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The Property Styling Company..

It’s the weekend and I’ve been up since the crack of dawn packing my car with all sorts of gorgeous accessories, collecting fresh flowers, buying fruit and making sure every item on my long list is present and correct. Working on a Saturday or Sunday is something of an occupational hazard for me as that’s when most of my clients tend to be ‘at home’.

I love everything to do with Interiors and Design but my passion is really for ‘Property’; marketing, styling, selling and (when it’s called for) finding!

I’ve specialised in Property Marketing, you may know it as Home-Staging (but with a strategic twist) for years now and the thrill of achieving a great result for my clients is still unbeatable. Whether they’ve a property just going onto the market, a home they’ve been unable to sell for a while or a house they moved into but never really settled in, the starting principle is the same, a good poke around and a proper ‘fact-find’.

Today’s styling project is the culmination of a good few weeks of hard graft. 

The house is a substantial 5 bed (Victorian) period property in Bath.  It has been their happy, family home for approximately 25 years. Although their children have long since moved into homes of their own, it’s a big wrench for the owners to consider leaving the house behind. Ideally, they’d like to downsize, put a bit of money in the bank, move further out into the country, perhaps embark on a small renovation project and enjoy an early, well-earned retirement.

Our first meeting at their property was for me to appraise the house by analysing the property through the eyes of a buyer, find out their objectives, talk through strategies for attracting their target market and give them a winning edge over similar properties for sale. A great deal of our time was spent discussing Estate Agents; those considered suitable to sell the property and the price range my clients felt would be acceptable to them.

I took copious notes for the follow-up report and numerous photos as a reference for styling and staging. As it had been their home for a long time, they had, like all of us, built up a collection of ‘family treasures’ and found themselves custodians of larger objects like ski’s, framed posters, boxes of clothes, books and bits of furniture the kids still wanted but had “no room to store” in their own houses! They were also concerned about the decoration in some of the rooms, did they need to paint, re-carpet, dress the windows, fit a new bathroom or de-clutter?

As with many period properties the house had a few quirks and foibles but was essentially a well cared for, comfortable, elegant home. I’d spotted one or two (essential) minor upgrades on my initial look around but the majority of work was ‘clutter clearing’ (not that this was in any way a messy home) and redefining three (mostly unoccupied) bedrooms. Happy to indicate a small budget for upgrades and staging items, the couple were keen that any furniture and accessory purchases could be used again in their next home or agreed as part of a rental package (hired from me) if they so chose.

Having received my Home Sale report, they’d spent the intervening period working through my recommendations; sorting, storing, decorating and cleaning the house from top to bottom. Estate Agent valuations were booked and all that was left to do was the final room styling in preparation for the marketing photographs.

Where possible I like to work with a professional photographer, one experienced in commercial photography rather than family portraiture and preferably a patient photographer. I often spot something after the shot has been taken that I don’t like, need to change or “would be better over there”!

On site I meet up with Bruce Bolton, (www.lanternphotography.co.uk) he’s keen, early and I’ve yet to begin.  Luckily, he and the owner discover a passion for racing cars which allows me enough time to unpack and get started. We’ve allowed only 2-3 hours.

Much of the main furniture re-arrangement was completed in advance; we needed a new double bed for one of the rooms and some curtain poles put up elsewhere. Now also in-situ, I’d previously sourced bed linen, lamps and light-fittings too.

Concentrating on the Living room and Dining room first, I arrange flowers, hang pictures, re-position key pieces of furniture and decide which lights to leave on. Bruce is anxious to get ‘snapping’ so I move onto the kitchen. This room is the most contemporary part of the house, all gleaming surfaces and shiny glass. Already a very stylish space, other than deciding which accessories will further enhance the ‘lifestyle look’ there isn’t a lot else to do in here.

The patio and garden have previously been tweaked by the owners so photographs are taken of this area next. The sun keeps disappearing behind a cloud, not ideal but at least it isn’t raining – we want light, bright, shots, seasonal of course but sunshine makes a huge difference to the appeal of any property image.

Thankfully styling the rest of the house goes smoothly. The cushions I’d purchased for the Master Bedroom are such a perfect match to the owner’s originals anyone would think it had been planned in advance 😉 I’m very pleased with the overall look and feel of this room.

The only space that proves a bit tricky is the bathroom…. It’s quite small and trying to find an angle that isn’t all ‘bath’ or mainly a shot of the window is difficult.  I managed to source towels in pretty soft shades to go with the colour scheme and found some perfectly coloured accessories but unless we take a photo directly of them (which to show off the styling is fine) this room could look a bit bland.

In the end all rooms are photographed and we even manage to capture the front of the house with the sun shining! The result is exactly what I had hoped to achieve and thankfully my clients are thrilled.

Before I leave, my owners get a mini coaching session on how to conduct a perfect viewing.  Showing a 3 storey property can be confusing – do you start at the top of the house, in the middle or out in the garden?  I want to ensure they can successfully show the house to viewers (and the Estate Agents) without having to double back anywhere; ensure where they start creates the most impact and that they finish on a high to give them the greatest chance of achieving a faster and more profitable sale.

Back home, the worst part of the job…unpacking! I have to decide if I’m keeping any of the unused purchases for another project, re-wrap the delicate items, store all the bags and boxes and finally sit down to analyse the day.

Post Script:  All 4 estate agents that came to value were really impressed by the presentation of the property and dead keen to get the instruction.  By being proactive and having the house ready before they called in the agents, my clients could make informed decisions about the timing of the sale, negotiate fees and capitalize on marketing ideas.  

They sold quickly, for a great price and are now happily involved in turning their new house into their home!

Thanks to Bruce at www.lanternphotography.co.uk for use of his images.

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Assuming you are a motivated seller, actually want to sell your property fast and not just ‘test the market’… perhaps now is the time to take a long hard look at the ‘detail.’

A staggering 93%* of property buyers search the internet first, before they even contact an estate agent.

Which means that your home has to stand out from the crowd, from day one.

It appears only a few homeowners thoroughly check their online property details, preferring to leave ‘that side of thing to the agents’.  Most never think of looking at their property to see whether their ‘advert’ could be improved.

Once you’ve noticed your home showing up on Rightmove or Zoopla what do you do, sit back and wait for a sale?

When presented with a client’s ‘problem’ property, one of the first things I do is study the online information to see what it does or, in many cases doesn’t reveal.

Imagine you’re searching for a new home to buy, what would you like to see?  In my case the kitchen, living space and the master bedroom are top of my list.

So just how effective is your property marketing?

Take 5 minutes out of your busy day, sit down with a cup of tea and really look objectively at the way your house has been presented… to the world!

Did you even notice it amongst the 1000’s of similar properties for sale on the property portals?


Hiding something?

More importantly, would you want to view it?

Full frontal!

Any property can benefit from a good declutter and bit of tweaking here and there (I should know!) but if your online and printed information is less than perfect, your smart, clutter free hallway may remain forever unseen!

*Statistics from HMT Report, Property Academy (October 2010) )

Looking to sell your property quickly, for a good price and with minimum hassle? Of course you are but usually that means having to engage …………..an ESTATE AGENT!

Recently I had the pleasure of attending a conference alongside 50 odd (no pun intended ;)) estate agents. 

Whatever the public perception of estate agents, they have a job to do, businesses to run and livelihoods to support just like the rest of us.  Frustratingly, some agents still appear to be in the dark ages and to survive, definitely have to ‘up their game’.  Encouragingly, although the conference was an opportunity for many to meet up with old friends and sparing partners, some had come along to learn new tips and tricks for (hopefully) taking their agencies forward.

One of the reasons I’d been eager to attend, was of course to network my own business, (an outsider on the inside so to speak!) nevertheless, I was also interested in listening to a couple of the key speakers.  In particular, Julian O’Dell, who I’d come across on Twitter, as @agencytrainer a year or so ago and been a keen follower of ever since.

As well as being a partner of Thomas Morris estate agents, Julian runs another business (training estate agents) TM training&development.  A few of my contacts had heard him speak and some had even raved about his training courses.  For me, this was too good an opportunity to miss.

Most of my clients have estate agent stories (or sagas) to tell; some good but mostly, unfortunately, bad!  Although I too am in the business of ‘helping to sell houses’, I’m usually called in when clients are fed up with the agent, or at their wits end when the property isn’t selling as quickly as (they think) it should be.  Selling is a stressful and emotional time, some agents get it right, some obviously don’t!  I have firm views on what you should expect from your agent, the level of service they provide and how they should market your property.  So pencil in hand, I was ready to take notes.

Julian is an extremely engaging speaker but generally what he said was all common sense.  Most of his ethos is what ‘we’, the public, want or should expect to get from our agent, so why did he need to spell it out to them?

Luckily he had time to chat afterwards and although I’m no roving reporter, agreed to answer a few of my probing questions….….

Julian, I’ve given a brief description of your ‘day job’ above but perhaps you could you summarise your business and background for those that don’t know you?

In 1983, I began my estate agency career with an independent company in Olney, Bedfordshire. After spending a number of years with legendary British estate agency Ekins, Dilley & Handley I accepted a Senior Management position with the newly formed Prudential Property Services – taking a keen interest in personnel issues and staff training.

I eventually became disillusioned with corporate life and in 2000 was invited to become a Partner with trailblazing company Thomas Morris – a firm that in 2001 went on to win the  coveted Cendant Cup – and with it the accolade of the ‘Best Independent Estate Agent in the UK’.  In 2002, alongside my estate agency interests, I established TM Training & Development who have coached and trained teams and individuals in numerous countries throughout Europe, including Italy, Spain, Wales, Scotland and Germany. I was joined in 2007 by Peter Chapman – ex Managing Director of central London agency, Chestertons.

I’m now a regular speaker at industry conferences and about to undertake my first engagement on the African Continent in the form of the South African Fine & Country conference.  I’m also a contributor to a number of the UK’s leading property publications and sit on various industry judging panels. My proudest professional moment was when TM training & development were awarded the Sunday Times Gold Estate Agency Supplier of the Year award in London in December 2010.  In the same year, Thomas Morris Estate Agents won three industry awards including “Best Independent Estate Agency Chain of the Year” at The Negotiator awards.

My interests include my family, music (particularly from the 1970s), football (I am former PA announcer and a lifelong fan of Luton Town), foreign travel and anything to do with property.

After so many years in the industry, what is it about the role of an estate agent that still interests or excites you?

The role of a diligent agent in solving people’s problems by helping them sell and/or buy successfully is still an important one.  In the current market, most people who move are doing so because something in their lives dictates that they have to – often something problematic.  High quality agents identify those issues and suggest and supply the right course of action to their clients.  The right advice and action from the right agent can genuinely make a difference to the quality of life of many of their clients.

Why do you think estate agency gets such a bad press?

Estate agency gets a bad press for many reasons – a few of which are sadly justified.  Having moved recently myself I was shocked and disappointed by the lack of professionalism and customer care displayed by many practitioners.  Poor communication, lack of listening, slack attention to detail and broken promises are not uncommon judging by my own experiences and those of the mystery shopper exercises we conduct.

Agents are also portrayed in soap operas, sitcoms and television dramas as wide boys or bumbling buffoons which perpetuates the perception of the public.  Our cause is not helped by stories of dishonesty that rear their heads in the media with predictable regularity. Just this week, a number of London agents have been found guilty of obtaining parking permits in central London through fraudulent behaviour – a few bad apples spoil the reputation of the whole industry.

In reality, the majority of agents I work with on the training and consultancy side are well-intentioned, honest, hard working and ethical in their approach.

What does it take to be a good estate agent?

As a firm, high standards of behaviour and conduct which are monitored and ahered to, aligned with a dynamic brand and great marketing are a great start.  Appropriate staff recruitment, reward, retention and training are crucial.

As for individuals, there are numerous key criteria under the three umbrella headings of knowledge, skills and attitudes.

Knowledge includes that of the relevant legislation, local and national market, property stock, amenities, facilities, benefits of living in your catchment area are all important.

Key skills include communication, questioning, listening, rapport building, prioritisation, time management, objection handling and many more. Training and coaching in these skills accelerate and maintain effectiveness and set individuals apart from the competition.

The paramount attitudes are a will to win, positivity, flexibility and a good team ethic. If these are in place from the start, individuals have the raw materials to be successful. The missing knowledge and skills can then be bolted on through training, coaching and mentoring.

Which common mistakes do you see happening time and time again?

Lack of attention to detail is a personal irritation of mine – just today I have seen an estate agent’s website description of a property that reads “Viewing recomended to avoid dissapointment”. Furthermore, the property apparently had an “enterance hall” and a vent for a “tumble dyer”. These basic careless errors show a poor approach to quality and accuracy and are a reflection of the care and pride the agent takes in their work.

Lack of listening is a constant bugbear too. So many friends, family and acquaintances have bemoaned the experience of receiving entirely irrelevant property information. My wife and I were sent an expensively produced glossy brochure of a property recently. One of our criteria was that our next property needed to be within a maximum 25 miles of my wife’s workplace. The property in question was 64 miles away – an utter waste of everybody’s time. 

There is also an over-reliance it appears on technology and a loss of focus on people skills.  Agents spending money on ipads and QR codes would be well advised to invest in the development of staff skills.  A medicore valuer provided with an ipad does not become an excellent valuer…. they become a mediocre valuer with an ipad.  That does not mean their results will improve.

Do you think estate agents will ever stop being vilified by the public?

Possibly, but we still seem to appear at or near the top of the list of “least trusted professions”.  Until practitioners across the board conduct themselves in an entirely open and honest fashion, the industry will struggle to shake off the stigma. 

There is no entry barrier to becoming an agent and the introduction of entrance examinations and licensing would be a healthy step towards improving the public’s perception. In America, such an approach leads to “realtors” being widely respected in the community and to client relationships more in line with those that we have in the UK with our accountants and solicitors.

Is there one improvement (all) agents could make immediately to better their service?

Improve the quality and frequency of proactive communication. The biggest criticism of agents that I hear is that they do not keep in touch with their clients and customers. The better agents I have dealings with contact their key customers weekly by telephone to develop and maintain trust, rapport and loyalty. 

Apart from keeping you gainfully employed, why do you feel estate agent training is so important?

The market size in terms of transaction numbers has reduced massively since 2007 and agents who want to survive and outlive the competition long term need to improve what they do to grab a bigger slice of available action. This does not happen through mere willpower – improved knowledge and skills have to be in place. Training makes this happen!

The current news for home sellers (and therefore agents) is pretty bleak, what are your thoughts on the market at the moment?

As previously stated, the market size has fundamentally changed. In 2007, there were 1.6 million sales transactions in England and Wales. That figure is likely to be no more than 0.6 million in 2011. 1 million transactions disappearing represents a huge challenge, particularly in light of the fact that there has been nowhere near a proportionate reduction in the number of agents competing for that market.

There are numerous factors that suggest no change to that number of annual sales for the foreseeable future. Many first time buyers can’t or won’t buy, investment buyers seem to be hesitant about putting their money into property in a big way, despite the lack of interest it is earning in the bank and/or the massive risks involved in stocks and shares.

Transaction numbers are the most important element to agents. Whether prices rise or fall is somewhat of a red herring, although I believe they will reduce further before they recover.  

The agents who will be best positioned to thrive in the short- and medium-term property market are highly likely to be those with robust and successful lettings and property management operations as there is a culture shift toward property rental in the UK.

How do you see the world of estate agency changing over the next few years?

There will doubtless be changes as the years roll on, but although online agency has its place and offers an alternative to the traditional approach, I believe that due to the size and importance of property transactions, a person to person relationship will always play a massive part in the moving process. For that reason, I do not see a huge dying away of high street agency nor a surge of popularity for online agents.

I hope, as previously stated, that entry criteria will be introduced and that malpractice and dishonesty will fade away. 

With the advent of sites like Tepilo, do you think people are more determined to try and sell their homes without using an agent – particularly to save themselves huge fees? 

The perception of saving money by using sites like Tepilo needs close scrutiny. On the face of it, marketing your £200,000 property for free or next to nothing via such an approach will save the customer between 1 and 2% of the sale price (i.e. £2000 to £4000 in this case). An attractive option surely?

Well maybe not…  A dilligent, trained, proactive estate agent will have a vast band of registered, qualified potential buyers who will be vetted according to their motivation, ability and needs.  If none of these existing batch purchase the property, the agent has the a range of marketing methods including advertising, high street presence, boards, website and portals to attract a new wave of enquiries.

Negotiating the best price takes skill and training. Agents are equipped for this task and their experience and knowhow can make an enormous difference to the level of offer encouraged from interested parties.  Finally, the hardest part of the job is often the cajoling, chivvying and careful management of the progressing of the sale. Some transactions can take weeks or even months of blood, sweat and tears to nurse through to completion. Without a calibre agent involved, sales can fall apart at all sorts of key points in the process.

If your property fails to realise the best possible price or your sale fails to reach exchange of contracts, the fee you pay is of far less relevance and a low fee or no fee can very quickly become a completely false economy.

As the online phenomenon grows, do you think we will see the end of the high street agent? 

See above!

Should agents consider changing their opening hours – I mean with most of us working longer hours, is it still feasible to operate a branch Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm?

The best agents I work with already open all day on Saturdays and Sundays in recognition of their clients’ needs and lifestyle. This approach is often combined with late night weekday opening and phone lines that are manned until 9pm or even later.

This flexibility of “opening” hours coupled with the 24/7 availability of information on the internet is definitely a route which proactive agents will continue to opt for. 

What key factors should a home seller look for when asking an agent to value their property?

Research into which agent to employ to sell your home is extremely important and directly linked to your chances of achieving the best possible price in the shortest possible time with the minimum amount of aggravation en route.

Vendors should look for evidence in local newspapers and online as to an agent’s track record at dealing with properties like their own. Examine closely how they will market your home – are floor plans, internal photographs or video tours employed?  Have a drive around the local area and look at the board presence of the local estate agents. But be careful with this exercise – it is not simply the amount of boards that is important, but rather the proportion of the total that read “Sold” or “Under Offer”.   It is this ratio that can illustrate the effectiveness of an agent’s sales operation.

Finally, visit or contact the office in the guise of a potential buyer. A little time invested in “mystery shopping” will demonstrate an agent’s level of customer service and sales skills. 

All agents are not the same.  It is a vendor’s responsibility to establish the differences before entrusting any of them with one’s most valuable asset.  Another method of research is to visit sites like www.allagents.co.uk to see what previous clients have to say about the agents in the frame.  

Assuming they typically select 3 agents to value, how does home seller choose which estate agent to instruct – select the one with the highest valuatio or the lowest fee?

See some of the answer above. In addition, it is vital that vendors recognise that some agents overvalue simply to get the business and then work on the client to get the price down over forthcoming weeks or months. This typically leads to an excessive lead time to secure a buyer and in many cases at a lower selling price due to the property becoming stale or having the stigma of being a difficult one to sell having been on the market for so long.

Pricing correctly is of paramount importance in the current market, Buyers shop around and have easier access to available properties than ever before via the internet. If a property does not compare and compete sensibly on paper with others of a similar nature, there will be a shortage of enquiries and viewings.

Low commissions are the approach of agents who do not have a service proposition to justify anything other than cheap fees. As in most walks of life, the customer gets what they pay for.

A vendor should take a close interest in the services on offer in terms of marketing and communication. If you pay an extra £1000 on commission but in doing so you appoint an agent who secures a quality buyer at the asking price who exchanges contracts in 4 weeks, then clearly that extra money has been very well spent.

I feel it is no coincidence that on my travels around the country, I have yet to visit a place where the cheapest agent is selling the most property.

Beyond this, clients should request visual evidence of sales success in the area. Any agent can talk the talk, but in the current market it is critical to select an agent that can prove they walk the walk!

Are there any major mistakes sellers make when putting their homes up for sale or when enlisting an agent?

See above!

 

In your opinion, what is the best thing about being an estate agent?

The challenge, the variety, the fact that no two days are the same, that one never stops learning as new situations present themselves regularly and that it is genuinely an industry where hard work, honesty and professionalism reap rewards.

Despite the fact that moving house is regarded as one of the most stressful experiences in life, an exceptional agent can alleviate vast amounts of that stress and help people fulfil their dreams and aspirations. Thank you cards, chocolates and wine from satisfied clients give me the same glow of pride as they did 28 years ago when I first started in the business. 

Apart from recommending my services 🙂, what else should agents do to help their vendors sell more quickly and for the best price?

Retain the relationship of trust that has been created at the point of instruction by ensuring regular informative communication and reviews. Be assertive enough to suggest changes to the property, the marketing and/or the price whenever necessary, and work with the client as a team who have the same objective in mind.

Get specific feedback from all viewers as to why they are not offering on the property. Ask for a price opinion from each viewer – even if the property isn’t for them, it is likely they will have an idea of the appropriateness of the asking price. A property is only ever worth what a buyer is prepared to pay for it, so it makes sense to establish that figure from all viewers to pass on to the client.

And obviously, more importantly, employ the services of one H Silver!

Many thanks to Julian for taking time out from his busy day to give an insider’s view into the business and for his candid responses to my questions.

The first time the new owners of your home are likely to come across your property, is on the internet; via Rightmove, Primelocation, Tepilo or, your Estate Agent’s website.

The second time might be an advert in the Estate Agent’s window or in the local property paper.

The third time? Well probably, when they receive the glossy brochure showing your home for sale in all its splendid glory.

But are your online and printed details good enough to get you a viewing?

Hopefully, this will be one of the things you have been considering since my last blog!

As I’ve said before, selling a house is like selling any product it needs good marketing.  And your property details; photographs, description, floorplan, glossy brochure, should promote your property for sale in much the same way as a luxury hotel might advertise its weekend breaks.  The information needs to be clear, concise, interesting, appealing to its target market, highlight the most attractive features and selling points, whilst evoking a sense of lifestyle.  Ultimately, the advert needs to be impressive, good enough to get them a booking … or in your case, to secure a viewing!

So study your details on-line. 

Are your pictures good enough to stop potential buyers eliminating your property during one sitting at the computer?  How many do you whizz through when searching for a home online – 50? 100?  What makes you stop and click-through the details? price?, image, description?  Think about it.  Searching for a home online gets boring after a while and what stops you will stop your buyers too. 

What could be done to make your property stand out from the crowd? If you have extensive competition in your price range go through the list – is every thumbnail property a picture of the front of the house?  How about asking your agent to change the image to an interior shot or, one of the back garden?

Are your photographs well-lit or does your property look gloomy? Do your rooms look cluttered, tired, messy.  Is your bed made and the toilet seat down?! If you’ve been on the market a while are your photos still in season or do they show snow on the ground in the middle of summer?  Freshen up the photos if necessary.  A good agent should be on top of this but it helps to be a proactive seller…. if you really want to sell.

Go through your property description details.  Hopefully you will have done this from the start but if you notice an inaccuracy don’t leave it, change it!  If yours is a unique property and has a different heating system or particularly unusual feature – perhaps an explanation from you or additional (typewritten) notes could be available at the time of the viewing… (if you’re unable to get them printed on the brochure).

Floorplans are they big enough or too big for your brochure? And do you have room sizes on them?  Frankly they aren’t much good if you haven’t got sizes as they don’t allow an easy comparison to other (similar) properties.  Floorplans show how a property works, allows the buyer to see if a property will work for their family or situation and act as a memory trigger when they have been to view.

If you’re not getting any viewings, don’t (just) blame your agent… be proactive, re-assess your details, re-shoot the photographs and bag yourself a buyer!

A guest post by a lovely Estate Agent friend!

I just love small yappy dogs me, no really I do!!

I have done two Market Appraisals today, both of which the clients had Dogs. Don’t get me wrong I am absolutely fine with dogs, so long as they leave me alone, I mean I am wearing a suit, even in the middle of summer because it is expected of me, to be fair I only buy M&S machine washable suits.

On the first appointment I was met by the yapping of this poodle, running around and scratching at my trouser leg, followed by the most mental terrier leaping about like a derranged thing and nipping at my fingers, both completely ignoring ‘Mummy’.

I then spend the appointment with the dogs alternating for my attention, whining at me, scratching my legs, jumping up on the seat beside me when I sit down, just generally driving me nuts.

The second appointment, the property was a bit grubby to begin with and they had this absolutely ancient black lab, nice old boy of a dog, but constantly trying to sniff my crutch, and then he follows me round, so that when I turn round I end up tripping over him (and them).

Anyway, just a thought, I like dogs, and when I am wearing jeans and I can spend the time to make a fuss of them and throw a ball great, but when its business, shut them in the garden, because otherwise I might set my kids on you instead!

 

This post was by ‘well known’ Estate Agent   @SecretEaDad

WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE!

The property market is a very competitive one and there’s no excuse for a lazy estate agent. However, there’s also no excuse for a idle seller either!

If your property, big or small, (relatively) low value or (extremely) high value is on the market and going no-where… fast, take stock and take back some control.

It’s all about marketing.

We’re used to living in a society where products are targeted, marketed, to appeal to a specific buying audience – why should your ‘product’ be any different?

90%, yes 90% of viewers cannot visualise how a property could look when faced with the way it is presented to them.  That means 1 in 10 can’t imagine how your empty (or cluttered) rooms could suit their family perfectly!

It’s not as though you haven’t been deluged with TV programmes, ‘property gurus’ and press articles telling you how to sell your home…

So what could you, or your agent, do differently?

Make yourself a coffee, grab a note pad and pen, jot down some of your own ideas and, over the next couple of days I’ll tell you if you were right 😉

Should be easy to find an estate agent shouldn’t it, after all there are a dozen on the high street; they are in the property paper and they are always putting flyers through your door telling you they have a buyer for your home… just call this number for a free valuation.  So yes, it is easy to find an estate agent, but, the right one for you, that may be a different matter.

I have heard it all, from the potential vendors point of view, ‘‘you all do the same thing, so long as you put it on Rightmove I will be ok’’. ‘‘I chose them because I found one through them’’.  ‘‘I bought from them, so just as easy to sell through them’’ – Don’t get me wrong these are all valid reasons.  However, I believe people should put a little more effort in before they even invite the ‘valuer’ through their door, after all this is probably your biggest asset.

Not all agents are the same, just as not all clients are the same; it is potentially a very stressful experience selling your home.  You need to trust and have faith in your agent so; may I suggest some ground work? Don’t just pick three at random, put the groundwork in then invite round three agents from the firms that seem to most closely match your needs.

  1. Mystery Shop. Register with all the agents as a buyer, by phone or in person. How are you treated, were you made welcome, did you feel comfortable with the person, did they take your details? Were they knowledgeable? Did they ask if you would like to make a viewing? What are the details like, floorplans, lots of colour pictures? Or, are the details single sided toilet paper, were you bombarded with attempts to get appointments to see the mortgage advisor, book a valuation? Basically, did you feel you were treated as a person or as a target? How you are treated is how your potential buyers will be treated, don’t forget we buy from people we like!
  2. Email in requesting details. Do you get a response? If you do, how long did it   take?
  3. Check the websites and press.  Do you like their ads, good pictures, wording? Try and choose an agent who appears to mainly deal in properties like yours, no point putting a £150,000 property with an agent who mainly deals in manor houses, and vice versa. If you choose a matching agent they are more likely to have existing clients on their books looking for a home like yours.
  4. Talk to people, ask about their experiences.  Would they use an agent again, did they feel they communicated, whilst you are at it ask about solicitors, you pay them a lot to you know.

Now invite your chosen three round…

  1. If they ask you for your thoughts on value before giving their own, say you invited them round for their opinion, it is ok to discuss it after they have committed.
  2. Have they brought comparables and evidence, are they relevant to your home? Or, have they just dragged out a big sales file telling you all about their great services and how fabulous they are? It is ok to be proud of your firm and yourself (I am) but I would rather see genuine thank you letters than a pre-printed mission statement.
  3. Do you feel comfortable with the person, are they knowledgeable, do they ask about you, your reasons for moving, do they listen or is it one big sales pitch! When they leave are you relaxed and more informed or are you just glad to see the back of them?
  4. Ask about their terms and conditions, including fee, fixed or percentage, agency period, dis-instruction period, how much for an epc. People always seem to worry about the fee, then sign up to a 20 week contract; this can be a much more costly mistake.
  5. Meet with all three agents before making a decision, don’t forget if they persuade you to sign up on the day you have a 7 day cooling off period (check their T’s & C’s) Make your decision after weighing up all the pro’s and con’s, sometimes the most expensive agent is the one for you, and sometimes the cheapest one may be, or even the one in-between, but, if you have done your homework hopefully you have found one to trust and that is far more important!

There is far more I could say about the actual valuation/appraisal itself, but, I will save that for another day.

Estate Agent Dad

Huge thanks to Mark for taking the time to write this article and share his knowledge and insight.  You can follow him daily on Twitter @EstateAgentDad

(images from idea go’s & jscreationzs /freedigitalphotos.net)

If you need advice on styling, selling or buying property and would like to discuss working with me … my main website can be found at www.propertystylingcompany.co.uk. Contact can be made through this wordpress site, by email or by calling 07789 488446.

Thinking of buying (or selling) a property in Devon?

Yesterday, I was on another of my frequent trips to Exeter and picked up a copy of a new publication ‘Devon Homes and Living’. May 2011 £1.50

Naturally it’s full of houses for sale (who’d have thought?!) and whilst you’ll have probably seen most of featured properties on the web, it does contain quite a few interesting articles.

Days out in Devon, a brief description of the local areas and a smattering of  interiors/gardening news are interspersed with the obligitory adverts but of course this month, as featured on the cover, there’s also a double page spread on Kirsty and her Devon homes including ‘Meadowgate’ (available to rent for upwards of £2000 pw!).

I’m not sure I’ll be buying the publication every month but, if you are into property I can highly recommend curling up in a quiet sunny corner, with a cup of tea and a biscuit, whilst leafing through this property paper.

If you need advice on styling, selling or buying property and would like to discuss working with me … my main website can be found at www.propertystylingcompany.co.uk. Contact can be made through this wordpress site, by email or by calling 07789 488446.

Spring Clean!

So you’ve decided to put the house on the market – (or you may even be considering letting) you’ve thought about which Agents you’ll get to value and you are itching to get the For Sale sign up.  BUT WAIT… Want to know what the number one turn-off is that could scupper a decent valuation and a quick sale?…..

GRIME!

You know what I mean – you’ve seen it yourself when you’ve been viewing properties.  And probably rushed out with lots of excuses as soon as you could…

  • Grease in the kitchen, up the tiles, over the cooker.
  • Sticky carpets that cling to your shoe and look as though they’re 30 years old and….. smell accordingly.
  • Dirty bathroom tiles with other peoples ‘skin and hair’ clinging to them, ugh… dare you lift the toilet seat?
  • Overflowing cat litter trays!
  • Sticky handprints on the wall.
  • Flithy windows you can’t see in (or out) of.
  • Dark, dusty corners and cobwebs hanging from the light fitting.

You want people to relax when they are viewing your property, imagine themselves living in it – not feel desperate to leave in case they catch something or rush home to jump in the shower!  Unless your house IS a show home (and there are some people out there), would it receive a gold star of approval when viewed through the critical eyes of a viewer? – think about it.  Would you really want your agent to have to apologise for the ‘state’ of your home everytime they conducted a viewing?

As time becomes a scarce resource for many, it’s easy to let dust and grime build up. When was the last time you wiped down your skirting boards or cleaned around your light switches? (Please don’t come and look at mine!)

That’s why having a thorough clean BEFORE your Estate Agent and your first viewers arrive is SO important.  You might already have a cleaner, but they’re just ‘keeping on top’ of the dusting and vacuuming.

What you really need is a whole weekend devoted to Spring Cleaning tackling the cobwebs, removing grease from inside and outside of those cupboards and freshening up the bathroom.

Wiping down the paintwork can be as effective as redecorating but without the mess!

Better still, why not employ a team to deep clean your property whilst you’re at work and come back to what looks like a new home?

You’ll be impressed and so will your potential buyers!

If you need advice on styling, selling or buying property and would like to discuss working with me … my main website can be found at www.propertystylingcompany.co.uk. Contact can be made through this wordpress site, by email or by calling 07789 488446.

One of the most beautiful houses in Bath is up for sale through Savills and receiving a huge amount of local publicity.  Set in 9 acres of secluded grounds, Widcombe Manor is an historic albeit ‘mini’ stately home.

Perfectly intact Georgian architectural features, with elegant, well proportioned rooms, the property also boasts, a wine cellar, croquet lawn, tennis court, infintity pool, pavillion, summerhouse, 2 storey cottage and incredible views.

It only has 6 bedrooms; although three of these are suites on the 1st floor, with the remaining bedrooms and bathrooms on the 2nd; ideal for those who require space for living/entertaining but would like to preserve something of a ‘family atmosphere’.

The downside for me? …… Well aside from the in “excess of £10million” price tag, the property details (now removed from the property portals) are very lacklustre and the photos unfortunately don’t appear to showcase the interior spaciousness and charm.  Then again I don’t suppose those with + £10m to spend will be searching for properties on Rightmove along with the rest of us!

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