Paola Bassanese is an author and freelance writer. When she put her flat on the market, she discovered that selling is hard work.
Putting My Flat on the Market
When I put my flat on the market, I was a first-time house seller. I decided to conduct all the viewings myself without an estate agent because it was cheaper. In this article, I explain what I learned along the way.
Before you even start organising viewings for your property, you need to filter out those buyers who are not a good fit for your property and who are not working to your time scale. When dealing with your estate agent, you will soon become familiar with the term “proceedable viewers only”: that’s estate-agent code for accepting viewings only from buyers who have already arranged their finances. These buyers have a deposit ready and have a confirmation from their lender that they can afford a mortgage (mortgage in principle).
If you look at online forums, the majority of people believe it’s better to get as many viewings as possible to get the best chance of securing an offer. However, this approach does not bring enough benefits to justify pursuing it. First of all, you will need to take time off work to show people around (unless you hand over the keys to your estate agent). There will be no-shows, which will make you frustrated with the amount of time you are wasting on viewings.
If you read what experienced estate agents say, some agree that it’s better to have too many viewings than no viewings, but overall the message is that the agent needs to filter out the time-wasters and put forward serious buyers who have their finances in place. Of course, some people may not reveal to the agent that they haven’t organised their meeting with their bank manager, so, in that case, you will have to bear that risk. Then again, sometimes even when potential buyers are unprepared, they might like your flat so much when they see it that they get organised within a few days and you are good to go.
This is the problem with selling your flat: it’s not an exact science, and no one can tell you in advance how much time it will take or how many viewers you will meet before you receive an offer.
Your role during viewings is vital for a successful sale. While you don’t have any control over market conditions and the location of your property, you do have full control over the way you present your home during viewings. Keep everything spotless and tidy, remember to always highlight the best features and leave the viewer some breathing space to see the property in their own time without breathing down their neck.
One of the advantages of using an agent is that all the handling of appointments is done on your behalf. Unfortunately, as much as people get reminder emails and phone calls, you may experience some ‘no shows’. If you have taken the day off especially, cleaned the whole place from top to bottom, bought some fresh flowers and so on, the last thing you need is for your viewer not to turn up. There’s nothing you can do, apart from keeping positive and move on. Always remind your estate agent to confirm appointments.
A typical viewing will last 10 minutes. If someone doesn’t like your property they will know straight away but they will hang around for at least 10 minutes to avoid upsetting you. Viewers who are very complimentary and are literally gushing over every aspect of your home are usually the ones who don’t want to offend you and have no intention of buying.
What is the secret to selling a property? A sense of urgency and scarcity. Regardless of whether you are in a hurry to sell, the sense of urgency must come from the buyer and you can instigate it by telling them how many people have expressed an interest in it. If something is in short supply and several people are interested in it, that something becomes highly desirable. While it’s unethical to invent facts about the number of buyers who want to make an offer on your property, you can still say that there have been several people who wanted to see the flat and you are considering the best offer.
Remember that in the near future your flat will not be your home any more, so start thinking of your property as a product instead of your beloved dwelling. You are selling a product that many people need, so don’t be shy or ashamed, because now is not the right time to be humble.
Before Each Viewing
Bear in mind a few things when preparing your place for viewings, like dusting each and every corner, including lampshades, light fittings and light switches. Polish metallic surfaces (kitchen sink, door handles, taps).
Avoid using strong air fresheners just before your next viewing but opt to open the windows for better ventilation. Chemicals in air sprays can irritate, so opt for natural essential oils: for example, you can add a few drops of essential oils on pieces of cotton wool and put them inside drawers and wardrobes. Make sure you clean inside all wardrobes and cupboards to avoid any musty smells. You can also place one or more reed diffusers around the flat, as long as they are not overpowering. Fresh eucalyptus branches from a florist are a great idea to deodorise areas and their attractive blue/green colour add interest as well as scent.
If it’s a cold day, open the windows for half an hour or more to let some fresh air in and remove any stale smells, then close them and put the heating on. If it’s a hot day but you can hear a lot of noise outside, just keep open those windows that are not facing a main road.
Corridors, bathroom and kitchen are the places where deodorising is needed the most.
What about that old chestnut of baking cookies before a viewer arrives? Well, even if you don't have time to do baking, most people coming through your door will have allocated only 10 minutes for the viewing and food may not at the forefront of their mind. In the rare occasion that someone accepts a homemade cookie, it is very likely that they are day-trippers who spend most of their weekends having a look around other people’s homes without any intention of buying. Unless you are having an open-house day, providing refreshments is not necessary, apart from a glass of water. Some viewers won’t have time to wait for the kettle to boil so they will not accept your offer of a hot drink. You may still want to have some tea, herbal tea and coffee available just in case, for those viewers who like the flat and are staying longer to ask you more questions.
One last word about cooking smells: on days when you have viewings, try to avoid cooking something that will leave a lingering smell (curries, for example). Keep your meals simple, do all the washing up and put all the crockery away to leave the sink clean and devoid of clutter.
How to Talk About Your Property
Assuming you have decided to take an online estate agent and you are doing all the viewings, you will need to learn how to talk about your property to potential buyers. This is not the time for false modesty, but you shouldn’t boast too much about your flat either.
Go through each room in your flat (so easy if you have a studio flat!) and look at the positive elements: is it a bright room? Is it a cosy room? Is there good storage? Memorise these positives and make sure you describe your flat using adjectives like “bright,” “spacious,” “comfortable,” and so on. Because viewers may be rushing to another appointment straight after seeing your property, try to see if they are interested in your flat by offering them to sit down. You may simply invite the viewer to test how comfortable your sofa is, so he/she can check for themselves. Ten extra minutes spent getting a feel for a place can make a huge difference.
Is your flat well insulated? Talk about how the flat remains cool in the summer and heats up quickly in winter, retaining the heat for a long time.
Make sure you memorise key highlights like places of interest in your neighbourhood and transport links.
Don’t let a difficult buyer put you off: they are just trying to avoid making a huge mistake buying a property that is not right for them. Sometimes buyers will be difficult on purpose as they try to gauge whether you will come down in price. Whatever you do, remember never to talk down your property: don’t confess a leak in the ceiling that never got fixed (but, if you are reading this book, you are going to fix it before putting the flat on the market) or anything else that will make your property less valuable to a buyer.
Use viewings as an opportunity to gain valuable feedback and to find out more about potential buyers, particularly with regards to how fast they can proceed with the negotiation.
Conclusions: Use a Checklist
Feel confident before each viewing by preparing a checklist to make sure everything is in order and well presented. Try to calm your nerves before each appointment because if you look nervous the buyer may feel suspicious about the property or simply feel less comfortable during the viewing.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.