Changing rooms or changing agents?

Adaptability is the key to selling your house, says Ginetta Vedrickas
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Still waiting for that sale? Worried that the boom has passed you by and your home still hasn't sold? Alex Maile, sales director of Bushells' Chiswick branch, has just one piece of advice: "If your property isn't selling, it's either the price or your agent."

Still waiting for that sale? Worried that the boom has passed you by and your home still hasn't sold? Alex Maile, sales director of Bushells' Chiswick branch, has just one piece of advice: "If your property isn't selling, it's either the price or your agent."

Statistics show last year's somewhat overheated market seems to have cooled. The National Association of Estate Agents says properties now take on average 12.4 weeks to sell from instruction to completion, compared with last year's 11.5 weeks. Hardly a slump, but vendors who are not in property hotspots may still find themselves waiting for that elusive sale. So what can they do about it?

Mr Maile's advice leaves them with a stark choice: switch agents or reduce the price. His colleague Lisa Keating, of the Clapham branch, finds vendors often do both: "Many agents overprice, can't sell and then tie you in and expect you to reduce the price after a couple of months, which is very unfair. We have no sole agency contracts and try to be honest from the start."

For Julie Bryant, whose company Style Studio offers house doctor-style makeovers to ensure houses are "dressed to sell", alerting vendors to a property's poor presentation is all in a day's work. But she understands agents' reluctance to call on her services: "They don't want to alienate clients by suggesting that there is room for improvement, and they don't want to delay the sales process by bringing me in."

Julie would like to work her magic before an agent values a property: "They are only human after all and can be just as easily seduced by a stylish presentation as most potential purchasers. You won't get an idea of how much you've added to your home's value, but for many the important thing is to sell quickly and for as much as they can get."

Style Studio launched three months ago as the market was slowing, but Julie believes the current climate is ideal: "In a strong market everything walks out the door, but when it's slow everything becomes magnified and people want the most attractive property for the right price."

Her top tip? "Clutter is the thing we're all prone to. Starting with the entrance look at your property with fresh eyes, clear it out and make even a small place look spacious." She doesn't agree price or your agent are the only things you can do something about: "If that were true then why would developers have show homes which show what can be done?"

Vendors Brian and Tara Gullett are two of Julie's clients who believe her makeover of their two-bedroom, 1920s' cottage in Farncombe, Surrey, will help to sell it. On her advice, the Gulletts have repainted the kitchen, moved furniture around and removed many of their belongings.

"At first I thought, 'Oh my God where's it all gone?' It was quite radical but it looks a lot cleaner and brighter. I don't think we'll get more for it (the house is for sale at £147,000 through Marsella Coupe) but it's now more likely to sell," says Mr Gullett.

Experts' tips

Ms Keating says: "Find out the ratio of negotiators to properties. If they've got 100 and just three negotiators it won't work. Ask what you're getting for your money. You need feedback after viewings and a weekly sales progression. Don't sign a contract which ties you in for weeks. Ask for it to be altered to include a get-out clause."

Ms Bryant adds: "If you do nothing else, clear out clutter. Decide which furniture enhances your property and which doesn't and consider putting it in temporary storage."

Bushells, 020-7924 3737; Style Studio, 01483 715660; Marsella Coupe, 01483 860 363

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