Don't expect a smooth ride or a speedy sale
Properties are languishing on estate agents' books for longer, and even a firm offer doesn't mean you can relax
Sunday 24 October 2010
Sellers who want to shift their properties in time for Christmas should brace themselves for a challenge. According to September's Hometrack house price survey, the average time a property remains on the market before an offer is received stands at 9.3 weeks. This takes us beyond Boxing Day and is a far cry from the 5.3 weeks recorded in the boom days of September 2003.
The latest housing report from the National Association of Estate Agents revealed that the average number of buyers registering on estate agents' books continued to fall in September to 247 (from 250 in August), while sales agreed remained at a stagnant low of seven per branch.
According to Colin Shairp, the chairman of the association's Solent region, "the September housing market simply never kick-started after the summer holidays". And the next few months are not looking much better.
For sellers, being realistic about price is more crucial than ever. "Right now, it's a case of time vs price," says Melfyn Williams, the association's past president. "Some sellers are prepared to stick to the initial asking price because they have time to sit it out, but others will have to make their homes appear to be bargains. This means dropping the price to about 10 per cent under the average value of other properties on the street, or even 20 per cent for a really quick sale."
But sellers seemingly have some way to go in swallowing this fact. While Halifax reported a significant 3.6 per cent slide in average property values during September, the Rightmove house price index for October showed that asking prices actually increased by 3.1 per cent. "What sellers and their agents will eventually come to appreciate is that buyers are now in the driving seat," says housing commentator and former estate agent Henry Pryor. "The internet has made the marketplace more transparent and buyers can see for themselves what is really happening."
Once you have taken the necessary hit on price, you'll need to take your share of responsibility for how your property is marketed. As 90 per cent of properties are listed on Rightmove.co.uk, go a step further and push your agent for a "premium listing" on the site. This will give your property a visual edge and extra photos. It will cost you or your agent an extra £125 but, according to Rightmove's data, will generate 21 per cent more enquiries.
Rightmove recently launched a "featured property" facility which places your home in its own box at the top of the page after search criteria have been entered. Prices for this will vary. "The fact is, there are plenty of homes on the market but they are not selling," says Rightmove's spokesman, Tom McGuigan. "You will need to take every opportunity to make your property stand out online where the vast majority of buyers start their search."
Buyers are more discerning than ever, so present your home accordingly, says Tracy Kellett, the managing director of BDI Home Finders. "I would suggest that sellers do their own 'mini-survey'. Have the roof checked by a professional; have central heating systems serviced and ensure drains do not cause an issue with the survey. Paint over any old leak stains – they worry buyers even if they're historic. Refresh exterior paintwork; ensure gardens are tidy and de-clutter to make the property more spacious."
Even once a sale has been agreed, the conveyancing process – the legal work in transferring the property between buyer and seller – typically takes between six and eight weeks, according to Claire Parker, a partner at Wilkin Chapman Grange solicitors. "Things only really start moving when the seller's solicitor has passed the 'contract package' – which includes copies of title deeds and fixtures and fittings forms – on to the buyer's solicitor," she says. "This should only take a couple of days so sellers in a hurry should call and check it's gone."
Keep abreast of the process by calling your solicitor regularly, says Ms Parker. "Delays often occur with leasehold properties as managing agents can take so long to come back with a copy of the lease. One client drove round to pick it and delivered it to our office. Being aware of what's going on isn't hassling – it means you have the information to unclog hold-ups."
Wider measures are also under way to improve Britain's notoriously slow conveyancing process. In January 2011, the Law Society is launching a Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS), a kitemark that will be awarded to solicitor firms that demonstrate "high standards" of service. The scheme will include a transaction protocol which it claims will speed up conveyancing for all parties. Until then, it's a case of every man for himself.
Linzi Chapman, Creative marketing manager
Linzi Chapman, 34, and her partner, Dave Hole, 35, suffered at the hands of the property market as they tried to move from a flat to a house. In May, Ms Chapman put her two-bed flat in Wandsworth, London, on the market for £485,000 and reduced the asking price in June by £10,000. "After lots of viewings, we finally found a buyer in July who offered £470,000," she said. "But he pulled out at the last minute after making unreasonable demands that he wanted all the furniture thrown in too."
They are hoping to find another buyer before Christmas and, if necessary, would lower the asking price to £465,000. "This time I would push for a very quick exchange as I have been stung once already," she said. "If we still have no luck, we'll try again when the market looks healthier."
Independent Partners: Get fee-free expert mortgage advice and find the right mortgage deal for you.
Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift
Follow the latest events from this Champions League fixture
Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind"
Like Madonna, Sister Cristina Scuccia's video is also set in Venice
Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'
techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say
- 1 Jack the Ripper: Scientist who claims to have identified notorious killer has 'made serious DNA error'
- 2 Banksy arrest hoax: Internet duped by fake online report claiming artist's identity has been revealed
- 3 Former East 17 frontman Brian Harvey turns up at Downing Street and 'demands to speak to Prime Minister'
- 4 The inventor of the Facebook 'like' button says he never made a 'dislike' button because he feared the 'unfortunate consequences'
- 5 Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'
Lord Freud: Tory welfare minister apologises after saying disabled people are 'not worth’ the minimum wage
Lord Freud hangs on as MPs of all parties 'call for his head' over disability comments
iJobs Money & Business
£23000 per annum + pension and 22 days holiday: Ashdown Group: An established ...
£27000 per annum + pension, 22 days holiday: Ashdown Group: An established ind...
£23000 - £26000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...
£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: A Corporate Actions Administrator / Operations Admini...
Day In a Page
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village