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The first thing you need to know about determining a property's value is that it is not an exact science. Various factors affect the selling price, explains Barry Cashin.

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  • These include local and national market conditions, the vendor's situation and relative timescale, the desirability of location, property condition and the number of similar style properties on the agent's register. The list is endless, which is why it is important in determining value to take a broad church approach on what your home is likely to achieve.

    A key way of establishing property values is via PrimeLocation's Sold House Prices pages. The sold prices facility offers a simple postcode search of actual selling prices.

    Pitching the price right

    To achieve the most realistic selling price for your situation, the best method is to invite five or so local estate agents around to value your property. Be honest with each agent and ask them for three figures: an optimistic top selling price, i.e. the highest price they believe your property could achieve in the prevailing market, their suggested selling price (the price they believe you should market at) and their estimated eventual selling price (the price which, in their opinion, you are likely to achieve).

    As a seller, it is easy to accept lavish praise about your property and a higher valuation by a confident agent. This is a false economy however, and the mistake of pitching your selling price too high will be evident in the period of silence which will ensue when you do not attract any viewers.

    The best way to gauge the most realistic marketing price is to take an average of all the agent's estimates and allow a little for negotiation.

    More than just a lick of paint - why condition and size equates to higher selling values

    Selling a property for the highest possible price in most markets is always a challenge. When there is a glut of properties on the market, however, it is the properties which stand out as exceptional examples of their ilk which tend to attract higher values. What is certain is that a property's location and the way it is presented, both interiorly and exteriorly, are the key factors in influencing buyers.

    Lisa MacKenzie, regional sales director at Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward, says: "It is vital that a seller shows their property in its best light, and remembers that the front and rear of a property is just as important in making a good impression as the inside. Keeping your home neutral - in colour, and in taste, can go a long way to making your home saleable."

    Depending upon your timescale, preparing a property for market is not something to be undertaken lightly. Consumers are a wise bunch these days and can spot an amateur attempt immediately. Apart from the obvious short term measures one can take to wow potential buyers such as home staging, sprucing up the décor and generally tidying up, vendors who have longer term aspirations of selling, say in a year or two's time, may have their eye on maximising the profit potential of the property. In this case, larger scale projects such as extending the kitchen or adding an extra bedroom may be feasible.

    Major alterations

    If you are not looking to sell in the short term but want to maximise the full profit potential of your home, major alterations are the way to go but only if they are in keeping with the style of the property.

    Connells board of management partner Ian Hunt advises, "As far as major projects are concerned, anything which produces more living space is likely to add value to your home, for example extending the kitchen or bathroom or adding another bedroom, perhaps by building over the garage or converting loft space."

    Adding an extension

    Adding an extension to the side of a family home doesn't just make the property more appealing to buyers looking for more spacious accommodation. It can also take the property to a different price level in terms of price banding. What this means for you in specific financial terms is something only your agent can advise you on - but given that you have the budget and for those who are not planning on moving for a year or two, increasing accommodation size can offer real profit potential, even in an unstable market.

    Replacing a kitchen or bathroom

    If it's a choice between house A with a wonderful garden and three well appointed bedrooms, or house B which has all the same attributes but a well planned luxury kitchen or bathroom, most buyers will always opt for house B. Kitchen extensions should be well thought out, planned and executed to the highest possible standard to achieve maximum value.

    Take a look at our Easy weekend makeover for the kitchen guide.

    Adding a loft conversion

    The loft is the least used space in the house yet the profit potential of such redundant space is often overlooked by homeowners. Loft rooms can be a real selling point and can add tangible value by increasing the square footage of a property, particularly if the new rooms suit the style of the property and the project is properly managed. Surprisingly, loft conversions do not always require planning permission depending on where you live, but any associated building work does need to comply with buildings regulations and local restrictions such as if the property is situated in a conservation area.

    Off-street parking

    In major cities, parking is at a premium and residents-only parking permits are prohibitively expensive. Although some environmental evangelists disapprove of paving over a front garden, creating practical off street parking from an otherwise redundant strip of lawn, especially where parking is at a premium, is an effective way of ticking another box on a buyer's checklist and adding real value. Since October 1st 2008, new rules about paving driveways came into force. See the government's planning portal website for details.

    Presentation & DIY

    DIY

    The size of a property is not the only consideration in the mind of the buyer. Desirability, or in the seller's case, saleability plays an equally important role - and if you do not have the budget to undertake a major project to increase your property's value, then there are other less expensive ways of giving your property the edge when it comes to achieving a good selling price.

    At the end of the day, given two identical properties, the one in the better decorative condition will always sell first. But be careful about any DIY home improvements. According to research carried out by Confused.com, almost six million people in Britain have caused damage to their homes doing DIY, with some 600,000 households having to make a claim on their home insurance as a result.

    Dealbreakers - top turn offs for buyers

    When it comes to achieving maximum value, it is easy to forget that what is appealing in terms of taste to one person can be abhorrent to the next. Of the many home improvement faux pas which affect saleability and value in the minds of buyers, the following seven deadly sins represent the equivalent of commercial hara-kiri:

    1. Pebbledash - it looks perfectly in keeping on a 1930s semi detached house but adding a pebbledash finish to a property of any other age or style can dramatically detract from its value.
    2. Stone cladding - perfect for properties in a remote or semi rural location where all other houses are naturally clad in local stone, but a recipe for a pricing disaster if you put it in an urban setting.
    3. Vivid paint colours - vivid red masonary paint red may have seemed a good idea at the time but no one wants to buy a house which stands out so dramatically. If you have to paint your home at all or have committed the sin previously, choose pale, natural shades and use the correct paint for the appropriate surface.
    4. Swimming pool - unless you are selling an appropriately sized property in the right location, a swimming pool in an average domestic property is a top turn off for buyers because of Britain's inclement climate and because they cost a lot to maintain.
    5. Wood chip - wall coverings have come a long way since the 1970s. More akin to a student bedsit than a family home, if you have wood chip anywhere, strip it off, line the walls and re-paint the surface in a neutral shade.
    6. Artex ceilings - as above, this surface finish for walls and ceilings went out of vogue years ago. An effective solution rather than the mess of hacking it all off is to skim over with plaster and repaint.
    7. Pine panelling - more at home in Chinese takeaways or taxi offices, if you have pine panelled walls, take them down and prepare them for a more contemporary finish.

    Preparing the home to create buyer appeal

    Programmes like House Doctor and Selling Houses have served to emphasise the importance of presentation when achieving maximum values and a quick sale. Although location and marketing price are key factors in the decision making process, the number one reason why two identical houses in the same street might achieve wildly differing values comes down presentation and whether the buyer can actually visualise themselves living in your home. Here's our room-by-room guide to sprucing up your home to achieve maximum value and saleability.

    First impressions

    Kerb appeal

    Purchasers form strong and immediate impressions about how a home looks exteriorly, so make sure yours halts them in their tracks.

    • Repaint all exterior woodwork. £60 should buy enough paint, filler and brushes to radically improve the look of the standard three-bedroom family home. Remember to paint at least six weeks before placing your home on the market, as the smell of fresh gloss is a dead giveaway.
    • Keep lawns in trim and use a pressure washer to clean drives, paths and brick walls.
    • Polish all door furniture. It gives the impression of a home that is cared for.
    • Be ruthless with the contents of the garage and shed. Boot or Ebay anything that isn't needed and store the remainder in cheap, bright storage boxes.
    • Visit your local garden centre and buy two dramatic planted tubs, and use these to frame your door or porch if there's room.

    The interior

    According to research, it usually takes around 20 seconds for a buyer to decide they like your home after walking into it. Making sure that all entrances are uncluttered, warm and welcoming create a good first impression. Doors should open properly and porches should be cleared of coats, boots and junk.

    Hallway

    • You can create the illusory effect of a much larger space in your hallway by the strategic placing of a mirror to maximise light.
    • Hang a couple of tasteful prints to create interest on a plain wall.
    • It makes a nice, pleasant touch to have fresh flowers on display.

    Living room

    • Dark or heavily patterned carpets will dominate a room making it smaller so replace those that are dark, old or dirty with either completely new flooring or the judicious placement of rugs.
    • If your floors are carpeted and only mildly stained, hire a carpet cleaner to improve the pile. If you have wooden flooring, give it a polish.
    • Throw out old or worn curtains and invest in some brand new ones. There are plenty of quality made-to-measure curtains at affordable prices.
    • Use a throw and large scatter cushions to brighten up a tired old sofa.
    • Depersonalise by clearing out all clutter and family photographs.
    • Get effective resilts with minimal effort with our Easy weekend makeover for the living room guide.

    Kitchen

    • If you're burdened with an inexpensive looking kitchen but haven't got the budget to change it, you can still transform an outdated look with replacement worktops and new cupboard fronts.
    • Freshen up tired grout to give tiles an instant facelift.
    • Dispose of old fluorescent lighting and replace it with new, modern lighting fitments.
    • Take a look at the Easy weekend makeover guide for the kitchen.

    Bathroom

    • If you have basic taps and handles, change them for smart looking chrome or brass fittings to transform the look of the suite.
    • Make a feature display of some quality soaps and oils.
    • Ensure all sanitaryware is in pristine, clean condition.
    • If you have a coloured suite, it's time to replace it with clean, light, space enhancing white - the preferred choice for homebuyers.
    • Take a look at our Easy weekend makeover guide for the bathroom.

    Bedrooms

    • Make all beds before buyers visit. Tidy away clothing, personal effects and books etc.
    • Reposition furniture to give the effect of maximum space.
    • Keep a jug of fresh flowers on the dressing table.
    • Open the windows and air each bedroom half an hour before the viewing.

    Continue to part 4: The viewing and accepting an offer


    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.

    Tags: Selling
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