount of money.
3. Get The Price Right
It is tempting to go with the highest valuation you receive, but be realistic. "In a flat market, price is more critical than ever," says Spencer Cushing, manager at John D Wood & Co in South Kensington. Check the prices on similar properties to get an idea of what price to expect. While the national house price indices can give you an idea of market trends, some areas have seen things picking up more than others.
"Know how much the properties you are in competition with are selling for, and undercut them. Psychologically, for buyers, yours will appear better value," Cushing advises. "If your price is too high the property will hang around. If you price low you will attract more interest and increase the chance of getting competitive bidding, and may even sell for over the guide price."
4. Get Organised
Put together a file containing all documents to do with the house. Include any guarantees for repairs, certificates for gas and electrical work, council tax bills and any other documentation you have. Your solicitor will ask for the lot. You will also need to provide proof of identity and of address to your solicitor, so dig out your passport and recent utility bills with names of all owners. Do this in advance and you will be ready to leap into action when an offer comes in.
Taking time to collect together the relevant paperwork may make your seller nervous, and at a time when some still feel cautious about the market it is, not a good idea to give them anything to worry about.
5. Clear The Clutter
Prepare for a viewing seriously. Keep rooms tidy, stay on top of the vacuuming and clear dishes from the draining board. The idea is to demonstrate that this is an attractive, functional home. Leaving your stuff lying around may create the impression that there is not enough storage. Again, it is always important to do this, but even more so if there are lots of similar properties on the market.
6. Improve Your Home....
Don't gut and redecorate the entire property, but do fix what is obviously damaged. "If there has been a leak and there is some staining, I would say pay the money and repair that. If there are some hairline cracks, fill them in. A first-time buyer may think there is a serious problem, even though this is not the case," Cushing says. If you have been letting your home it could be in need of some serious cosmetic repair.
You don't need to obsess over depersonalizing a home, but if rooms are painted bright colors you should consider a quick coat of neutral paint. But concentrate on first impressions. Paint the front door, tidy the garden and make the entrance area as welcoming as possible. If you live in a flat, do your best to improve the communal areas. If they look shabby it will appear that the building is not well maintained.
7. But Don't Overspend
Buyers often like to make their mark, so don't waste your money on trying to second guess what they like. "Everyone is a budding developer, everyone wants to feel they can add value," Cushing says. If the kitchen is tired, don't spend money on replacing it – there is little chance you will make your money back. Don't replace carpets, but do get them cleaned.
8. Don't Hover Over Viewers
A good estate agent will show potential buyers around a property as part of the service, so let them. "Take the dog and kids out for a walk when people come round," Wardley says.
Or if you need to be at home, be welcoming but discreet. Keep pets and children out of the way, anything to make viewers feel they are not imposing. "The hardest property to sell is the one where the owners loiter in the background," Cushing says. "People feel uncomfortable when the owner is around. They don't want to talk about the property out loud, and more often than not want to leave too quickly."
9. Keep Tabs On Your Agent
A good estate agent will give you feedback after each viewing and be frank about anything you should change. Ask yours to be brutal. Find out what made buyers choose another property over yours and, where possible, make changes.
"Agents should be overselling the positives of the property," Wardley says. If you don't feel confident your agent is doing everything possible to market your home, it may be time to give notice to close your agreement and try another.
10. Step Back, And Try Again
"If a property is still on the market after a long time, the problem is probably down to the price," Cushing says. Give yourself a break, take the house off the market.
Do bear in mind that this might mean commissioning a new home information pack. If your house has been on the market for more than a year and you voluntarily take it off you will have to buy a new Hip, unless you go back on within one year of the date you first tried to sell. If you took your house off the market to complete a sale and it falls through, the Hip is still valid if you go back on the market within 28 days.
When you feel ready to take the plunge again get a new batch of agents round to give you a valuation and advice on changes you should make. Go back on the market with new photos, new marketing text, a new agent and, crucially, a new price.