When you have your home up for sale, time seems to stand still. You’re in limbo, caught between your old life, and your new one, with no way of knowing when you’ll be able to move on – both literally and emotionally.
As the weeks turn into months, and the viewings dry up, it’s easy to become despondent and dispirited. Especially when you see house after house in your area sell, even those that came to the market long after your house did.
You can’t define why no one seems to want your house; you chose a professional estate agent; your asking price is about right; you have kept your house looking lovely for viewers, so what’s gone wrong?
Firstly, you’re not alone. Since 2004 we have worked with homeowners that have also been completely demoralised by their inability to move on. With some discreet research, we have often found that their marketing strategy was flawed, and their online presence sadly lacking in quality; none of which was their fault.
Secondly, if you find yourself in this position, with a lack of viewings, having had your house on the market for months or even years, our ‘Re-launch Strategy’ will refresh your marketing – and hopefully your motivation too – and get your house sold for the price you want.
Time to start again
We once had a client who owned a beautiful Georgian home in Essex that had been on the market for a staggering seven years. It’s not at all uncommon for frustrated sellers to contact us after two or three years on the market, wondering what they can do to improve their situation.
Of course, if you ask your estate agent, you will no doubt be told that your asking price is at fault, and that you should reduce it – often drastically – without delay. Consider then, the house in Essex. In its seven years of marketing, it had been reduced incrementally from £1.25 million, to where it was when we were asked to help, at £800,000. That’s a 36% drop, but it hadn’t worked – crucially it hadn’t generated any new interest in the house.
So what did we recommend?
A price increase! We felt it had actually dropped to a point below its actual value, and that was doing as much harm to its saleability as an over-valuation would do.
The property was remarketed at £900,000 and sold almost immediately at £875,000. Evidently, the asking price was not to blame for the lack of a sale.
What have you already tried?
If you have been trying to sell your home without success for some time, you have probably either taken or at least considered, three action steps:
- Change the estate agent
- Drop the asking price
- Improve the presentation
These are all sensible reactions to a frustrating situation, but perhaps in your case, none of these has worked so far. So what else can you do?
We suggest a return to basics. In essence, you are going to pretend you have never tried to sell, and instead plan a launch of your home to the market. This time though, every aspect of your marketing campaign will be perfect, right from the start.
First things first
1. Take your house off the market
This probably feels counter-intuitive, but in our experience, it really is the best course of action to improve your situation. A break from the market has several advantages:
It gives you a break. After months or even years of waiting for the phone to ring with a viewing, trying to keep the house in viewing-ready condition, and generally being in a state of limbo, you deserve a rest.
It helps you take back control. Instead of being at the mercy of your agent and the buyers, you will decide when your house will be available for sale, and no one else.
It stops your house becoming stale. Let’s face it, after so long on the market, your house probably is stale, but by taking a break, when you re-launch, it will be to a different set of buyers.
It gives you the chance to take stock and plan a launch properly. If you decide on an action plan before you go back on the market again, you’ll need time to plan and implement any changes to your marketing and your house.
As a rough guide, it’s best to take your house off the market for at least one month for each six months you’ve tried to sell for. For example, if you have tried to sell for three years, then a six month break from the market will give you the best possible chance of a successful re-launch.
2. Give your agent notice
If your agent demands a notice period, then give them formal notice in writing; you can always rescind this later if you change your mind. Ask that during the notice period your house be withdrawn from any online advertising. This will give you the space you need to start planning your re-launch.
3. Choose the right time of the year
Good timing is vital – certain times of the year are better for selling your home than others. For example, homes for retirement tend to stick on the market during the winter months, when elderly buyers prefer not to trawl around properties. Families prefer to move at the beginning of the year, or before the start of a school year, in September.
Know your buyer and plan according to their timescale, not yours. Once you have decided on a re-launch date, add it to a calendar in plain view, and use it to schedule in the rest of the tasks you need to do before that date.
4. Prepare your home properly
Make sure your home is ready for photography and viewings. Perhaps this is a step that you rushed or even overlooked the first time you put your property on the market, but it’s vital you spend time and effort, and even money, on this very important preparation for marketing.
Look at your property objectively or get a friend to give you some feedback. Is there anything you could do to make it more attractive without spending a fortune? Ask a home stager for professional advice or visit show homes in the area for inspiration.
We often notice very minor factors that we know will be distracting in a photograph, or that might catch a buyer’s eye. Putting that right can make a big improvement in how your property looks online.
Find your new agent
5. Consider marketing your home with a new estate agent
The estate agency you have used to market your home previously may not be the best to re-launch your house to market effectively. After all, they have tried and failed to sell your property. Perhaps their marketing materials were at fault (photography, brochure, online advert), or maybe they just had the wrong approach with buyers.
Whatever the reason, their motivation and enthusiasm for selling your home after trying for some time without success, is bound to be low. Sometimes you just need an agent with a fresh attitude and new enthusiasm to add new life into a marketing campaign.
6. Try ‘mystery shopping’
Try ‘mystery shopping’ all the agents in your area. Call them and ask about a property they are selling. Make it one in your price range, if possible, and perhaps even about a property that you consider is a competitor of yours. Keep your questions open, for example ask “can you tell me a little bit about this property?” so that they have to expand on the written description and try to ‘sell’ it to you. Take note of the following:
Are they friendly? Do they seem forthcoming and enthusiastic about the property in question?
Are they knowledgeable? Is it obvious they have been to the house themselves, or are they just reading from a written description?
Do they invite you to view the property? After all, that should be the ultimate aim of any agent receiving an enquiry from a buyer.
Do they ask you any questions? It’s important that they ascertain your requirements in terms of the kind of property you are looking for, and also your buying position: for example, are you currently living in a rented property, or is your home sold subject to contract?
Do they take contact details from you? Without your name, address and phone number, you are just another enquiry and they have no way of following up your interest.
7. Compare your results
It’s a good idea to plot the results of your mystery shopping exercise on a spreadsheet, so you can see how well each agent performed. Once you have these results, take the top two or three performers, and look at their current property portfolio. Objectively scrutinise their marketing efforts and ask yourself:
Do they sell properties that could be considered to be similar to yours, in terms of price and calibre?
How would you rate their photography, written descriptions and brochures?
Are they better or worse than those produced by your current or previous agents?
8. Interview your shortlist
You should now be in a position to select perhaps two agents to interview personally. Given that you have tried and failed to sell previously, it is very easy for a prospective agent to criticise the competition (never good business practice) and suggest the asking price of your property is too high. That’s not what you want to hear. So ask them:
How would you take our marketing to the next level?
What can you improve upon that hasn’t been tried before?
What sets you apart from the other agents?
Why will that give us a better chance of success?
Don’t just choose the agent with the lowest fee and highest valuation. Take a considered view on their professionalism, their success locally, and whether you like them or not. After all, you’re going to be working quite closely with them for some time.
Show off your home
9. Review your photographs
Take a critical and if you can, objective view of the photography used by your last agent or agents to market your home. Is it really good enough? Look at the photographs of the best homes marketed online by Savills, Knight Frank and the other premium agents. Does it compare, or do your images look like the agent has just snapped them in a hurry on their small point-and-shoot?
10. Choose your photographer
Professional photography really is vital to help sell a house effectively online. Buyers don’t like reading text and will often decide whether or not to view solely on the photographs of your house. If your agent doesn’t offer this service, it’s worth paying for it privately. That way, at least the images belong to you if you decide to change estate agents down the line.
Choose your photographer carefully, and don’t necessarily select one who photographs properties for estate agents – these often display no creativity in their images, having been urged by their agent clients to simply use the widest angle possible to photograph every room, in the style that 95% of estate agents use.
Instead, select a photographer who has photographed home interiors for magazines, or even architectural photographers. The latter are especially skilled in bringing out the features of a building, so if your property has any architectural merit, perhaps a period or listed home, then this could be the best option for you.
A good photographer will charge anything from £200–£500, depending on their skill level, experience, the distance they have to travel, and the size of your home. A typical three-bedroomed semi-detached may only need a couple of hours of a photographer’s time, whereas a large rural rectory could easily take over half a day.
We select our photographers with great care at 4Sale, often rejecting a photographer that has worked with other agents in the area, in favour of choosing a professional with individuality and flair.
11. Choose your words
Once you have your home presented beautifully and some gorgeous photographs, the next step is to turn your attention to your written description. The words you use to describe your home in your brochure and online advert really need to sell your home to a buyer.
To differentiate your property from your competition, use lifestyle descriptions that sell the dream, not the bricks and mortar. So instead of saying ‘a modern, well-presented home that needs an internal viewing to appreciate’, which is the kind of agent-speak sure to turn a buyer off, try instead something like ‘this bright and airy home is perfect for the growing family, with spacious rooms and a wonderful garden’ – much more appealing.
Try to really capture the essence of your home and why you bought it, into the written word, taking care to avoid clichés and other meaningless sentences. Your estate agent may want to edit your text slightly to make sure it not only complies with the legalities of the Consumer Protection Regulations, but also so it fits in with their own style; do however really impress upon them the importance of your property description standing out among your competition. After all, it is you who has the most to gain – or lose – by your property advert.
At 4Sale, we have our own professional copywriter. She really captures the personality of the home with her words, and more importantly, the essence of the story beneath. That’s what buyers buy: not just bricks and mortar, but a story; a history. They want their next home to have depth of emotion.
12. Insist on quality
The same rule applies to your property brochure. If your estate agent produces property details on the office printer, don’t accept it. Brochures should be printed professionally on quality card so that your photographs look as attractive as possible.
We’re really proud of our beautiful brochures at 4Sale; they are carefully crafted in conjunction with our wonderful graphic designer, and printed by a quality local printer onto lustrous, thick paper. The result is a beautiful showcase for your home. If you’d like to see one, just drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll pop one in the post for you to see.
Ready to re-launch
13. Name your price
The final decision to make before you are ready to re-launch your home to the market, is the asking price. There are several factors to consider when setting your price:
Does your agent support it? If you set your asking price way above that which the agent recommends, their lack of support could well be evident in the way they talk about your property to their team and also to buyers. If they are strongly against your preferred asking price, it may be time to rethink your choice of agent, or your price.
Is there precedent? If your home is unique, there may well be a lack of comparable properties, and therefore you have much more flexibility in the price you choose to market your home at. However, if you are in a row of similar properties, chances are that there will be plenty of historical evidence to guide you into choosing an asking price that fits in with those of your neighbouring properties.
Does it fit in with an online search? Currently, 93% of property searches are done online. You need to select an asking price that will ensure your home is found by the maximum number of buyers searching the property portals. To maximise the number of buyers who will see your property, stay away from the 9s, such as £499,999, and instead choose a rounded figure that fits in with the price bandings the online portals use, such as £500,000.
14. Choose your time of the week
You’re ready to go back to market. Plan to re-launch your home to the market on a Thursday or Friday, if possible, to generate weekend viewings. The first four to six weeks are key to successful selling – research shows that any offers you receive during this time are more than likely to be the best you will ever get on your property.
15. Tidy up – and stay tidy.
Once you are on the market, keep your home spick and span, and beautifully tidy. Buy fresh flowers and keep new towels and bed linen just for viewings, so you can quickly freshen up your home with minimum effort when a buyer books a viewing.
Try to make sure that no matter how little notice you receive of a viewing, you’re ready and willing to show your home and to be proud of it. We know this isn’t easy, especially if you have a busy family life, but buyers are often spontaneous when it comes to viewings and will sometimes call the number on the board while sitting outside your house, wanting a viewing there and then. Don’t lose them just because your home is untidy and you don’t feel confident about showing it to them. After all, they could make an offer.
16. Make sure your agent is working for you
Keep in touch with your agent at least once a week, if not more frequently. Ask to see your Rightmove Property Performance Report and any other indicators of activity by buyers online.
We speak to our sellers every week to not only keep them updated on any interest on their home, but also to see if there’s anything we can do to help them on their homeselling journey.
Ready, Steady, Launch!
You’re ready to launch, this time, with success!
Taking back control of your property sale can feel empowering and motivating. The steps might be simple, but not necessarily easy.
If you would like a confidential chat about if and how your property marketing might be improved, just drop us a line at email@example.com and Jack will be in touch straight away.