The Three Critical Stages of Selling Your Home

It’s a big step to invite an estate agent into your home for the first time. It usually follows several months of discussion, agonising and emotional build-up to reach the decision to sell. You can be fraught with unanswerable questions.

The estate agents come round with their smart presentations, snazzy brochures, impressive market commentary and promises about waiting buyers. It’s exciting stuff and all too easy to be swayed by the gloss and charisma. I have come across many vendors who have been hooked in by style over substance, then regretted it later. They’ve focused wholly on stage one – just getting the house on the market and have overlooked what actually counts.

Stage one should be the simplest step, however I regularly come across examples of where it has not been done correctly. Many agents (especially the ‘new kids on the block’) throw their weight behind this marketing phase, producing highly polished brochures and glamourous photos to woo bidding clients their way. However a smart brochure is nothing without the next two stages, which carry increasing importance.

Stage two is getting your property from ‘For Sale’ to ‘Sold Subject to Contract’ (SSTC or ‘Under Offer’). These should never be confused with having ‘sold’ your home, as nothing is legally binding until you have exchanged contracts. Again, some agent marketing can lead you to believe that they have ‘sold’ most of the properties on their books. However if you delve deeper, you might find they mean SSTC, a big difference!

Those all-important viewings, securing feedback and altering your marketing campaign accordingly, play an important part. However it only comes to the crunch when you start taking offers. In the current market, it is key to weigh up the monetary amount, versus the reliability and security of an offer. In other words, if an offer is all cash, can proceed immediately, but the amount is at a more realistic level, then in today’s climate strong consideration should be given to this. Anyone can offer you ‘cloud nine’ money, but if it doesn’t result in exchange it’s not worth the paper it’s written on. Grab a reliable offer with both hands!

Viewings and offers all sound great, but even with an offer under your belt, it still doesn’t mean you have actually sold your home yet. And this is where stage three, the most important step, comes in – getting your home from ‘under offer’ to ‘exchange of contracts’. This is arguably the most stressful part of the whole process but is often overlooked by vendors and inexperienced agents. This is where a great estate agent comes in to their own and a slightly higher commission fee can prove its worth. Dealing with heightened emotions, from both buyer and seller, small chains, time pressures, handling survey outcomes, a minimum of two solicitors and mortgage lenders, plus a sizeable sum of money, all means that your estate agent needs to work exceptionally hard to get it over the line.

Therefore, when you come to instruct an estate agent, there are two critical factors to be looked at. Firstly is the level of experience of your agent, as they understand the complexity of the whole process, and use their wisdom to confidently deal with any issues that come up. Secondly is the solid support of a battle-hardened front-of-house team who are the first point of contact for potential buyers and their solicitors. If there is a problem, you need people on the ground that you can see or speak to in person, not hiding in a large call centre or behind a website.

In conclusion, glossy brochures, marketing and talk of getting your home to SSTC all sound great, but it means absolutely nothing unless you actually exchange. So when you’re choosing an agent, look at how they perform beyond step one. Step two is crucial, but step three is the one that seals the deal.

Alex Goldstein is an independent bespoke property consultant in Yorkshire and London (www.alexgoldstein.co.uk) 01423 788377

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