Springtime sellers awake to a different world

Laura Brady finds new growth - this time in a buyer's market
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The weather has yet to catch up but it looks like the start of the spring housing rush is already upon us.

The weather has yet to catch up but it looks like the start of the spring housing rush is already upon us.

More than 132,000 new properties have been put up for sale in the past five weeks with estate agents represented on the property website Rightmove. co.uk - nearly double the number for the same period last year.

"We have seen stable interest rates for the past six months, unemployment is low and any predictions from doom-mongers of a housing-market crash have failed to materialise," says Miles Shipside of Rightmove.

"Now there is a pent-up desire to sell and, as a result of the more stable market, people are more inclined to act on it."

But whether all the homes now on the market will actually be sold is a different matter. Asking prices in January rose 2.3 per cent on the previous month - equal to £4,321 on the average priced UK home, says Mr Shipside. "Unlike the past few spring booms, we are in a buyer's market and overpriced property is just not going to budge."

Anecdotally, there are reports of sellers resorting to paying stamp duty for their buyers to secure a sale.

As well as realistic pricing, sprucing up your property will be vital to help sell it. Spring buyers are shrewder than ever, making between 25 and 30 viewings compared with an average of 10 this time last year, Rightmove says.

Inexpensive ways to present your home in the best light include de-cluttering, addressing odd jobs such as cracked tiles and blown light bulbs, buying fresh flowers, turning off the television and keeping pets and children under control during viewings, says Paul Fincham, spokesman for the Halifax.

"And have the cost of your council tax and other monthly bills to hand," he advises.

If you're prepared to spend more to give your property an edge, you could consider home improvement - most commonly a new kitchen or bathroom. These can be time-consuming, so look for a company offering speedy installation.

Remortgaging has become a popular way of financing work around the home. Rates can be cheap - as little as 5 per cent, say, on a typical home loan, depending on your lender - but paying off the sum (added to your outstanding loan) over the long term can add a lot of extra interest to be repaid.

Two years ago, advertising agency director David Smith and his girlfriend Zoë Clare bought a rundown three-storey Victorian house in Brighton.

With their eye on a spring sale, David and Zoë are now fitting a new kitchen and bathrooms and relandscaping the garden to make the place as attractive as possible to potential buyers. To pay for this, the couple used money from a previous house sale, together with a remortgage deal from the broker Savills Private Finance.

Overall, the work cost nearly £40,000 - a big investment, David admits, but he believes it was money well spent.

"At least you're secure in the knowledge that you'll increase the value of the property - and in a buoyant market we would be looking at a profit."