Selling your home is like dating. You will need to kiss many frogs until you find your prince (or princess). Some people will get your hopes up only to disappear some time later (in other words: ghosting). Others will look very keen at the beginning, but will lose interest. And then… let’s talk about that time an estate agent pretended to be a buyer. He will view your property in order to learn why you didn’t choose that agent, and he will pump you for information.
Selling Your Home For The First Time
When selling a property, like when dating people, having realistic expectations and never feeling disheartened by failures is the only way to have a successful result. Some people will look at other properties while also making an offer on your flat, and others will give you a false sense of security putting in an offer and starting the purchase process, only to change their minds after several weeks and you’ll have to start all over again. These pitfalls are common but not many first time sellers are aware of them or have been told about them.
The transition from first time buyer to first time seller is daunting. Whether you are planning to move up the property ladder or have to sell your first home for other reasons (packing everything to go travelling around the world, for example), being a vendor for the first time can be stressful and complicated. While you will be familiar with some aspects of the negotiations from the experience of buying your first home, there are so many other factors to consider when selling your first home.
Watching Too Much TV Is Bad For You (When You’re Selling Your Home)
What you see on TV programmes about buying and selling property is often quite idealistic: for example, if you watch programmes about how to renovate properties for sale, there is hardly any mention of how long it takes to sell a flat once you put it on the market. For example, houses are magically sold “within days” from the TV crew’s visit. The reality is that it takes between 4 and 8 weeks from when you first list a property to when you accept an offer, then an additional 4 to 8 weeks to complete the sale. There are also some exceptions that are linked to the desirability of an area, which affect the timescale.
The rule of thumb is that, if a property has been on the market for more than 2 months, the listing will look stale and buyers will be less interested in viewing the property, because newer, shinier listings will become available in the meantime. You can compare the mentality of the house buyer to the mentality of a supermarket shopper: if items on the shelf have been sitting there for a while and are approaching their expiry date, shoppers either won’t buy them or they will only buy if they are heavily discounted. You definitely don’t want to put your home in the bargain basement!
I have made some rookie mistakes and I will share what I have learned so you don’t have to make the same mistakes. You can potentially save yourself a lot of time, money and heartache by reading as much as possible on the house sale process as possible. Please bear in mind that this is an article written by a first time seller for a first time seller. I am not an estate agent (although I was told I could be a good estate agent!), but I have personally conducted about 50 viewings with potential buyers interested in purchasing my flat, I received 12 offers from as many potential buyers and made hundreds of calls to my estate agent to learn as much as possible about how to sell my flat.
I would say that, as a first time seller, your job is not to sell your home: if you present your flat well and you have maintained it properly over the years, it will sell itself. Your real job is to get each viewer to put in an offer on your property, because you don’t want to deal with undecided window-shoppers. There is no harm in asking for an offer at each viewing: you probably won’t get one every time, but you should never allow potential buyers leave your property without motivating them to purchase your property. There is no doubt that not all estate agents are the same. I used an online estate agent because it was more cost-effective and very customer-focused.
I Chose An Online Estate Agent And Local Estate Agents Were Not Impressed
While advertising my flat for sale, I received a number of unsolicited letters from local estate agents begging me to choose them. They all used similar wording, telling me that they had a whole list of buyers waiting to buy my property. I decided that an online estate agent suited my needs better because it was much cheaper than traditional estate agents. The only downside with online estate agents is that you have to conduct all the viewings yourself, unless you pay extra for assisted viewings. However, your online estate agent will filter out the time-wasters as much as possible and will only arrange viewings with buyers who have arranged a mortgage or have the right finances in place (they are called “proceedable” buyers).
Even with the pre-screening from the online estate agent, some non-genuine buyers will still slip through the net.
Estate Agent Pretended To Be A Buyer
One sunny Saturday, after the usual sweat fest that is the top-to-bottom cleaning of my flat in preparation for a viewing, I met a potential buyer who told me he lived and worked in the area. He expressed a keen interest in my flat and was very complimentary saying he really liked it. He also said I should be an estate agent. When I asked him what he did for a living, he was very vague and only disclosed that he worked locally. When he praised my modernised bathroom and fittings, he seemed very knowledgeable so I asked him if he worked in the plumbing industry and he replied “Not really”. I didn’t probe further and, in hindsight, I should have done. However, what I did afterwards, when my estate agent kept contacting this buyer to get feedback without succeeding in getting through to him, was to google him. I couldn’t find much information about this buyer, but I was starting to get doubts. Why did he say he really liked my flat and was giving me the impression he would make an offer, only to ghost me afterwards? Before giving up completely, I did a search on Twitter. The name of the “buyer” appeared in a tweet with a picture, with a caption referencing to him as an estate agent. The tweet was from a local agency, congratulating their clients on getting the keys to a property thanks to the agent featured in the picture.
The “buyer”, i.e., the incognito estate agent, asked me questions about my online estate agent during the fake viewing, particularly about their fees and the quality of their service. I didn’t disclose anything with regards to their fees (just a quick browse on their website would answer that question anyway) but I did say they were much cheaper than traditional estate agents.
What Did I Learn From This Experience?
The best part about being a first time seller is that you get an opportunity to learn as much as possible about the selling process so you can replicate it in the future when you sell again. Selling a property is not for the faint-hearted and is not the straightforward process depicted in TV programmes. You don’t have to do all the viewings yourself if you don’t have the time or the confidence to talk to potential buyers, but the learning experience you get from conducting the viewings yourself is invaluable.
The viewing with the incognito estate agent taught me that, as a seller, you need to ask as many questions to buyers as possible. Viewings are normally an opportunity for house buyers to ask questions to the sellers, but they are also a great opportunity for the vendor to understand how serious buyers are and if they are in a good financial position.
There is no guarantee that a potential buyer will tell you the truth when answering questions, but at least, if you gather as much information as possible, you will be more likely to avoid pitfalls in the future, for example when an undecided buyer pulls out of the sale after you accept their offer.
If you are planning to save as much money as possible when selling your home, it’s better to save on the estate agent rather than the conveyancer because your solicitor will actually be doing all the hard work.
In conclusion: I wish I never spent all that time cleaning my flat for that fake viewing.