If you are planning to put a property on the market soon, you obviously want to give yourself a fighting chance of obtaining the best possible price. Timing is important when selling property, but is it quite as important as many would have you believe?
Traditionally, the best time to sell a house is between January and July. This is because buyers feel generally optimistic because of the approach of spring and summer. Houses can look very attractive when the gardens are in full bloom, and potential buyers tend to spend more time outdoors and so tend to ‘notice’ properties for sale. Make sure that your property is listed for sale by April to take advantage of this.
The summer holiday season then slows things down. This is because buyers are more concerned with holidays and looking after children who are off school. Sales that are already going through during this time will also be more likely to ‘drag’. Members of staff of Estate Agents, Solicitors and mortgage companies are likely to be off work at some point during this period. Your case is unlikely to be looked at during their absence.
September then typically displays a small surge as buyers start thinking about spending Christmas and New Year in a new home. This ‘blip’ will tail off around October as buyers know that the purchase is unlikely to be completed by Christmas.
Although this market behaviour is generally typical, will it really have an effect on the property’s value? Obviously more potential buyers will result in a more competitive situation; this has the effect of supporting a strong price. The fact of it is that there are certainly more buyers around at certain times of the year, but likewise there are always people who are looking to buy regardless of the time of year.
An associate of mine indulges in what is known in the U.S. as ‘flipping’ homes. This is simply buying a scruffy property at a discount and living in it while the property is lightly renovated in preparation for selling on again. He placed it on the market in November and received very little interest. He waited patiently through December with similarly scarce viewings. However, literally 4 days after New Year, the market went (his words) ‘ballistic’. The deal was done in a matter of weeks.
Housing is currently in short supply; subsequently many buyers are resigned to waiting many months or even a year or two for the ‘right’ property to come along. As long as you know the type of buyer you wish to appeal to, you might be able to market the property accordingly to good effect.
There is also a theory that suggests completely contradicting the conventional approach. When better (in theory) to sell a property than when there’s hardly any competition? Also, winter buyers are less likely to be flaky and pull out of the sale.
There are many who believe that the seasonal cycle of the residential property market is vital to maintain its health (which seems very logical to me). And that house prices will tend to fluctuate between about +3% and –1% of the average according to the season. On the website www.houseprices.uk.net, historical data is provided to strengthen this concept:
“House prices vary seasonally between –2% and +1% in a way that reflects seasonal changes in demand – it leads to a sharp dip at Christmas and the New Year with a broad peak during June-July.
This can make it difficult to interpret the monthly changes in house prices in terms of either trends or irregular volatility, so it is standard practice to report house prices seasonally adjusted, or SA. The correction shown is the % change added to the NSA prices to get the SA ones. The level of seasonal adjustment is an excellent indicator of the annual ‘breathing’ cycle of the housing market, and hence its health.”
Ultimately, much depends on your property. If it is in a sought after location, you should have no problem selling at a reasonable asking price regardless of the time of year or market conditions. Then again, if there are strong reasons that may put buyers off the property, these are likely to be valid objections regardless of demand level. But it does no harm to maximise your chances of success.
There is much you can do to increase the likelihood of a prompt property sale. A well-kept garden, pathway and fence, plus a freshly painted front door are immediately appealing, whereas a scruffy outdoor space with a litter bin outside the front door may turn many prospective buyers away.
It is important to reduce ‘clutter’ in the house and present a clean property. Natural colours and lamps (rather than bright, stark overhead lights) are very effective at making the property feel ‘welcoming’. All minor maintenance jobs should be completed. The individual rooms should be ‘defined’ properly. This means that it should be obvious that the room has a specific purpose.
The rules to stick to when selling property are:
- Put the property on sale at a realistic price
Most property owners have an idea of what their houses or flats would fetch on the open market. However, be aware that the asking price and the actual sale price are very often different sums.
- Put the property on sale at the right price.
If the property is placed on sale at too high a price, many potential purchasers won’t even consider it because they assume that the price will not be reduced by a great deal. Also, many people simply feel uncomfortable negotiating a big reduction in price. If the property goes up for sale at too low a price, then financially you’ll lose out.
- Try to avoid being in a chain.
The longer the chain of vendors and purchasers, the more likely something will go wrong. This might be a seller withdrawing a property higher up the chain or even something happening further down the chain. Either way, things will normally grind to a standstill.
- Choose your estate agent carefully.
There is seldom a reason why you should have to pay more than 1% of the selling price for the estate agents fees. Try to avoid a period of exclusivity that seems too long, you should be able to give a week’s notice in writing to end the contractual period. Speak to the agent about the area your property is in. They should know it like the back of their hand. If they don’t, then it does not bode well.
- Make sure the property is well presented.
A well-painted front door and a tidy garden go a long way to ensuring the property makes a good initial impression.
- Adopt a pro-active approach to selling the property.
Make sure that you know exactly what type of purchaser the property should appeal to. If it is a family home, carry out some research into local schools and transport.
Make regular contact with your estate agent, remember they are working on your behalf and should always be acting in your best interest. Feedback from viewings can be a very valuable source of information. There might be something putting off buyers that are quite easily rectified.
Transactions can fall through at any time, so your property should be marketed right up until a fairly advanced stage of the deal. If it falls through and marketing has ended, you will have to start all over again.
- Try to exchange contracts as soon as possible
This is the point where both parties are legally bound to adhere to the transaction. When the contracts are exchanged, both parties are committed.
Ultimately, no one really knows what the property market is going to do. If you hang on for what you think might be a good season to sell, the market could have dried up even more.