Presenting property for sale – how to approach vendors

As an estate agent it’s important to have a rapport with your customers, especially those selling their houses, so you can be honest with them about making the best of their property.

It’s in everyone’s interest to ensure a property is presented well so that it will sell quickly and for the best asking price, but some homeowners will need a little more help than others.

An estate agent friend recently told me the following story…

A homeowner contacted them and asked for a valuation as they wanted to put their property on the market. It was spring – a traditionally good time for house sales – and it was an affluent and well sought-after area, so this should be an easy one.

When they turned up at the house, they were, to be fair, a little shocked.

Nestled as the middle house in a row that were of the same design and obviously built at the same time, was an example of what happens when maintenance has been lacking.

The house could best be described as “tired”, or, if being a little blunter, run-down.

The windows were still wooden, having seemingly skipped the trend to move to double glazing and PVCu. And the doors needed more than a few coats of paint.

The garden was overgrown, and the gates were hanging off.

The owner met them on the front path, “Hello there! We know it’s a bit ‘rustic’, but it’s got a certain charm don’t you think?”

This house had more than charm, and rustic it was not!

Location, location, errr, cleanliness?

Inside things were the same.

The house was cluttered with years of collectables and carpets were threadbare.

The owner explained that due to its location, they would expect to sell quickly and at a good price. Apparently, next door had gone in two weeks and had fetched its asking price, they said they wanted to market this one at the same value.

My friend checked, and yes, the house next door had sold quickly, but the difference between the two couldn’t be starker.

He sat down with the owner and wondered how to tackle the problem. He thought that being blunt, but with a soft edge might be the best way forward. After all, they’d lived here for years, and they loved the place.

“I’m afraid in its current condition it will be difficult to get the same price as next door.”

The owner seemed crestfallen. A different tack would be necessary.

“However, just a bit of work and you’ll certainly get close, can I suggest a few improvements?”

At that, the owner picked up again. Willing to take the advice of an expert, they were ready to listen.

My friend explained that the house simply needed some TLC, a declutter and a tidier garden.

He didn’t go into much detail, he simply said that if they spent time on that, he was sure the house would sell far quicker and for what they wanted.

The wait…

The house went on the market a week later.

Not much had really changed, but the owner was adamant that it was enough, and that the house would sell, so they began looking for somewhere else, and they found somewhere within a week.

After a month, there were no enquiries.

The owner at first blamed the photos, but there’s only so much work you can do given the state of the rooms.

Then he blamed the market conditions.

After three months, still nothing. Other houses were selling, but after just a handful of visits, there was still no good offer on the table.

The owner had lost out on the house they wanted, it had sold already.

My friend went to see him.

“I have to be honest, you need to do a lot more work on the house to get it to sell. Either that or drop the price drastically.”

The owner was finally convinced, and he got to work.

Within two weeks, the house was completely different. He spent about £5,000 in all, but it was worth it.

He completely cleaned out the garden, cut the grass, tidied up the hedges and repaired gates.

Inside benefited from painted woodwork, fresh wallpaper and new carpet in some of the rooms.

The difference was incredible.

The sale

New photos were taken, and the house was re-marketed.

The estate agent contacted all those people who had been to see the house previously, and two put bids in at just below the asking price.

The house sold within five days.

The moral?

You could argue that being a good estate agent is more than just about selling, it’s also about being a friend and adviser to your customers.

If my friend had been more assertive earlier on, the house would have sold much quicker, and the owner would have been able to move earlier.

However, there’s also the issue of not wanting to annoy customers.

This is the skill of the estate agent, and it’s something that will come through experience, it’s not anything you can learn in a training session.

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