Sunday, November 3, 2013

Selling Property in a Challenging Market

As the news stories about the woes of the property markets continue to pile up in the media, more people are tempted to put their homes on the market in the present climate to see if they are able to sell 'at the top of the curve' and take advantage of the capital gains they have made in the past years of the property bubble.

While experts disagree over the size of the market 'correction', or the length of any downturn in the market that is likely to take place over the next few months or even years, there is little doubt that more people will be in a position where they feel under pressure to sell their property as quickly as they can. The danger is that in putting your property up for sale you will be tempted into taking a much lower offer than you should, as well as the stress of dealing with demanding buyers.

On the other hand, being unrealistic about the value of your property, the motivation of your potential buyers, and the market conditions could lead to being stuck in a situation with a property that has been extensively marketed and still does not sell, despite discounts to the price.

Some of the situations you may encounter over this period of toughening market conditions are explored here, along with some possible strategies to help you sell your property at the right time and for the right value.

Be Objective - This is particularly important when you are selling your own home, rather than any kind of investment property, but it is vitally important that you are realistic and able to take the fact that agents or buyers may suggest you sell your property for less than you think it is worth.

This does not mean that you should just give in without a fight to the first offer that comes along, when you are convinced that the property is worth far more, but make sure your position is backed up with solid facts. In market conditions as they are at present, research in the local area is even more important, and can be the key to making your sale successful. Check estate agents' windows regularly to see what at price similar properties are on the market, as well as how quickly they move.

Also, try to compare your property to other similar ones for sale in the same area, and be as objective as you can. Essentially, these similar properties are your competition for buyers, and you need to know where your property stands in relation to them. Think about things like proximity to schools, shops and leisure facilities on the positive side, and main roads, traffic black spots and industry on the negative.

Knowing all of this, and listing where your property is stronger than most of the other similar properties on the market at the time, will allow you to price your property effectively and realistically, as well as helping in its marketing. The knowledge that your property has the best gardens of the type, or has an extension as a utility room should allow you to bring out the advantages in the details as supplied by the agent, as well as helping you to sell the property when you are conducting viewings.

Aggressive buyers and tactics - One of the biggest problems with selling with the current turbulent market conditions is that buyers will feel they are in a true 'buyer's market'. This means they will feel emboldened by the prospect of being more sought-after than the property they are considering buying. Given this fact, buyers are taking up some practices that have not been seen by vendors for a few years - some of which are just a shift in the landscape and relationship between buyer and seller, other which are a degree more unsavoury or even immoral.

One of the biggest differences that sellers will notice in the current climate is the time factor. Buyers are now far less likely to be rushed into making an offer, or improving an existing offer as they will have the impression that you need them more than they need you. While this can be true, it pays to be prepared to wait for offers and responses to come in.

Of course, this is a legitimate buying tactic in the same way that in a rising market sellers are able to make buyers wait for their responses to try to make sure they would be prepared to move their offer upwards. Buyers will feel that by holding out on making their first or follow-up offer, they are sowing the seeds to make sure that you are 'softened-up' for a lower offer than would otherwise be normal.

Be aware in this situation of the research you have done on the right price for your property, and be prepared to stick to your guns - but not too much. While it is quite fair to ask for a fair price in negotiation, if you are completely inflexible in the money stakes, you will scare off legitimate and fair buyers.

Once you have accepted an offer for the property, there are other things that buyers may now feel emboldened to do given the market conditions. For one thing, the agreements for fittings and fixtures may go on longer and be more intense that you might expect. Again, buyers will feel that they are in a stronger position to demand that some of the items you would have taken with you remain in place or are prepared to pay less than you want for them.

In this situation you would be well-advised to try to keep the two issues separate, while the buyer may be keen to suggest that unless you move on the fixtures and fittings the whole deal could fall apart. If they continue to be stubborn on this point, and you feel that they are close to pulling out of the sale, there may come a time to make a difficult choice. If you give in to their demands, can you be sure that this is the only issue on which they will be aggressive, or will it be a signal to them that they can push you into a corner in any of the negotiations? Would you prefer to keep this sale, no matter how much you have to smile through gritted teeth, or are you confident in finding a buyer? There is no blanket answer to this, and each situation can only be judged upon your feelings at the time.

One of the more worrying trends in recent weeks has been the idea of buyers gazundering sellers. Gazundering is a process by which buyers agree a sale price and put the wheels of the sale in motion, only to demand a hefty discount on the property price at a very late stage, often just days before completion. The discount demands can be anything up to 20 per cent off the agreed price, and sellers are left with the option of either giving in to the demands of their buyers or risking losing their sale, the house they want to buy and causing the rest of the chain to collapse.

Some websites are deliberately promoting gazundering as a legitimate bargaining tool in the house buying process, and even go so far as to say buyers should have offers accepted on three different properties to maximize the chances of one of their gazundering attempts being successful. Most people will see this as a morally-questionable way of entering into a sale, but be aware that there may be some people out there who are willing to try it.

Make the most of what you have - Many of the properties that are coming on to the market at the moment are quite similar - in some areas there are so many two-bedroom apartments for sale at the moment that sellers are dropping their prices by up to £100,000 (approx $200,000) in order to attract attention from a smaller pool of potential buyers than has been seen for some years.

In this situation, the best thing you can do is to make sure that you have maximized the features of your property that are going to attract buyers and make it stand out from all of the other properties of the same type they will have viewed already. If you have a huge kitchen, make sure it is clean and tidy but that people can see you enjoy spending time in there, if the garden is 30 yards longer then the neighbouring properties, make sure it is tidy, the lawn mowed and some colour and life are evident. You may even want to demonstrate the its lifestyle possibilities by putting out garden furniture to show how it can be used.

A recent survey also suggested that spending a small amount of money on refurbishing and remodeling parts of your property can not only get you back almost the same amount of money as the investment you put in, but will also help to make the property stand out to buyers. Purely on a monetary basis, it is said that a minor remodeling of the main bathroom in a property is the best way to spend on the interior of a property, with up to 100 per cent of the investment being made back on the property sale.

Making your property ready for viewings is also important. Some say that brewing fresh coffee or baking bread in the kitchen is the best way of making an impression on people viewing the property, but nothing will stick in their minds more than a well-presented, well cared-for home. The much-vaunted 'kerb appeal' factor is very important in creating the right first impression and setting the tone of the viewing. Pets and clutter should both be banished for the duration of the viewing, and if possible and necessary, you may want to send the children and partner to the park for an hour while people are viewing the property.

What you really want to create in a competitive market like we have at the present time is a lasting impression on potential buyers. If you can let each of your viewings leave with a sense that they want to be in your property, and can see themselves happy there, you have won half of the battle and will have a better chance of sticking in their minds.

Think differently - Don't be afraid to do something a little different in marketing your property to the buyers that are out there. Remember that there are always people who are looking to buy property, even if there aren't as many as there were, or as many as you might want to see. In fact, many buy-to-let investors are looking to expand their property portfolios now as they see it as a perfect time to buy the properties they want, as well as a time when there will be more people who have to rent instead of buying themselves and getting on the property ladder.

Some sellers will see this as the right time to look into selling their property on their own, and not using an estate agent. Certainly the fees that will be saved on any purchase are a welcome bonus, and perhaps that will allow you to be a little more flexible on your pricing than someone who also has to pay their agent a commission at the end. Selling without an agent is not something that should be tackled without careful thought and preparation however, as doing things wrong will waste time and money, and will ultimately make it difficult to sell the property later through an agent if the independent route fails. Many agents will be reluctant to take on a property that has been on the market independently in the recent past, as they will feel that it has been overexposed to the market, and their chances of success are therefore diminished.

Even if you are using a real estate agent to sell, you can still get creative with your own marketing strategy. There are some wild and interesting ideas of how you can bring attention to your property sale, from having bumper stickers made up and taking out advertisements in local papers on your own. One of the more targeted approaches works very well if your property is in the catchment area of a well-regarded school. Some sellers have been known to hand out flyers at the time when parents are arriving to collect their children, as they often know someone who wants to move to the area.

If your property is particularly attractive and stands out from the crowd, you may want to consider holding an open house for potential buyers to come along. This is a particularly good idea for desirable properties - it brings in interested parties to have a more leisurely look around the property and even to take a little more time to discuss finer points with you personally, and if you are lucky it will also mean that they will see other interested potential buyers arriving to look around and spur them into making a good offer.

Don't panic! - Despite some of the media stories to the contrary, there are still properties that are being bought and sold across the country, so there are buyers out there. They may not have the huge and easily-accessible finance options that were available a year ago, and they may not be as willing to enter into a bidding war to get your property, but they are still out there. A well-presented, loved, realistically-priced property will sell, as there will be a buyer out there who wants it.

Try to be patient in waiting for viewings, offers and negotiations - not only will you find it stressful; you will also transmit a kind of desperation to the buyer that they can use to drive your price down.

It is also a good idea to have a set of limits and a back-up plan if the market turns out not to want to buy your property in the timeframe you have in mind. Set a lower limit for offers that you will accept, a time limit that you want to lave the property on the market. Should a sale not happen, or the price you are offered is too low, consider updating and improving the property you already have - either for you to continue to enjoy, or for a fresh assault on the market.

If you need to sell quickly - Should you get to the point where you need to sell your property quickly, there are a couple of options that should at least allow you to escape from a sticky financial situation. Sometimes these options are looked down on by many in the industry, and while they do offer opportunities to those involved to make money from buying your property cheaply, they can offer sellers a way out and still give them some equity to play with.

Auctioning property in the UK has not really taken off significantly, despite numerous efforts to promote it as a good way to buy property. Some properties are auctioned, and it is often repossessed or probate properties that make up the lots. This can be a good way to make sure that you achieve a reasonable sale, so long as you don't put an unrealistic reserve price and are prepared to accept a slightly below market value price. If you are lucky enough to have two or more bidders who are keen to get hold of your property you may get a higher price than you imagine.

Another option is to go to one of the quick sale companies in the UK market, who offer a range on service to allow you to sell your home quickly and get your money out in a short space of time. Backed by the fact that they have cash reserves, these companies are able to offer cash within days to most sellers. They make their money from buying properties below the true market value, but that is the price you pay for being able to get your hands on a significant amount of capital in a short space of time. For people who are in more dire financial straits, these companies also offer 'sale and rent back' schemes to allow them to get their capital out of the property and still have their home to live in.

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