PrimeLocation

Many estate agents offer a variety of client services including accompanied viewings. However, most people prefer to show potential buyers around their homes, says Barry Cashin.

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  • This is true, but if you leave aside the notion that you have an intimate knowledge of your property, a seller is actually paying the estate agent to sell the property after all, so it makes sense to take advantage of that service. If the agent does not offer accompanied viewings, you should ask them to. There are several reasons for this:

    • Agents who have to accompany a buyer are far less likely to waste their time taking around speculative time wasters
    • They can deal with all the awkward questions
    • They will have an instant idea of whether there is genuine buyer interest and can exploit this perhaps before the buyer looks at other properties elsewhere
    • Accompanied buyers have usually been pre-qualified before viewing

    Preparing the home before the viewing 

    Homes that are clean, uncluttered, and well presented in good show home condition increase the chances of a sale before a buyer has walked through the door. Simple things like decluttering and depersonalising your home will allow the buyer to imagine themselves living in your home. But if your furniture is old and tatty, replacing it with new or hiring from specialist companies such as Emblem Furniture can dramatically alter the appearance of your home and make it more saleable.

    If you are experiencing real difficulty selling and the feedback is that the look of your home is letting you down, an expert home staging company can transform a dowdy interior into a show home ready for sale. Fine a home stager on the Home Staging Consultants directory website.

    The viewing - how to conduct yourself, what to do and say

    Presuming that you have elected to show buyers around yourself, how should you go about this? Forget the old advice to bake some bread or put the coffee pot on to make the property smell more homely. Buyers can see straight through such tactics and usually develop a cynical view of your motivations. Whilst the regular smells of domesticity such as cooking or pet dog are certainly not to be recommended, the best scent of all is the background aroma of a good quality air freshener.

    The arrival

    When your viewers arrive, welcome them and be friendly but do keep things on a professional basis. Over friendliness is a tell-tale sign of someone who is desperate to sell. Your job is to achieve maximum price for your property, not show from the outset that you are a soft touch.

    Where to start

    When beginning the tour, always start downstairs with the best room first and open the door allowing your buyer to enter before you. If you walk into the room before your buyer, the room will appear much smaller to them and could put them off. Avoid obvious statements like: "This is the lounge/kitchen etc." People know what room they are in. Allow your buyer to ask questions if they have any but if not, do not be afraid to point out any endearing features or key benefits without going into a long monologue. Keep facts and selling points short and simple.

    Picking up buying signals - what to look for

    There is a great deal of body language and psychology that goes into property viewing. Buyers usually take very little time to look over a property. The average viewing time is only around eight to 10 minutes. The longer your buyer takes and the more questions you are asked, the more interested they could be, so try to look at their facial expressions. The more enthusiastic and animated, the more they are interested.

    If they ask how quickly you can move or whether the price is negotiable, this is another indication that they have more than a passing interest in making an offer - but it is far from an exact science and you could be asked these questions by people who are not interested in the slightest. If the buyer broaches the subject of money, always refer them to the agent whose job it is to negotiate on your behalf and achieve the highest price.

    Questions to ask your viewer

    If you get the feeling that your buyer is interested in your home, it is perfectly in order to offer them a cup of tea or coffee and to sit down and ask a few judicious questions to give you a better picture of their position. You could for instance ask how long they have been looking, whether they have a property to sell and if it is on the market or indeed sold - and why they are looking in your particular area.

    The parting

    If your buyer leaves their name, address or telephone number with you and indicates they may wish to revisit the property, waste no time in contacting your estate agent and telling them. The agent should carry out a prompt follow-up with the buyer and focus any serious interest towards a review and possible offer.

    If your buyer has told you anything about their own position, for example, first time buyer, property on the market or sold - ask your estate agent to check this information and verify it. Not all buyers are completely honest about their situation and they want to negotiate the price downwards. You only really want to consider this if your buyer is in a good position and you need to sell quickly.

    Deciding on an offer

    If you have been successful in attracting firm interest from a buyer, the first thing you will receive is a call from the agent putting forward their offer. Usually, this offer will be lower than your asking price although occasionally buyers keen to secure a property or who are fearful of other buyers beating them to it will offer full asking price. The key thing to remember is that price isn't everything in the world of property. Position, too, is important. The agent's checks prior to putting the buyer's offer forward should establish how quickly they can move. Buyers are usually star rated on their ability to proceed as follows:

    * property to sell not on market

    ** property to sell on market

    *** property on market under offer

    **** First time buyer

    ***** Cash or unencumbered buyer

    Whilst it is rare to ever encounter a true cash buyer, if you have an urgent need to move, for example, because you run the risk of losing the property you are looking to purchase, you must seriously consider the buyer's ability to move fast. On the other hand, time may not be so important so you may not be so worried about waiting to achieve the right price. Matching the buyer to your own timeframe needs will therefore to a certain degree dictate the eventual selling price.

    Offer agreed

    Once the deal has been struck, the estate agent, having done a chain check on your behalf to verify your buyer's position (as well as the chain above, if any), should put all parties' lawyers in contact with each other to begin the conveyance process and get relevant contracts drawn up. A lot of the work for the conveyance such as energy performance certificates. But conveyancing can throw up problems down the line which means that the sooner solicitors start talking to each other, the less problematic the process is likely to be.

    After the sale is agreed - judging buyer intent

    It is not unheard of to have a seemingly legitimate buyer who makes a genuine offer but who drags their feet for one reason or another. To test how committed your buyer is, ask your agent to press them to have a mortgage valuation and/or other survey carried out as soon as practicable after the offer has been accepted. This will demonstrate goodwill and financial commitment on the part of the buyer, although it is not a failsafe way of ensuring they are genuine. Many buyers can get cold feet or change their minds, without penalty, even after having spent money on surveys. Until the law is changed, there is nothing much that vendors can do about this.

    A quick Dos and Don'ts checklist on placing a property for sale

    Do's

    • Make sure your home is in tip-top condition to sell
    • Be friendly but not overly gushing
    • Show best rooms first allowing the viewer to enter before you
    • Have copies of all domestic bills to hand
    • Keep dogs and small children well away from proceedings

    Don'ts

    • Talk too much
    • Point out defects or DIY disasters
    • Talk down the neighbourhood or your immediate neighbours
    • Tell the buyer what you will or will not accept. Leave that to your agent

    Some information contained herein may have changed since it was first published. PrimeLocation strongly advises you to seek current legal and/or financial advice from a qualified professional.

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