It’s not long until Christmas and festive lights are already switched on in city centres, so is it possible to sell your home before it’s time to carve the turkey?
“It can be done but it’s rare,” said Neil Flaherty, director of Hamwic, an independent estate agents . Mr Flaherty recently sold a home in just two-weeks but it had been to a cash buyer and the property was empty.
He said: “With the pace that conveyancers are working at, I would say it’s not likely unless you have a very motivated, conscientious solicitor and a buyer who is not locked into a chain. If you are in a chain (of buyers and sellers) that stretches the whole process out for everyone involved.”
But he said November and December can be a good time to put your home on the market as those looking are more likely to be serious.
Mr Flaherty said: “There is less activity but it’s better quality. People would not waste time coming out (to view properties) at this time of year unless they were really keen, so that is a positive.” So, fewer viewings but they are more likely to be genuine. They may include families who are relocating because of a job move and those who have recently sold and are urgently hunting for a new home to buy.
We have asked Mr Flaherty and Paul Preen, director of Lang, Town & Country estate agents, for their tips on how to get your home sold before it’s time to hang up Christmas stockings.
Choose your agent carefully
First, make sure you choose the right agent. Don’t just pick the cheapest. Find an agent with a proven track record of selling homes in your local area, said Mr Preen. Ask to see examples of similar properties they sold. Look at the agency’s marketing materials. High quality photos and a well-written property description that makes your home stand out will increase your chances of a swift sale.
Mr Preen said opening statements on property websites often repeat information that is already inputted in listings such as number of bedrooms. For example, ‘three-bedroom, semi-detached house for sale.’ He prefers phrases, such as ‘sold with no onward chain’ or ‘south-facing garden,’ that tick the right boxes from the start.
Set a realistic price
If you are in a hurry to sell, it’s essential to be realistic about the price your property is likely to fetch. The standard advice is to get estimates from three estate agents and choose the middle one. “But a lot of agents overvalue to win business,” said Mr Preen. He advises asking agents and researching online how much similar properties have finally sold for compared to the original asking price. Find out about the local property market and make sure your home is attractively priced to sell.
Deck the halls?
Should you leave Christmas decorations in the boxes or deck the halls? Will a Christmas tree and fairy lights distract from the spaces you are trying to show or make your home more inviting? Experts are divided but Mr Preen is in favour of festive cheer. He said: “A Christmas tree and lit fire makes a place feel homely; people can picture themselves living there.” Mr Flaherty agrees decorations make winter buyers feel welcome but warns too many can distract from the house itelf. “Don’t overkill,” he said.
Remember if your house is still on the market in the New Year, photos will look dated if they feature a Christmas tree or wreath. Either take photos before putting up decorations or ask your estate agent for a new set on January 2.
Choosing the right buyer
When considering offers, think seriously about the circumstances of would-be buyers. If you want a quick sale, a buyer who doesn’t need to sell a property before they can purchase your home is likely to be better than one does. Generally, the fewer people there are involved in the transaction the less potential delay. Similarly, cash buyers with money already in the bank can usually move the quickest as they don’t need to wait for mortgage approval. At the very least buyers need to have a mortgage agreed in principle to show they are in a position to proceed.
Appoint a solicitor
When choosing a solicitor you need to ask right at the start if they are willing or able to complete by Christmas. When will they be on holiday? Be clear this is what you need and put it in writing. Mr Preen said choosing local solicitors rather than an online conveyancer can speed up the process and cut out weeks of potential delays. He said: “Local solicitors will have dealt with transactions in your area previously.” This means they will know which local authority searches need to be done (and which are unnecessary). Check how long local authority searches take in your area as it can vary hugely.
Organise the paperwork
Get together all the documents that you’ll need to sell your home. This includes Energy Performance Certificate, property title deeds and fittings and fixtures list. If you have extended your home, make sure you have the relevant planning and building regulations consents, so there are no last-minute delays.
Buyers looking for a property in November and December are usually highly motivated. They may be house hunting because they are moving to the area for a new job. Be accomodating about viewings at irregular times, it could help seal the deal. Consider moving out and renting somewhere if you get an offer and haven’t found a property to buy. This will give would-be buyers confidence that they can be moved in by Christmas. Selling now and renting will put you in a much stronger negotiating position for your next property.
Make any repairs
“Sort out any maintainence issues that stand out at this time of the year like blocked gutters,” said Mr Preen. You need to de-clutter and clean so your home is spick and span for every viewing just as you would at any other time of the year. A Christmas wreath on the front door can add kerb appeal but don’t splash out on a new kitchen or bathroon. “The new owners will have their own ideas and tastes,” said Mr Preen. Above all, make sure the property is warm and cosy. “Nobody likes a chilly house,” said Mr Flaherty.
Communication is key
It’s essential to stay in regular touch with your solicitor and estate agent. Set your Christmas deadline from the start. Speed is of the essence and the quicker contracts are exchanged, the less chance there is of the buyer changing their mind and pulling out at the last moment.
A Christmas move is ambitious but not impossible, say property experts. There’s less competition from other sellers at this time of year compared to January or spring. A simple steps can maximise the chances of your property being snapped up.