The Residential

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First impressions are key to selling your home

Words by Claire Coleman

When it comes to selling your home, first impressions really do count. According to exclusive research commissioned by Strutt & Parker, 76% of property purchasers agree that first impressions are everything when they visit a property and 66% say they are vital when it comes to viewing a property online.

So, in a world of quick clicks and snap decisions — over a third of buyers spend less than five minutes viewing a property online before deciding whether they want to visit it — how do you give your property the edge?

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‘The market over the past year has become more cautious,’ says Michael Houlden, head of Strutt & Parker’s Cambridge office. ‘In the past, agents could put something online, knowing it would sell. It’s not that straightforward anymore.’

He believes the best way to make a good impression with potential buyers is by using professional photography. ‘These should be high quality shots that the client couldn’t take themselves,’ he explains. ‘We use specialist photographers who know how to shoot a house so it looks its best.’

In Michael’s experience, it’s important to show the right number of pictures. ‘Fewer than eight and buyers wonder what you’re hiding, more than 12 and you’re increasing the possibility they’ll see one they don’t like and immediately click off.’

Of course, a photographer can only shoot what’s in front of them, and Michael says that’s when agents need to brief vendors properly. ‘I have no qualms about telling someone their front door needs painting, the windows need cleaning, the toilet seats should be down and work surfaces should be clear,’ he explains. ‘If you’ve got kids, you don’t want toys all over the floor, but boxes with toys in view is fine. It lets potential buyers know it’s somewhere they can bring up children.’

So, once the images have done the trick and a potential buyer has decided to visit your property, what’s the secret of a successful viewing?

‘I used to joke, “Pack off the kids and dog to your nearest and dearest, bake some bread, put the coffee on and light the fire,”’ laughs Michael. ‘But making a place smell nice, especially if you have pets, opening the doors to the garden in the summer and keeping the house warm in the winter, all helps to make a property appealing.’

While refreshing a property with a new coat of paint or a new carpet can help to create a good first impression, most agents advise against more substantial work, such as putting in a new kitchen or bathroom.

‘These involve a significant outlay and, if the owners are about to move, the temptation is to put in a cheaper version that isn’t in keeping with the price of a property,’ explains Michael. ‘Also, potential buyers often consider these rooms as an opportunity to put their personal stamp on a home.’

But what should sellers do if their property still doesn’t attract a buyer, despite all their efforts?

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‘If a property has become “stuck” on the market and there is nothing fundamentally wrong with it, the answer is usually price or presentation,’ says Michael. ‘There are practical steps that sellers can take, such as updating online images, especially if the shots of the property are out of season. This can be very effective if there is also a price reduction as it presents the property in a fresh way to buyers who might have already seen it, as well as attracting new potential purchasers.’

A change in presentation can have dramatic results and might even mean that sellers don’t have to adjust the price. ‘Last year, a property came on to the market and the owner moved out,’ says Michael. ‘The heating wasn’t on, it was empty, cold and had dirty windows. There was no interest, so after a month we took it off the market, cleaned the windows, hired in some furniture and put the heating on. Suddenly there was a bidding war. Ultimately the buyer not only offered the asking price, but bought all the furniture as well.’

So, while freshening up your property might sound like extra effort, it’s an investment that can pay off.

‘It’s absolutely worth taking expert advice and, where appropriate, updating a home before putting it on the market,’ says Michael. ‘Every year, the standout sales, where the properties have achieved well over the guide price, are the ones that have been presented dressed and in immaculate condition.’

Source: OnePoll survey of 2,000 UK respondents planning to buy a home in the next five years. Research carried out between 29 January 2017 and 7 February 2018.

How Strutt & Parker agents have gone the extra mile to help their clients

As the Beast from the East struck, we put on full bad weather gear – including ski goggles – and trekked through the snow drifts to a viewing. Sam Gibson, Morpeth office
When I discovered a client was moving from a 4,500 sq ft house with only a small van, I asked my husband and son to come with me and help them move. We left them at 10.30pm that night and for the last two hours we unpacked the van with just the light from my headlights Claire Maloney, Stamford office
I once agreed to find a new home for a small flock of geese. My vendors were moving overseas and couldn’t take them. I spent a long afternoon in waders before I eventually managed to catch them.David Clarke, Suffolk office
I got the fright of my life when I found a burglar hiding in a house. I was making the property presentable before a viewing when I saw an arm emerge from a small cupboard underneath the TV. I yelled at the top of my lungs and ran for it, locking the door behind me. I called the police and they emerged from the house with the burglar, who was no more than 5ft tall.Joss Hatcher-Davis, Kensington

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