Keating Estates

Selling Guide

 

Some of our clients are seasoned pros. Others have never sold a house before. Our step by step guide to selling your home is desingned simply to explain the process for the absolute novice and to lightly jog the memory of the expert. In its printed form, it is also highly useful for collecting all names, numbers and notes to create a handy reference for your sale.

 

Getting a valuation & deciphering it.

New to selling? Not sold in a while? Need a recap? This guide will add value to both your experience and your sale.

 

  1. Present your home as though you were selling it (or inform the agent of work that will precede marketing).
  2. Ensure the agent has all relevant information about the lease length, and charges that may affect value.
  3. Read through the Choosing an Agent, Presentation, Marketing, Viewings and Offers sections of this guide and note any questions you wish to ask the agent, making sure to take notes when the agent is in front of you. It may be hard to remember who said what later.
  4. Ask the agent whether they require you to be ‘locked in’ to using their service if you change your mind.
  5. Read their terms and conditions thoroughly.
  6. When evaluating appraisals received, it is worth remembering that there can be more than one motivation for the valuation offered. As a vendor, you supply the product of the agent’s business and as such valuations can get distorted in the fight for your business. We have all been vendors and we know that a flattering valuation does work but be warned: too high a price is the biggest mistake a vendor can make.

Choosing an agent from so many of such a varied standard.

Your decision will determine the success of your sale and how much you achieve for your property.

 

Are they professional?

It may seem an obvious question, but it still deserves an answer: What do they look like? Are they smart, well presented, polite, bright and responsive? Do they seem to care about their own brand? Competence (or lack thereof) is often on display at the outset. We all remember the signs we ignored with hindsight; noticing them before is the y to making sure you have a successful move and achieve the best possible price for your home.

Do they come recommended?

Reputation is a fine thing: it demonstrates the collective feedback on a company and so recommends a great service or warns of a poor service. It can be distorted or exaggerated, but it does have at its core the experience of the majority. It is therefore unlikely that a great firm will have a terrible reputation and vice versa. While marketing is a useful indication of what a company aspires to be, reputation tells you how close they have come to achieving their aim. Ignore it at your peril. Read feedback we have received for our service.

Do they offer a bespoke service?

The word bespoke is used to conjure ideas of chauffeur driven cars and luxury service, but here we mean simply that everyone is different. Your needs are not he same as the needs of any other vendor. A criticism sometimes levelled at the larger agents is that they treat clients as numbers rather than individuals and as such the round peg of your needs are squeezed into the square hole of their services. The best way to make sure that an agent will serve your needs is to mystery shop them outside the context of being a potential client.

Do they have a history in the area?

How many properties have they sold in the area? Do they live in the area? Are they part of their local community? Do they contribute to the community? The more properties they have sold in the area, the more they will understand the vagaries of the local property market. The other questions may  initially appear irrelevant but the more they are integrated into the local community, the better they will understand the area and its merits and the better they will be able to sell your property and the more links they have, the more avenues to source buyers they will have.

Do they have a good website?

A website that is clear and informative with a simple, intuitive navigation will help to sell your property as clients will spend more time browsing and extend a greater level of trust to the firm behind the site. The quality of information presented, and the way in which it is presented will determine the quality of interest in potential buyers booking viewings. The greater the number of genuinely interested applicants walking through your door when your property first comes to market will largely determine the price achieved.

How well do they present properties?

The better the presentation of your home in all forms of marketing, the more people will request a viewing. This is the key factor in getting you the most money in the shortest time, thereby putting you in the best position to be able to negotiate the best possible move. This will require some assistance from you as will be covered later in this guide, but it is essential you choose an agent that will best compliment your efforts. As a reference, all of our properties are photographed by our excellent professional photography department.

Do they offer print advertisements?

Magazines and newspapers have a valuable place in the overall marketing scheme. Whether to get applicants or to decorate your coffee table during viewings, these are a good tool to add a little glamour and interest. They do come at some cost to your agent but a quality agent with a good success rate will be able to afford to offer this superior exposure for your property. As a reference, you can see our print marketing offering in our marketing section. This should be included in a quality agent’s service with no strings attached.

Do they market on all aggregating sites?

Aggregating sites ate the starting point for most people’s search for property so a well managed exposure on all these sites is essential when choosing an agent. A common bugbear with buyers is that properties are not ‘current’ on these sites or are incorrectly listed, meaning agents have left the properties online when they are no longer instructed, properties are already sold but listed as available or the site is clogged up with historical sold properties. To avoid this frustration, our properties are listed as ‘for sale’ until an offer is accepted, ‘under offer’ until exchange and ‘sold’ only until completed.

Do they have a communication policy?

Your agent communicates the availability of your property to the world, communicates the details to interested parties and communicates the negotiable elements to each party to secure the sale. It is crucial to the service you receive AND the success of your sale. A buyer’s experience should be as important to you as a vendor’s experience as the former will affect the latter. Test that they are up to speed. It is essential that they give you updates after each viewing and daily with general feedback to adapt strategies if applicable. In negotiations, timing is key - make sure it is not at this late stage that you find out that they come up short.

What is their conversion rate?

The conversion rate is the percentage of ‘for sale’s that become ‘sold’s. A sale can fall through for any number of reasons, most of which a competent firm should be able to avoid but vague pronouncements of ‘all our sales go through fine’ should be dismissed. As a reference, the market average was around 66% in 2012 but we achieved 96% success in 2012. The other relevant figure of ‘percentage of total stock sold in any given month’  can be as low as 10% with some agents. As a reference, we have surpassed 50% in every one of the last 12 months.

Do they tie you into a lock-out period?

Lock in period, tie in period, exclusivity clause; there are many names for agents’ contract clause, locking you into their service but we are yet to find a single way in which it benefits a vendor. The most common argument used is that the agent can spend more money on the sale with the business secured. This falls down in two principal ways: 1) A successful, quality agent will utilise the same tools of marketing as another, contracted term or not - and 2) the very existence of this term reduces the incentive to treat your sale with urgency. Another sale reaching the end of its contract will always take precedence. Our advice: avoid like the plague.

Instructing a solicitor

This is essential to avoiding costly and time consuming hiccups on the way to collecting the keys to your new home.

 

After overseeing more than a thousand successful sales we are pretty used to what works and what doesn’t when it comes to solicitors. 1) If they are charging massively less than the average, it is usually a false economy 2) a solicitor with local knowledge is worth their weight in gold, and 3) a specialist in conveyancing always adds value. Here are a couple we have come to trust over the years:

Mr Matthew Stewart
DWFM Beckman
101 Wigmore Street
London
W1U 1FA
 

Tel: 020 7408 8826
matthew.stewart@dwfmbeckman.com

Mr Tim Fox
Greene and Greene Solicitors
80 Guildhall Street
Bury St Edmunds
Suffolk
IP33 1QB

Tel: 01284 717 444
timfox@greene-greene.com

 

Presenting your home to prospective buyers.

The better your property is presented, the more you will achieve in a shorter time . Here’s our How To:

 

Walk a mile in buyer’s shoes.

It is easier to cast a critical eye over someone else’s house, so, if you are looking at property to buy already, practice looking around taking heed of any details that concern you or give a less than glowing impression. If you are not actively looking yet, then use a friend or neighbours house. Now go back to your own house and try to look at it in the same way. This will allow you to identify all issues that may affect the success of your sale.

Do It Yourself or call in the pros.

Once you have a list of things that may need to be done, work out which of these will require professional assistance and get  quotes from the relevant tradespeople then discuss the cost-benefit of all proposed works with your agent. All works which will have a net value benefit should be done, if affordable, ensuring you have set a very clear time frame for all works.. Contact us if you wish us too recommend suitable tradesmen for any job.

Freshen up with a splash of paint.

A fresh coat of paint in a light and neutral colour freshens most houses and helps sales by giving a sense of greater space. More than often it will only be a room or two that  requires work. The front door and entrance is key to making first impressions and the kitchen and bathroom(s) are vital areas to make look fresh. Take a walk from gate to kitchen and touch paint everything needed en route and you can make an enormous difference to the value of your home.

Dress your garden to impress.

Your garden is a space as relevant as any room in your house. Purchasers will have probably stipulated that they want a garden so its appearance will be important to them. Make sure it is tidied with lawn mowed, bushes and shrubs pruned and patio or decking swept and cleaned. If you have furniture, then getting it out and dressing it to show the garden ‘in use’ will help buyers imagine benefiting from the space.

Call us if you wish us to recommend a good, reliable and affordable gardener.

Clean windows and repair where needed.

Through our experience, buyers state lack of light as the reason they are not interested in a property more often than any other single issue. Thoroughly  cleaning your windows, inside and out is therefore a great way to retain buyers’ interest and improve your chances of a successful sale. Windows are also one of the most common issues brought up on survey, so a thorough clean of frames and ledges can reveal if there are areas that may need to useful to address to avoid renegotiation further down the line.

Clear all personal clutter - yes, all.

Viewings should take no more than 3 weeks when a home is correctly marketed. This marketing includes the presentation of an environment clear enough to allow space for a  viewer to imagine their own belongings and their life in your home. De-cluttering is therefore crucial and what’s more, should only affect you for 3 weeks. We can advise of what to leave and what to hide away. If storage or removals are required, we can recommend contractors for this too.

Clean and scent the house throughout.

Sight and smell are the two senses in play when a prospective buyer comes round so use them well. Super-fresh bathrooms smelling of scented products, a sparkling kitchen smelling of herbs or coffee, and a clean, tidy house scented with flowers or other inviting scents invites the idea of a home we all aspire to. Anyone who has had experience of cleaning companies knows that they are hit and miss. If you need a quality recommendation to assist, call us today.

Clean Carpets if not recently done.

Unless you operate a strict ‘no shoe’ policy, life dictates that carpets will take a bit of a battering. While this is fine, it is worth remembering that potential buyers are looking for a ‘new’ home and as such, clean, odourless carpets are a great help to engendering that idea of appealing newness in buyers. This is especially true for anyone who has pets, or anyone who smokes inside the house.

Book in the photographer.

When you’ve worked your way down this list, it is time to show off all the work you have done. Our professional photography is of such a quality as to be able to grace the pages of professional magazines, look exquisite in property brochures and stand out from the crowd online. Selling a house, as with most luxury products is about an idea and a lifestyle and having images of quality for people to refer to before, and after their viewing is essential to achieving the most money.

Marketing your home to prospective buyers.

The better marketing, the more applicants; the more applicants, the more competition; the more competition....

 

Assessing an agent’s ability to market your home effectively? Answer these questions:

How good is the agent’s website?

Your agent’s website should offer the best portrayal of your home including photographs, floor-plans, video tours (where desirable) along with local area information, schools and transport information. It must be accessible and just as functional on whichever of today’s myriad devices a visitor is accessing it from. It is useful for the website to offer ancillary third party services such as a mortgage calculator, access to legal services and quality contractor recommendations. A useful and informative site will reflect well on your home.

Are they on all aggregating sites?

These days, the aggregating sites are the first place people go when looking for property to buy and it is essential that your agent has full coverage on these sites. Most decent agents now do, but these things must be maintained and the presentation of properties can vary wildly on these sites from agent to agent. The properties must all be up to date as some agents leave property on for a long time - our properties leave the aggregating sites the moment contracts have completed, protecting the integrity of our data and the privacy of our clients.

Do they create property brochures?

Property brochures are an important  facet of an agent’s marketing arsenal - the prospective buyer often sees many properties in a single day so a quality presentation of your home’s key selling points in brochure form can be the deciding factor when buyers discuss their options from the comfort of their own home. Property brochures come in two types, one downloaded from the company’s website and a glossy version professionally printed and both are crucial to the success of the sales process.

Are they in property & lifestyle mags?

There are some good property and lifestyle mags adorning coffee tables and the tables of takeaways, hairdressers etc. in your area - ignoring this form of marketing is foolish. The important factors in how you useful these are to your sale are :

  1. How do you look?
    i.e the quality of your home’s advert,
  2. Where are you going?
    i.e. the distribution of the magazine,
  3. Who is seeing you?
    i.e. the demographics of its distribution.

Are they in regional & city papers?

In our experience, these have the lowest conversion rate of all avenues of marketing, but they do make up for this with their enormous distribution numbers and their regularity of print (daily or weekly rather than monthly). Featured property sections in Newspapers can be an effective way of adding a bit of cache - a well-constructed article adds another persuasive voice recommending the property to prospective buyers. We advertise in borough newspapers and in City dailies where it is useful and viable.

Do they do direct & email marketing?

Direct marketing is very a useful tool that affords the opportunity to target the marketing of your property either geographically or by budget range or buyer type or preference. The benefits of this form of targeted marketing are obvious as indicated by the success of firms who have automated such marketing techniques such as Google. Generating sufficient initial interest in your property through such methods can be the difference between a swift, slick, successful sale and a snail-slow struggle.

Are their front line staff in the know?

An agent’s staff are often forgotten about in the marketing arsenal. No matter what draws a buyer to an agent, they will always be filtered through and influenced by front-line staff. Will they be knowledgeable about your property? Will they be precise in responding to buyers’ requests for information? Will they come across as honest and helpful? This could cost you tens of thousands of pounds, so is crucial. Prepare by being a mystery shopper: ask about property or the area and gauge the competence of their responses.

Do they have a quality service?

Estate Agency has a mixed reputation  - and there is a vast range of service quality out there. An agent should offer a bespoke service, tailoring the sales process to you and your property. It is rare these days but is essential to getting the best results. Modern technology has largely replaced old fashioned, service-driven agency but they should not be mutually exclusive. Look for impartial advice,  honest and efficient communication and a use of technology that enhances an excellent customer service rather than to replaces it. This is, after all your life’s most important transaction.

How do they perform against competition?

Performance indicators are often hard to find and even more difficult to decipher and trust. Useful questions to ask are how many properties your agency have sold in your area,  what percentage of asking price they are achieving, how long their average sale takes, what percentage of their sales fall through, and perhaps most importantly for a seller, what percentage of their total stock they are selling in any given month. This tells you what chances you have of selling your house this month - the range is between 10% and 50%. As a reference, we sell around 50% or above each month.

Organising Viewings to best showcase your home.

Everything up to now is engineered to create this moment. Make it the best it can be and success will be yours.

 

Well structured viewings equal more money, more quickly. Simple; here's our how to guide:

Presentation is key.

When armed with the right marketing material, and in possession of all the relevant info, it is easy to think the work is done, but we have all purchased something we did not need from a well mannered, articulate, personable and well presented salesperson, and more worryingly for you as vendor, have all no doubt refused to purchase something we actually wanted because the salesperson was lacking in at least one of these attributes. Insist on meeting the front line sales people - your agent should allow this. Would you definitely buy from them?

Has your agent got ALL property info?

The avoidance of doubt in buyers is another no-no, and as such, responding to buyers questions promptly is essential to successful viewings - the more information you can provide your agent prior to viewings, the better. Information should include, if applicable: Lease Length, Ground Rent, Service Charge, Council Tax authority, Band and Monthly Cost, Freeholder details, Notice of any works due, Notice of any works recently completed, Current service providers for utilities, heating or boiler type, Energy performance score.

Has your agent got complete access?

It is vital that all keys, access instructions and security and alarm codes are provided to your agent prior to viewings commencing. This includes the whereabouts of all garden, balcony and terrace door keys as well as all window keys. Buyers should be able to open any door or window as though it were their home. The agent will ensure all are locked again. If there is a second, security or chubb lock on the front door this must be provided and a copy kept by you as the front door will be double locked by the agent for security and insurance purposes.

Do they give regular feedback?

Feedback is essential to a successful sale. It must be sought from all buyers so all queries that emerge from viewings can be answered promptly. This feedback must then be fed back up the chain daily to you, the vendor as this information is how you determine on-going strategy. Small adaptations to presentation, marketing or viewing structures derived from this information can make a massive difference to the success of your sale. This is where your agent should come into their own - it is their ability to adapt and manage this process to your benefit that is their greatest single attribute.

Are they offering out of hours service?

Most buyers work. It stands to reason, really, so an out of hours service is essential. Our viewing hours are designed around the times our buyers ask to view properties so any viewings outside the hours of 8:30am to 8pm (or 10am to 4pm on Saturdays) are only rarely required and only when the vendor agrees and when we cannot reasonably get a buyer to attend in normal hours. It is essential that your agent offers a similar viewing schedule to maximise the viewing opportunities available.

Do they offer a foreign language service?

With the global economic model wobbling a little these past  few years, more and more foreign investment has found its way to the relative safety of the London property market. In response to this new market, we offer a foreign language viewing service in the three most commonly requested languages. This forms part of our bespoke service and is a more useful tool these days than it has ever been. A similar service should be provided by any agent you instruct to sell your home.

Do they provide brochures?

The viewing is not where marketing ends - the marketing exposure of your property to the most valuable audience, namely those who have already viewed it, must continue. This is done in their own home by virtue of a brochure selling your property. You should ensure that this is offered by your agent as it forms a vital part of the process as it is this, in conjunction with a well managed after-sales process that turns successful viewings into offers to purchase.

Are they articulate and personable?

When armed with the right marketing material, and in  possession of all the relevant info, it is easy to think the work is done, but we have all purchased something we did not need from a well mannered, articulate, personable and well presented salesperson, and more worryingly for you as vendor, have all no doubt refused to purchase something we actually wanted because the salesperson was lacking in at least one of these attributes. Insist on meeting the front line sales people - your agent should allow this. Would you definitely buy from them?

Offers on your home; received, considered and accepted.

This is the good part. People want to buy your home, now how do you navigate this process to your advantage?

 

Offers are fraught with emotion on all sides and need a delicate touch. Here’s how:

How offers come to us and to you

When you accept an offer, the legal process towards exchange of contracts starts. On receipt of the memorandum of sale, your solicitor will send the purchaser’s solicitor draft contracts, and they will respond with initial enquiries and send requests for information to the land registry and council. Your agent, as the link between all parties should stay on top of every participant in the process to make sure the process progresses quickly and smoothly. Solicitors are always busy and you may not always be their top priority, so your agent should act as facilitator to move things forward.

How to consider the merits of an offer

There are many parts of an offer to consider. Namely, the position of the buyer: are they selling, and if so are they under offer and are they in a chain? Are they buying with cash or with a mortgage? If with a mortgage, what is the level of their deposit? (The higher the deposit, the more protection it offers against a down -valuation by their lender’s surveyor.) How many times earnings are  they borrowing? (This will affect whether their application is successful.) In fact, how much they are offering is the only factor your agent can influence.

Competing offers. What next?

If your agent is performing well, you should find yourself with a number of competing offers. In this situation you have a number of options open to you. Your agent can simply inform all parties what the offers are and let them fight it out in open bids. Your agent can offer the chance for all to offer their best and final, informing them only of the number of bidders. In certain cases, speed may be the issue and your agent can offer the buyers a chance to try to get to the point of exchange before their competition. The suitability of each option will need to be discussed with your agent.

Open bids

Open bids is often the default position of most agents. This method does generally drive people to bid higher as they compete against each other. This is, after all the usual aim: to get the most for your property.  There are a couple of drawbacks to consider: 1) you may not choose on position over money and this can be hard to explain to buyers. 2) Sometimes competition does funny things to people: The best buyer may drop out to avoid competition  and some may be driven by an urge to win to the point of offering more than they can afford. Ask your agent to discuss the merits in your case.

Sealed bids

In this instance, your agent will inform each competing buyer of the existence of other offers at a similar way and ask each one to consider what they can afford and to submit their best and final offer by a specific deadline. As with other methods, there are negatives and positives. The negative is that the competition this approach engenders may be less fierce than with open bids, but on the positive side, it does lead to fewer buyers dropping out of the race. This approach does have the further benefit that buyers’ offers are considered and deliberate, and therefore more secure.

Contract races

A contract race is only used when there is very little to choose between potential buyers and you, the vendor requires speed. An example of a situation in which clients opt for this approach is when they have been given an ultimatum to reach exchange on a property they are trying to buy. If you have your heart set on a property, and do not want to miss out, and your buyers are equally keen on your home and happy to risk the cost of conveyancing, this can be an effective method. This again needs a delicate approach from your agent and some buyers may not be keen, for obvious reasons.

Accepting an offer

Congratulations! We are almost there. When you accept an offer you will need to give your agent written confirmation of your acceptance. You will need to have instructed a solicitor to act on your behalf and give your agent this solicitor’s details at this stage. Your agent will then confirm this acceptance with you and with the chosen buyer and follow with the memorandum of sale to both party’s chosen solicitors to commence the legal process. If your agent has done their job without a hitch.

The legal process

When you accept an offer, the legal process towards exchange of contracts starts. On receipt of the memorandum of sale, your solicitor will send the purchaser’s solicitor draft contracts, and they will respond with initial enquiries and send requests for information to the land registry and council. Your agent, as the link between all parties should stay on top of every participant in the process to make sure the process progresses quickly and smoothly. Solicitors are always busy and you may not always be their top priority, so your agent should act as facilitator to move things forward.

Exchange of contracts You’ve made it.

Exchange legally binds the buyer to the purchase.

 

Exchange can occur when the following have been negotiated, confirmed or agreed:

  1. Contract negotiated and accepted
  2. Property title verified and accepted
  3. Issues resolved in the lease, if applicable
  4. Local search queries received and satisfactory
  5. Building regulations approval & planning & freeholder permission for any works if applicable.
  6. Exactly what is included in the sale confirmed
  7. Buyer’s mortgage offer received.

Once you and the buyer have signed contracts, the following will occur:

A completion date will be set that best suits both you and the buyer, then the deposit (usually 10% of the purchase price) will be transferred by the buyer’s solicitor to your solicitor, who will then hold the deposit until the completion of the sale.

Upon exchange of contracts both buyer and vendor are legally bound to complete the transaction on your property.

Prior to the completion date you should check through the completion statement with your solicitor, which details all costs involved, and authorise them to settle any necessary payments.

COMPLETION! Congratulations, you have now sold your home!

Completion is where the property changes hands for the remaining funds: the completion of the sale.

 

On the day set, the buyer’s solicitor will transfer the remaining funds (usually 90% of the sale price) into your solicitor’s account.

Your solicitor will call you to let you know when all monies have been transferred to your account and you can crack the champagne, have a slice of cake,  dance a jig or just flop into a deck chair.

Finally,

Make sure we have all keys to give to the new owner, jump in the car and head off to your new home to unpack, not forgetting to send us a post card once you have settled in!

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