We were once called in to help a homeowner with a beautiful Georgian home in Keswick. He and his wife had been trying to sell their house for a soul-destroying seven years. If you asked any of the six or so estate agents who had tried and failed to sell the property, why hadn’t it sold, they would chorus as one: it’s the price. That’s always the reason a house won’t sell, right?
But this house had already dropped in price by a staggering 33%, and was now starting to actually look cheap when compared with the competition, so we knew it wasn’t the reason for the lack of a sale. Once we had played detective, we uncovered a whole raft of issues we felt were stopping the house from selling. The presentation of the house, the photography, brochure and written description, all needed improving. Each one on their own maybe wasn’t a deal breaker, but put them all together and add the fact the house had become stale on the market for so long, and a sale wouldn’t happen unless these were all changed.
Premium homes in the Lake District take on average 468 days to sell
It’s a sobering statistic. Of course, some sell quickly; even those at a million pounds or more. Still, it may surprise you to know that in the whole of the LA postcode – which stretches from Lancaster to Grasmere, and Millom to Sedbergh – 143,000 households – only 70 houses over £1 million have sold in the last decade. On average, 4.4% of properties sell each year, so 6,000 sold in the LA postcode last year, and 60,000 over the last 10 years. The number of properties over a million pounds therefore is only 0.001% of the total sales in the LA postcode.
The reason premium homes take so long to sell is often because their greatest appeal – their uniqueness – can be their biggest weakness. It’s so difficult for a buyer to compare two unique homes. How do you compare a home with a stunning lake view, but on a main road, with that of a house wrapped in two acres of landscaped grounds, but no lake view? These two homes could be at the same price, and be roughly of the same size.
To attract that special buyer, you need special marketing. And that’s where we come in.
So what did we do with the Georgian home in Keswick?
We tackled the presentation issues fairly inexpensively, with our stylists making sure each room look simple yet elegant. We also put the asking price up, by £50,000, to put it into a new Rightmove price bracket. And then we created a stunning brochure and a Rightmove advert that looked totally different to the previous ones.
With a sprinkle of AshdownJones luck, abracadabra, the house was sold inside a month.
Once we had identified the factors that were stopping this house from selling, the owners were happy to work with us to rectify the blocks to their sale. Until our visit, they hadn’t known these issues existed.
Playing detective with your house sale
The first step in turning around a failing property sale is to identify what has gone wrong so far. Until you do this, how can you put it right? Whilst some estate agents will assume the asking price is too high, (often a price they themselves valued it at) we first assess at all the other factors, including the way the house is presented, whether that’s right for the target market, the motivation of the seller, the subliminal messages that the photography and words are conveying, and many other aspects that may not be apparent to the seller.
With all the houses we’ve helped sell over fourteen years, there has almost always been a host of very subtle reasons a home hasn’t sold. Those reasons would stop a buyer being able to connect with the house, and to see it as their new home. Without this connection, it’s almost impossible to sell your house, other than to an investor with no emotional investment in the transaction. But until you know the reason, you are relying on luck playing a huge part in your property sale. It’s a big gamble that with our help, you don’t need to take.
So when a client asks us “When will my house sell?” we reply simply, “When we’ve discovered why it’s not selling”. And we set to work.
“When should I start worrying about my house sale?”
It’s a good question. Do you start worrying after a few weeks of marketing without an offer on your house? Or should you be patient and stick with your agent and price for six months or more?
At AshdownJones, we see so many sellers who have been on the market for over a year, and even three or four years is not uncommon. It’s true that the longer your property is on the market, the less desirable it is to a buyer, and the less confidence your agent will have that he can achieve any figure close to your asking price. It’s therefore really important that your strategy in the first 2-3 months is as well thought out, planned and confident.
Here are our 5 golden rules for making sure you don’t get to worrying stage:
- Choose the right agent based on marketing skills, enthusiasm and a high fee – they will earn it if they are the best agent for you.
- Be realistic about your asking price. Going on the market at too high an asking price will mean you may not get any viewings at all. If you ask a price that’s in line with precedent in your area and for your type of house, you’ll get viewings, and the valuable feedback viewings produces. Without viewings, you’re in the dark, and the only answer is often to drop the price.
- Once you have decided with your estate agent what your asking price should be, resolve to review it in say three months’ time. If you have not had any interest by then, decide in advance what price drop you’ll take. For example, if you go to market in September, but you haven’t had any significant viewings or an offer by Christmas, you’ll withdraw from the market until February and take 10% off your asking price. Having a strategy in advance can help take the emotion out of the often difficult decision to reduce the price.
- Make sure your photography and brochure is of the highest possible standard. The photography gets you the clicks on Rightmove – or else your house is ignored. And the brochure sells the viewing. Be firm about this – your home deserves the very best marketing so it stands out online, and offline too.
- Commission a home stylist to give your house a once-over. Even if you and your friends think it’s immaculate, you need independent, professional advice at this crucial time. At AshdownJones our two stylists are skilled at presenting rooms for photography and also sensitive to the sometimes opposing needs of the homeowner.
Follow our 5 golden rules you will be in the best possible position to sell your home within the time frame you need.
We’d love to share with you our experience and ideas about your house sale – whether it’s because you’re simply considering a move, or because you have tried to sell but you’re not getting the interest you’d hoped for. Just drop us a line or pick up the phone 015394 88811 – and we’ll pop round for a cup of tea and a chat, to see if we can help you.
Sam and Phil