Finding a new home

Whether you are a first time buyer, or if you are moving for the umpteenth time, finding a new house is a challenge and an adventure. Buying a property is a very large transaction, but it’s not just bricks and mortar… it is the place you will call home.

We can’t, of course, tell you what kind of home would be suitable for you, but we can give you some pointers and advice as to how to go about it. These suggestions may give you a little structure to help your decision-making, and that such a framework can be useful with such a daunting prospect as choosing a home.

Work out your finances

This should always be the starting point. You need to know how much money you have to put down on a new home. If you are buying outright in cash, this is your budget. If you need a mortgage, this is your deposit, and will make a big difference on how much you can borrow. Work out your monthly income and outgoings. Be honest and precise. Taking out a mortgage isn’t just about how much the bank will lend, but also about what you can afford to pay each month. Remember that interest rates can go up, so at very least consider fixing your mortgage for a period of time. In these uncertain economic conditions, be brutally honest as to the possibilities of your work circumstances changing for the worse. If you depend on overtime which might be cut, or if your industry is suffering redundancies, you really need to think long and hard about whether the time is right to make such a weighty financial commitment.

If you are sure, speak to an independent financial advisor to get the latest deals and mortgage products available. Ideally, get a mortgage agreed in principle before you start to look for houses. However you are intending to pay for your new home, it’s vital that you know exactly where you stand financially before you even begin to search. Your budget is the first thing to determine the criteria for your new home.

Make a list!

Writing things down is a great way of organising your thoughts – especially if you are house-hunting with a partner. If it’s on paper, you can organise your priorities, and between the two of you can recognise the things that matter most as a couple when your individual opinions are different. A good way to start your list is to make two columns – ‘Must have’  and ‘nice to have’. Then break your page into headings – the house, the location, the wider area. You may want to break these down into sub-headings – bedrooms, garden etc. Exactly what you put in your framework is up to you, but you’ll end up with a grid, waiting to be filled, that looks something like this:

 

MUST HAVE

NICE TO HAVE

HOUSE

Bedrooms
Two Three – spare room/study
Reception Rooms
Must fit sofa/suite in lounge Separate dining area would be good!
Bathrooms
Must have a shower Would like a downstairs loo
Garden
Courtyard at least, with room for shed Decking or lawn
Parking
1 off-road space Garage? 2 spaces?

LOCATION

Road
Not on a main road Cul-de-sac
Schools
Within 15 minutes drive of school Ideally within walking distance
Work
Within 30 minutes drive of work Ideally within 15 minutes drive

WIDER AREA

Motorway access
Less than 15 minutes to M5
City access
Bus route Walking distance
Suburb
East of the city St Leonards/Newtown

When your grid contains all the things that are important and relevant to you, then you can start to fill in the spaces. This will give you a real sense of what things matter, and how flexible you can be. Again, the details are all down to you, but your grid might look like this:

Now you have a clear plan of what you’re looking for. It’s worth noting that not everything in each column will have an equivalent – perhaps being near the motorway would be nice, but not vital. Maybe being within walking distance of school is essential, and nothing else will do. Either way, though, work down each column on its own and number your priorities. You will end up with two lists, in order, of things that your new home must have, followed by things it would be nice to have as a bonus. They won’t necessarily be in the same order, so your list might read;

These two lists together give you a comprehensive checklist to evaluate any potential new home you see. It may be that no single home ticks everything on each list. Perhaps you find somewhere which has a spare room in St Leonards, but which has no shower. Or maybe there’s no off-road parking, but you’re within walking distance of school and the city. By comparing like-for-like against your checklist, you can compare how homes stack up against your needs. You may also find that your lists change a little once you see what’s out there.

Finding homes to view

Now you know what you want, and how much you have to spend, you can start your search in earnest. The best and simplest way to search is on the internet. There are lots of different internet portal sites, where estate agents advertise the homes they have for sale. The biggest and best of these is http://www.rightmove.co.uk.  There, as with most portals, you can specify criteria such as price and the number of bedrooms, and get a selection of homes which meet your basic requirements. From there, reading the descriptions will let you check off things against your list. You should be able to narrow down the number of potential houses to a manageable shortlist of up to a dozen. From there, it’s relatively easy to book some viewings and start to see exactly what you can expect for your money.

If you are dead-set on a particular area, it’s worth driving or walking around looking for signboards. You can, for a snapshot, browse through the local paper, but compared to the internet this is haphazard and time-consuming. It’s always a good idea to register with as many local agents as there are, because they will take responsibility for informing you when new properties come on the market. Every agent, like each portal site, will ask you questions about your budget, how many bedrooms you need, and which areas you prefer. The narrower your criteria, the less homes you will see, but the more closely they’ll match your needs. If in doubt, start broad, and get more specific as you learn about the availability of local homes. It would be a shame to miss something great because you’ve been too precise, but once you’ve got a sense of what’s available, you can focus in on exactly what you’re after. When you start doing viewings, you can build up a rapport with the local agents and they will know to call you as soon as something suitable comes up for sale.

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Seller’s Checklist – the top 10 things to think about!

1 .Are you sure you want to move? Are you really ready for it?

Moving house is a big deal. Do plenty of soul-searching, and know that you’ve not rushed into a decision, and that with time and detachment you reached the conclusion that the time is right. There may be times, later on when you wonder if it’s all worth the hassle… but if you have really thought about it beforehand, you can draw strength from knowing you considered everything with a clear head at the start. If circumstances don’t allow you this time, and you have no option but to make a snap decision to move, then that should give you the resolve you need to see the process through.

  1. Prepare your home to sell

Clean, tidy, pack away, touch up the decoration, clear the garden, polish the door-knocker. If you do this before the estate agents come round, you will show your home in its best light for the valuation. The agent can advise you on any additional presentational details to address if need be, but doing things first will help to cement your commitment to move.

  1. Find an estate agent

Start with some research. Ask friends or colleagues who have just moved for their recommendations of who to use (or avoid!). Visit a few offices and see how well you are treated. Learn about the different ways in which the different companies operate (there is lots of information in this guide). Choose three companies to give you a valuation – make sure at least one is an independent, local firm, and at least one is a larger, corporate firm. Visit the agents’ offices BEFORE you meet them, posing as a buyer (you may well actually be looking to buy locally..  but if not, go anyway). You need to know how well the agent will gather information from anyone that might want to buy your house from them. Quiz the agents in close detail when they come round. Once you are happy which agent you want, instruct them by signing their agreement, and get your Home Information Pack ordered immediately. Have two forms of ID ready to show the agent, because you will need to prove that the house is yours to comply with money laundering regulations.

  1. Order your Home Information Pack

You cannot begin to advertise a house for sale – even if you are selling privately – until certain key parts of the Home Information Pack are completed and available. Do this quickly, and as soon as you know you are going on the market.

  1. Sort out your financial affairs

When your sale goes through, your solicitor will receive a large sum of money. Where will this go? If you have an old mortgage to pay off, check if there are early redemption penalties. Calculate agents and legal fees – including VAT – so you know how much you will actually receive. Now is a good time to reconsider investments, pensions etc.

  1. Find a Solicitor

Strictly speaking you don’t need a solicitor until you have a sale agreed, although some solicitors can provide the Home Information Pack. But you will need one eventually, so use the time you have now to research a few local companies and pick one that suits you. Otherwise, when you find a buyer and need to know, it will all be in a rush.

  1. Keep focussed on the prize

When viewers start to come round, and you don’t know if the eventual buyer will be here next day or next year, it can be unsettling and stressful. Always concentrate on what you are trying to achieve in the long term. It will get better once it’s all done and dusted. Don’t lose sight of that. Selling is a means to an end.

  1. Consider your options and alternatives

It may be that the progress of your sale needs a little lateral thinking. If you planned to find a new home after you’d found a buyer, but then the perfect buyer has to meet an urgent deadline, perhaps you should consider renting for a short while so that the sale can go through. If the offers you receive are lower than you hope, but you have found your dream home to move to, perhaps you can make a lower offer so that the end result is the same. Maybe you don’t need to sell at all – you could remortgage as a buy-to-let, have enough for a deposit on a new place and let the new tenants pay the mortgage on your current home. Things don’t always follow an obvious pattern, and the more creative and flexible you can be, the more chance you have of getting the right outcome.

  1. Try not to worry

It’s very easy to say that! But always look to the horizon, the fresh start. Try not to take on too many other big decisions or new projects if you can avoid it..  the stability in other areas of your life will make it easier to deal with the upheaval of a move. If you have friends and family you can call on for support, this is exactly the time you want them around. Your estate agent and solicitor should be a calming voice of experience, for while moving home is rare and scary for you, these professionals have seen it all hundreds of times before. You are paying them for their service, so call them as often as you need.

  1. Project ahead and look back

The home you are selling will hold many memories and associations. Those are not for sale. Try and imagine a point in the future, looking back on this move. Your new house will not be new any more – it will just be your home. You take all your memories with you, but you will have a place of comfort and security from which you can look back and enjoy those memories. The stresses and strains will pass, and will be forgotten.

 

Putting your home on the market – A checklist for marketing your home

Marketing

Once you have decided to put your home on the market and chosen your estate agent, here is a rough guide to the things you should do!

Preparing the house

  • Tidy up and clean up before your valuation
  • Attend to any obvious repair work
  • Consider any ‘neutral’ redecoration required
  • Start packing away as many of your personal possessions as you can
  • Clean the windows
  • Thoroughly clean the kitchen and bathroom
  • Make sure all the light bulbs in all the lights are working
  • Sort out the front of the house, including neighbouring gardens if need be!
  • Dress each room properly – i.e. for its purpose. Put a dining table in the dining room, and beds in the bedrooms, even if you have used these rooms for other things.

Working with the agent

  • Have the house clean and tidy, ready for internal photos and measurements
  • Tell the agent about any special features that should be mentioned
  • Decide what you want to include in the sale, eg oven, washing machine, curtains, etc.
  • Put together a file of all documents relating to the house – utility and council tax bills, guarantees on the central heating and double glazing, etc.
  • Order a Home Information Pack – your home can’t be advertised without it.
  • Get a key cut for the agent
  • Clarify viewing arrangements – will the agent do them? Must they get your permission first each time? Do you need to take the dogs out? Make sure both you and the agent know exactly what to do.
  • Check the agent’s details as soon as they are available to make sure nothing has been missed. Address any problems that you’ve spotted before the agent begins

Preparing yourself

Remember that you are moving on, and for everything that you leave behind there will be a whole new range of possibilities opening out ahead.  Although it may be unsettling having strangers coming round to your house, it won’t last for long, and when it’s done you’ll be building a new home for yourself elsewhere.  The hassle you are about to go through is a necessary challenge, and will be well worth it for the end results that it will brings.  If you are worried, let the agent know that they need to respect your sensibilities.  Draw on the strength of those around you, your friends and family, and look ahead to the next stage of your life.

 

Home staging – Making sure your home looks its best!

As almost every property show on television will tell you, a little House Doctoring goes a long way… not just in getting a sale, but in getting a good price for the sale of your home.

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There are two considerations in how your home looks.  One is practical and financial,  the second is more concerned with the emotional decision of buying a new home.

 

On a pragmatic level, viewers do not want to see things that they consider to promise expensive or time-consuming work (unless the house is being sold as a renovation project!).  Half-finished DIY, holes in plasterwork, polystyrene ceiling tiles, missing doors or doors that don’t close, broken light switches, sticking locks, dodgy window-catches.  These are the simple things that many of us have in our own homes…  the little things that we have grown used to and don’t see as a problem, in fact often don’t see at all any more!

To strangers, walking around your home for the first time, these can appear like huge obstacles that are impossible to look around, blocking their view of any potential the house might have for them.  As an agent, it can be extremely frustrating to know that a particular buyer would be ideally suited to a specific house, but that they cannot get past the minor visible jobs that need doing.resizeimage (3)

Indeed, it can be easier to sell a home that needs a new kitchen and bathroom, than one which needs a few broken tiles replacing and a good clean: a new suite is a job for a professional and a tangible improvement to the property, while a minor repair and a bit of bleach is just ‘work’.

The second consideration for presenting your home has more to do with how people think when they make a decision to buy a place to live. Buying a home is an emotional decision as well as a practical and financial one – indeed, you may have bought the home you are now selling because it ‘felt right’.

In order to decide that the house is right for them, a buyer needs to imagine living there.  That, in effect, is what ‘feeling right’ means…  it is an instinctive recognition that the viewer can see themselves living happily in that house.

Now, nobody can make someone buy a house they don’t want.  But it is possible to stop someone recognising a house that would ‘feel right’, if that home’s potential is buried under an avalanche of possessions.

The golden rule of all home-staging shows is: de-clutter!  In effect, the reason for this is simple.  The heavier impression your lifestyle has made on the house, the harder it will be for the viewer to imagine their own life there.  If a room is full of furniture, it’s hard to imagine it empty.  But if a room is empty, it’s easy for a buyer to mentally arrange their own furniture into the space.

This idea works at every level.  The less furniture you have, the more possibilities the buyer can see…  unless you have a very clever and minimalist arrangement, in which case you might be highlighting possibilities, not reducing them.  The fewer ‘personal’ items – family photographs, pictures, etc – that you have, the easier it will be for the viewers to imagine their own valuables and treasures in place.

Tidy rigorously, clean thoroughly, and then start getting ready to move.  Pack away your precious things.  It will make your home easier to sell, and it will help to prepare you for leaving.  It may have been a wonderful home to you, but you are moving on now.  Try and reconcile yourself to the idea that your new home is in the future, and that, for now, this house has become the place you stay in while you prepare for that new home.

Try to present each room in a functional sense.  If you’ve turned the spare bedroom into a kid’s playroom, made the dining room your stamp collecting den, and put the dining table across the lounge..  sorry, but put it back!  ‘Dress’ each room to show what it’s for.  Dining rooms need a dining table.  Double bedrooms should have a double bed… or, at very least, be arranged to show that one would fit easily enough.  It is no longer about how the space worked for your lifestyle… you now have to show how these same rooms can work for someone else.

It’s even worth considering a little redecoration, especially if the house has a very strong colour scheme and personality.  New people will bring new tastes, and the popularity of magnolia and cream is not that people love those colours, but that they are a blank canvas for new buyers to colour in as they choose.

Home staging can be time-consuming, and packing up possessions can be emotionally hard. But it’s free, and it needs to be done at some point anyway, so you may find it makes it easier to reconcile yourself to the move. More to the point, it might well make you money in a higher offer, and the work you put in may be why your house is chosen in preference to the others on the market.

 

Kerb appeal

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Kerb appeal is the buzzword to describe how attractive a home looks to a prospective buyer driving past to check out the area.  Not every home has sculpted gardens and manicured lawns.  Indeed, many town central properties open directly onto the street.  Even so, do not underestimate the importance of the look of your home from the outside!

First impressions are vital.  Often, indeed, those first impressions are made by house-hunters scouting the area they would like to live in.  It might not even be someone who has booked a viewing.  At very least your home’s exterior shouldn’t put people off.  At best it should encourage them to want to view the inside.

Clean your windows.  Clean off any peeling paintwork.  Consider repainting doors and window frames.  If there are any minor repairs needed – reattaching television cables, minor repairs in the wood work, etc – then doing these should be a priority.  If the garden is messy, tidy it.  If need be, have it cleared.

You must try not to convey the impression that your home is either hard to maintain, or badly maintained.  These suggest problems and expense, and will put someone off the idea of living there.  Equally, if the exterior looks good, then potential viewers will be encouraged to think that the whole house is well looked-after.

This, indeed, doesn’t just extend to your own home.  It might be that your neighbour cares a good deal less about the appearance of the garden than you do.  A nearby home with a front garden resembling the wild grasslands of the Serengeti, or an entry into the ‘thistle grower of the year’ awards, will do nothing to improve the value and saleability of your own home.  Telling the neighbour to sort out their garden might not win you any favours, but offering to do it for them could be greeted with enthusiasm.  It might take you a couple of hours’ work, but if it adds a thousand pounds to your sale price, it will be the most profitable work you do this year!

Get ahead of the game

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Once you have made the decision to put your home on the market, you have the chance to put together all of the information that you will eventually be asked for when you come to sell.

It is now against the law to market a home for sale without a Home Information Pack (HIP). You will almost certainly need a professional to arrange this, as the pack needs an Environmental Performance Certificate (EPC), as well as other legal documents. This will have to be addressed before your house goes up for sale.

But there are other useful documents, too, some or all of which you may be asked for by a potential buyer. The more things you have ready, the quicker a sale might go through…  so the less chance there is of a prospective buyer getting cold feet.

Besides, finding things before you need them is much better than not finding them when you do! In particular, try and dig out the following:

CHECK LIST

  • If you live in a leasehold property, find the lease, the details of the management company, and the costs of the service charges.
  • Find any guarantees that may exist on work done to your home.
  • Find any planning consents or buildings regulations approval information about extensions or alterations made on your home
  • Find a council tax bill showing the band and cost
  • If you have any of the documents from your own purchase of the house, these might be useful
  • If you have instructions for inbuilt appliances, alarms, or the heating/water systems, find them
  • If you have the installation dates and details of the installers, even if they are out of guarantee, this can prove very useful
  • Make a list of the items you intend to leave. There is a Property Information Questionaire that has to be completed as a part of the Home Information Pack, so think about it before you out the house up for sale,
  • Make a list of the utility suppliers – gas, electric, water, telephone, cable, satellite, broadband, satellite. Having bills to show is even better.
  • Find your buildings insurance details
  • Make a note of the location of the water stop-cock and the electricity fusebox

 

Going on the market

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So, you’ve chosen you’re estate agent…  what next? This article will help you prepare for the practical stages of getting your home on the market.

Home Information Packs

It is now a legal obligation to have a Home Information Pack (HIP) for every residential home sold in England. The basics of this must be available before a home can be marketed, even if you are selling privately without an estate agent. You will almost certainly need a professional to put the pack together for you – most estate agents and many solicitors can do this, as well as a number of independent companies. The cost of the pack varies, but expect to pay between £200 and £300 for an average home.

One compulsory element of the HIP is the Environmental Performance Certificate (EPC). This involves a qualified inspector looking at such things as your heating system, loft insulation and double glazing, and evaluating both the current condition and potential upgrade of the energy efficiency of your home. Fortunately, the HIP provider will be able to arrange this for you as a part of the deal, but as your home can’t be advertised until it’s done, the sooner you can make the arrangement for the inspection, the better. Getting the HIP is the first thing you have to do, and getting the EPC is the first part of the HIP. 

Creating Property Details

The property details that the agency creates will be the principle source of information for most viewers.  It’s not just those buyers who enquire directly that will be sent a paper copy of the particulars…  almost all automated estate agency systems also send the same information to the internet.   Getting the details right, then, is an important part of marketing your home.

Estate Agents are also under very stringent legal obligations to be accurate in their details, so expect and excuse the amount of time it takes to get things right.

Measuring, Photographing and writing descriptions

The agent will need to measure the property, and to take both internal and external photographs for the marketing brochure.

If you haven’t already, tidy your home for the camera!  You will know at what times of day the front and back of your property gets the sunlight – so make sure you tell the agent.

If there are any special details or characteristics of your home, do tell the agent.  The estate agent may not know that your bath-taps are engraved from sterling silver, or that the kitchen worktop was hand-carved from Dartmoor granite.  If you have guarantees or certificates to show the date and quality of renovations or extensions, have them ready, so that they can be mentioned in the particulars.

All buyers welcome any reassurance of quality.  If a prospective buyer sees two identical Victorian terraces in the same area for the same price, but one has a 10-year guarantee against woodworm and a 20 year guarantee on a recent re-roofing, then guess which one will sell first??!  Guess which one is less likely to make the full asking price?!  So, any information you have about the construction or interior of your home should be giuven to the agent before they write their descriptions.

Make sure you mention, too, all the local facilities and amenities nearby.  The agent will know about some of it…  the general area, the nearest shops, and so on… but it’s possible that there will be some local details that only residents are really aware of.  If there is a neighbourhood watch scheme, or a hidden alleyway for the rubbish bins, or a residents’ only parking bay, or a weekly visit from the mobile library…  any and all of these details and more might persuade the perfect buyer to arrange a viewing.

What should you include with the sale?

This is an often-asked question, and the final answer will vary from house to house.  As a general rule of thumb, if it is built-in, include it from the outset and say so in the details.  Integrated ovens and hobs, or inbuilt bedroom wardrobes, are good examples of things which should be left and should be mentioned.  Carpets should almost always be included – apart from anything else, they won’t necessarily fit a new home, and unless they are extremely expensive will be damaged by removing anyway!

You may consider mentioning other items, too..  but remember that if it’s written into the particulars, then it is legally considered part of the sale.  The likes of blinds and curtains are usually cut or fitted to the dimensions of the windows they serve, but their inclusion in the details makes a commitment to leave them with the house.  Equally, bulky items like freestanding white goods – especially dishwashers and washing machines – don’t always take well to being moved, and it may not be worth having older items moved…  but again, having them listed in the details is a commitment.

It’s generally better, with these kinds of item, to leave them out of the written details, but also to have decided in broad terms what you might leave behind.  This can be very important in negotiation, because of the very strong psychology that affects people in a bargaining situation.

People are very reluctant to give ground unless they feel they are getting something in return.  If you receive an offer for your home which is lower than you are prepared to accept, an outright ‘no’ can sometimes close the door on further talks, especially if the buyer has put forward what they consider to be a genuinely fair amount.

But if you are in a position to add more ‘value’ to the sale – by offering to include all the curtains and blinds, or even the white goods – then it is much easier for the bidder to justify an increased amount of money.  You may only be adding in things you’d have given away anyway, and the increase in bid might be far more than the value of those goods, but in negotiating terms both parties feel that the other side has made a compromise, and that both sides are working towards an agreement.

So, in general terms – if it’s fitted, include it; if it’s not, don’t mention it but be willing to consider using it to make a deal.

The one exception to this would be if you are selling a rental property, or if your home is in an area where investors are the most likely buyers.  Then, if you can leave furniture, consider including it in the details.  Investors are often very happy to buy a home that can be let out straight away.  Even in this situation, though, if you are unsure, leave it out of the written details, but let the agent know that you would consider leaving furnishings for the right buyer, and at the right price.

Do the details make you want to see the house?

The property details are important.  The description of your home should paint a picture and create an emotional response, giving a person who has never seen the inside of your home a real sense that it is a place they might enjoy living…  or at least, that it is somewhere they’d like to find more about.

Agents who overlook this, and who write nothing more than ‘window to front aspect, radiator, tv point’, and really letting their clients down.

Signing off – don’t delay!

Once the agent has created their details, they will send a copy to you for approval.  Read them carefully and check that you are happy with them.  If there are factual errors, correct them.  If there are descriptive points that you feel under-state or miss out the best aspects of your home, then let the agent know, and do so as soon as you can.  The agent will want to be marketing your home as quickly as possible, and may already have begun sending information out, so the earlier you get in touch, the better it will be for you!

Viewing arrangements

This is another important aspect of the marketing that you should discuss with your agent at the outset.

When can viewers come around?  In general terms, the more time that you can make your home available for viewing, the better.  Your perfect buyer might work nights, or have young children, or live a long way from Exeter.  It’s possible they will only be able to visit at times that most people would find inconvenient, or most agents would be reluctant to work.

Who will conduct the viewings?  Any agent that doesn’t offer to accompany every viewing should be ruled out from the start, even if you don’t feel you need accompanied viewings, because it suggests that the agency isn’t willing to work hard enough for you.  Some agents may refuse ‘out of hours’ viewings on principle: this again throws real doubts on their ability to provide a commitment to service in all other areas, too.

If you are in any doubt, get the agent to do all the viewings.  Estate Agents are usually confident and competent at showing strangers around a house.  An agent will be more objective than the owner, and viewers understand this: while the owner might exaggerate features or downplay problems, a good agent will give their best, honest assessment when showing someone around.

This is just good business sense, because if the agent says something that turns out to be misleading or wrong, not only are they stepping close to breaking the law, but they also undermine a future sale should they be ‘found out’…  and, of course, the new buyer is moving into their area, so the agent knows their future reputation is in the hands of the new owners just as mach as the old ones.

If the agent is conducting viewings for you, it’s probably better to be ‘out’.  The viewers will be less inhibited, and might ask more open questions, and stay for longer.  Plus, of course, the more people in the house, the more crowded it will feel.

For second viewings, though, it is a good idea to be available, if the agent thinks it would be of assistance.  By the second viewing, the house-hunter is already showing serious consideration of a property, and they are more likely to have direct questions about living in the house…  utility bills, local taxes, the immediate neighbours, and so on.

Some sellers are occasionally reluctant to give the agent a key.  Don’t be.  Agencies all have systems to ensure that the keys are not obviously related to any given property, and all agencies have insurances in place.  Nothing bad is likely to happen while an agent has your house-key, but even so you should be reassured that the agency’s own policies will add some further protections above and beyond your own insurance policies.

One thing you should clarify, though, is the arrangements by which viewings are confirmed, and especially what the agent should do if they cannot reach you.  Viewings should be confirmed 24 hours in advance or more.  Let the agent know what to do, though, if they try and can’t reach you.  Is a message sufficient?  Should an unconfirmed viewing be cancelled, or should it go ahead??  Address these issues before they arise.  If you can, give the agent permission to go ahead if ever there’s doubt.  Also, it is not unusual for people to call in and ask to view that day.  Be clear, once more, what the agent should do in this situation.

When waiting for viewings to take place, please understand that not everyone is on time… and occasionally, it might be the viewing before your home that is late.  If the agent can let you know that they are running behind, they should, but it’s not always possible if one is showing clients around non-stop.  Alternatively, the people coming to your home might be seeing several different properties, and could linger in any of them (or alternatively reject them from the front doorstep!)  So, consider all viewing times as contingent, because (as with any appointment-based system), a single interruption to the schedule might move everything around a little without notice.

Finally, if a viewing is booked with you, but the person doesn’t show up, please don’t be too hard on the agent!  Sometimes, sort kind of person that doesn’t keep an appointment, is not the kind of person to give the agent advance warning.  Chances are that the agent has waited some time to see if they are coming, and has called to ask if they are still on their way.  This can have a disruptive effect on other viewings later in the day, so it might be that the agent doesn’t have the chance to tell you that the viewing didn’t happen until much later.  It can be frustrating, especially if you’ve cleared up or gone out especially, but it’s not something that the agent should be blamed for: they will be as fed up by ‘no-shows’ as you are!

Viewing feedback

Having people look around your home is one thing: finding out what they think is another altogether.

An estate agency business must regard this as a key part of its role.  It does two things – it identifies issues about the home in question, so that the agent can let the seller know what, if anything, needs changing.  It also updates the agent as to what their buyers are looking for, so bringing them closer to their own market.  Any agency that doesn’t chase feedback after it’s viewings is letting down buyers and sellers alike…  so ask your agent how their company ensures that viewings are followed up!

Most sellers are keen to know what people thought of their homes after each viewing.  The one difficulty that agents have, though, is actually getting the chance to find out.  Following up viewings is vital, but do bear in mind two things: first, that not everyone can be reached at once, and messages often have to be left; and second, that very few viewers that didn’t like a house ever actually return calls to the agent to tell them so.

In theory, events should happen as follows:

  1. Viewing takes place
  2. agent gets feedback from viewer
  3. agent tells seller

In practice, what very often happens is this:

  1. Viewing takes place
  2. agent leaves message with viewer
  3. agent leaves second and third message
  4. no response is effectively a ‘no’ but there’s nothing to tell the seller
  5. seller feels the agent doesn’t keep them informed

Sellers get frustrated, sometimes, if they feel and agent isn’t passing on feedback…  but in practice, it is frequently the case that there is no feedback to pass on, which itself is an indication that the viewer wasn’t interested.  Neither agent nor seller wants a succession of calls saying ‘still nothing to tell you’.

Establish that your agent has a good system in place for taking feedback and passing it on.  But, if you’re sure this is the case, give some leeway to the agent to call you only if and when there is a need to.