Category Archives: Buying and selling property

Advice and information on selling homes and the property market.

The psychology of selling a home.

More and more people are deciding to save themselves several thousands of pounds by not going down the traditional local estate agent route by choosing to sell for as little as £500 using an online agency. How to do this and why you don’t need an estate agent.   As a result most people will need to be aware of the “psychology of selling” when showing  potential buyers around their home and follow a few easy tips to help sell their home.   

High street estate agencies rely on the fact that most people do not conduct viewings very well and do not know the tell-tale signs that buyers can give out.   Even worse, some owners do not even prepare their property to show it at its best and maximise the chances of an early sale at the best possible price. Phil Spencer’s TV programme Secret Agent is based on this.  

Viewings 1But by using simple psychology there are many things that sellers can do to virtually double the chance of a successful sale. Even though most are common sense and somewhat obvious, hardly anyone does them, so you can use this to your advantage to give you the edge over similar properties on the market in your area. 

Arranging viewings

This will be the first contact you will have with your potential buyer. It is important to be bright and cheerful and try to get into a conversation. If the caller asks specific questions about the home be honest and truthful, but be concise and never give anything extra as this may bias their opinion of your home before they have even set eyes on it. 

Try to arrange the viewing some time during the day, at a time perhaps when there will be fewer people at home.  Try to find out how many will be viewing and make a definite appointment.  Make a note of their name and the time and date of the viewing and be accommodating.  Make sure you give the buyer clear directions on how to get to your home, where to park and perhaps landmarks to watch out for on the way.  Include your postcode for use with a SatNav. 

First impressions count – kerb appeal

Front doorIf the buyer is not impressed with your home in the first few seconds of walking up to your front door, there will be nothing you can do to convince them to make an offer, no matter how fantastic the inside of your house is, their minds will already be negatively focused. Conversely, if they like what they see you are well on the way to selling your home!


  • Make sure your front garden is a tidy as possible.
  • Prune any trees, cut any hedges and make sure the path clean and free of all weeds and mildew.
  • If possible, plant some bedding plants to provide a bit of colour.
  • Sprinkle some Sulphate of Ammonia on your lawns. In just a day (after watering in) it will turn your patchy grass into a perfect green lawn. Be sure to cut it regularly to maintain the attractive stripe effect.
  • Pay particular attention to your front door. Clean it and re paint it if necessary. Polish any brass or chrome to make it look brand new, because buyers can and do judge the house on their initial impression of the front door.
  • Clean all the windows and wash down external paintwork.
  • If possible remove your car(s) from driveway.
  • To make your gardens look bigger, tie back shrubs and hedges, and put away any swings and slides.
  • Add compost to the flowerbeds. This will show your garden at its best and  hide  any persistent weeds. 
Preparing the home for a viewing

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Why are house builders and their agents still deliberately mislead buyers

New homes – all sugar and spice and all things nice?   That’s what the house builders would have you believe.  Slugs and snails and snagging list tales would be closer to the truth!  

Included with last weekends Mail on Sunday was a property paper called ‘The Location’ described as – “44 pages of property inspiration.”   Within it’s covers were some of the most outrageous superlatives I have ever seen used by house builders and their selling agents to describe not only the new homes being advertised, but also the location of the developments.

 Builder ads 1

Not once were the adjectives used to describe the homes and developments backed up with any tangible statement of explanation.  Here is another translation of what the builders say and what it really means

Of the homes they were described as:

“Bespoke”  Implying that they are being built to a buyer’s own specific requirements rather than in all probability, a one-off design forced by the planning process.

“Contemporary”  This just means “of the same age; present-day” yet it is frequently used to imply state-of-the-art features, designs or specifications.

“Exclusive”  This commonly used to imply the development or properties are one of kind – hardly the case with most new homes.

“Uncompromised quality”  Really?  How is this substantiated?  So there we have it, this development does not “compromise” on quality, implying or more usefully, confirming that others do.  

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Buying a home without a full survey is a false economy.

According to The Mail on Sunday, four in every five buyers don’t bother with any home survey, let alone getting a  full survey.  This is despite the fact that if anything is found it can be used in negotiations to reduce the price.  Buying a home is undoubtedly the biggest single purchase most people make in their lifetime.  Get it wrong and it can be a mistake you could end up paying for during most of your lifetime!

Council house 2

Get a survey done before making an offer

Compared with the other costs involved with buying a home, getting a full survey done is relatively small beer when compared to legal fees, stamp duty and mortgage arrangement fees.

There are four main types of survey available.

Valuation survey

This is carried out on behalf of the mortgage lender and is not a condition survey. Do not be fooled into thinking this will give you protection and piece of mind – it won’t! A valuation survey is just that, the lender is checking the property is “valued at” actually worth the price agreed, or at the very least the amount of the mortgage. Sometimes these surveys are done by just driving past the home being bought!

Condition report

This is the most basic survey. It should highlight problems regarding structural movement, damp and woodworm, but it is not thorough. It will indicate which areas need attention but not what specific repairs are required. No professional advice is given. Typically, a condition report costs around £300.

Homebuyer report

Whilst less expensive than a full structural survey, it does provide more detailed information than a condition report. The price should include professional support or further explanations from the surveyor after the inspection. However, in some cases any specific issues noted may be advised for further investigation, leaving both buyer and seller none the wiser without further specialist investigation. A homebuyer report costs from £400 to around £650.

Full structural survey (aka Building Survey)

This is the most comprehensive survey and is strongly recommended, especially for those buying very old, listed, or period properties. It will provide a detailed, technical report regarding the condition of the property, highlight any defects and give advice on possible solutions and repairs. However the full structural survey is the most expensive and can cost around £1,000. As with anything, you get what you pay for!

Snagging inspection survey

For those buying a brand new home, a snagging survey is an absolute must. There is no need for a detailed building survey as new homes come with a 10-year warranty. However, the quality of new homes is generally poor, attention to detail is often found lacking and it can be a complete nightmare trying to get any snagging defects rectified after you have moved in.

TW Snag Light Switch

Buying a new home doesn’t mean it will be problem free!

Let’s face it, once a house builder has your money what incentive do they have to fix problems quickly? It is no good thinking, “it is a new home with a warranty”  because 96% of new homeowners experience problems of one sort or other and getting them fixed is always a hassle.  The money spent on a professional snagging inspection will always be money well spent.  Compared to other surveys, they are relatively inexpensive too, typically costing from £250 to around £450 depending on the size of the home inspected. Some of the better snagging services include liaising with house builders and support after you move in too. Advice on choosing a snagging inspector.

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Desirable Edinburgh lock-ups come complete with hefty price tags

Buyers looking for a property in Edinburgh, Scotland’s famous capital city, are likely thinking of a flat or maybe two or three-bed home in which to raise a family. Most are certainly not looking to spend to buy a £50,000 lock-up garage.

Incredibly, that seems to be the going price for a mere lock-up these days, at least according to an article in the Edinburgh Evening News.   The paper, first published in 1873 and should therefore know a thing or two about Edinburgh, reports no less than three garages with mind-boggling price tags have recently gone on sale.

The garages include a double-garage with an electric door in Inverleith Terrace Lane and another with electricity and running water in Portland Row, Leith, both priced at £50,000.    The good news, however, is the third garage, a West End lock-up, is being offered at a much more reasonable and affordable price, a mere £40,000 – the same price as a two-bed house in Muirhouse, according to the Evening News article.

Current strength

But readers will no doubt have been gladdened when the paper explained the rash of interest in the single garage on Palmerston Place is nothing more than a reflection of the current strength of the city’s property market. At least that’s the view of city property experts.

Meanwhile, back on earth, a record number of affordable homes are being built in Edinburgh with more quality housing than ever before available to rent or buy.

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Why the least expensive solicitor is never the best.

A recent report released by the Legal Ombudsman shows  a high rise in the number of complaints against solicitors – in particular against conveyancers.   One of the most serious issues that has grabbed the headlines were reports of solicitors not paying the stamp duty on behalf of their clients.   Whilst rare, this is  fraudulant.  HMRC, often many years later, are coming after homeowners for payment of the original stamp duty due with interest charges added on top.  

Deeds 2Of the 7,500 complaints received by legal ombudsman in the survey, around 18% were concerned with residential conveyancing.  It is thought that this due to a large extent, by the growth in the number of online conveyancers and so-called “tick-box, bucket shop style, call centre conveyancing services” often offering a conveyancing service for as little as £300.  

Buying a home is almost always likely to be the largest purchase most people will ever make. It is a legal transaction and buyers and sellers need professional and qualified legal representation.  Yet despite this, after looking at the other costs involved in moving home, many choose ‘cheap’ rather than ‘best’ when it comes to appointing a solicitor – a decision as the report highlights, many often deeply regret.   

It is always best to have a solicitor who is local to you so that when there are issues they can be discussed face to face.  They could be complex and if there is a problem you need a professional on your side to solve the problems on your behalf, not just part of a box ticking exercise.  You may find there are issues years later when you come to sell the house that were missed by the conveyancer when you bought.  

The advice is always to get a recommendations from people who have just bought or sold. Speak to them.  Then ask yourself: Does the solicitor sound competent? How well do they communicate?  Will they protect your interests? Feel free to negotiate on their fees but don’t skimp.   

Finally, if you are buying a newly built home, never, repeat never use the solicitor “recommended” or “suggested” by the house builder. They may claim it will be “quicker” and “easier” but you can be sure there will be a conflict of interest. In addition, under the Consumer Code for Home Builders, Requirement 2.5 states that house builders cannot restrict your choice of legal representation.

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Estate Agents start charging house buyers fees as well as sellers

Talk about having your cake and eating it, greedy estate agents have started to charge desperate buyers a “finders fee” according to The Mail Online, It says those “desperate” to move to a larger home are being asked to pay fees up to £4,000. “ the same time, the seller must also pay out the usual fee to an estate agent for selling their old home.” 

For sale board 2These new fees are yet another cost for cash-strapped buyers who are already paying ever increasing costs to move home, including 3%  Stamp Duty as well as their own estate agent’s fee to sell their property – at least 1% of the sale price. 

It is questionable if there are any advantages for buyers and estate agents are getting a great deal of bad publicity and negative attention about this practice, termed a “sales technique” in Estate Agent Today.

Buyers are being forced to pay these fees due to a shortage of properties that come onto the market. Such is the stampede for the best homes; you have to question why sellers even need an agent in the current bubble market. 

An NAEA spokesman defended the increasing use of finders’ fees, claiming it a symptom of the pressures on supply in the current market:                        “Common practice for estate agency fees is for the fee to fall to the seller in return for the agent’s role in marketing the property, securing the sale and negotiating the transition with the buyer and others who may be part of the chain. However, given the current pressures on supply in the market, some agents may well consider changing their fee structures to encourage more sellers to the market by reducing fees for those selling a property and instead introducing a finder’s fee to help buyers find the right property. In whatever instance a fee is levied, however, our code of conduct is clear that all agents must be upfront and transparent about the fee being charged” 

A probe has been launched into the borderline legality of the increasingly widespread practice of charging both sellers and buyers fees. It started as a charge to buyers when they succeeded in a “sealed bid” tender process, levying a typical fee of 2.5% of the successful bid price. However now finders’ fees to buyers are also becoming commonplace. 

Property Ombudsman Christopher Hamer said:     “the agents’ clear legal obligations are to the seller and entering into a contract with prospective buyers may well compromise that and be seen as a conflict of interest.” 

The only people this will help will be the estate agents, who will end up getting double their usual fees. It would appear they are trying to get back their crown from bankers, as the most greedy and despised profession.

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New mortgage strict affordability stress tests for borrowers

As we pointed out on 21 January, those wanting a mortgage will be subjected additional financial scrutiny under the new “affordability tests” imposed by the Financial Conduct Authority which come into force at the end of this week called the Mortgage Market Review. Many lenders have already been slowly introducing the procedure since our first article

Under the new regime, lenders will carry out a thorough “forensic” investigation of a borrower’s finances. An initial mortgage assessment at a branch could last as long as two hours according to Halifax and Santander. Lenders will want to know more details about borrower’s day to day finances, including, how much they earn, spending on food and utility bills every month, gym membership, mobile phone contracts and the size of any existing debts. 

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Ultra low interest rates a stealth tax on savers creating a house price bubble

The country is £1.2trillion in debt. The national debt has tripled in the last 10 years and the cost of interest to service this debt is the fourth largest cost to the country, behind education, welfare and health. The interest payments on the national debt cost each of the 30 million UK taxpayers more than £1,650 a year. Yet this Chancellor appears to have “spare money” to give to house builders? In a little under a year, according to figures from the Home Builders Federation (HBF), 55,000 reservations have been made using Help to Buy. Now the scheme has been extended to 2020, at the current rate around 385,000 new homes could be sold using the Help to Buy state-subsidy. 

MoneyThe Bank of England interest rate has been stuck at 0.5% for five years now – the lowest rate for 300 years. Who has this benefited? The winners are – anyone with a mortgage they shouldn’t really be able to afford, companies looking for cheap debt and the government, which has been able to add to the national debt aided by the very low rates. Oh and those that own shares, especially house builders shares. 

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High stamp duty costs result in fewer homes being sold

A bubble housing market with fewer homes being sold?                              Could the reason be Stamp Duty? A report in The Times highlighted that in the 1980’s, around 12% of all houses changed ownership every year. Last year the figure was just 4%. There are thought to be several reasons for this. More people are buying for an investment rather than to live in the home. Older people are living longer, meaning fewer of their homes are coming onto the market. The higher price of homes is also preventing people from trading up to a larger home as their families grow, with the government controlling both supply, via planning rules and high taxes and demand, bubbling up prices with schemes and subsidies such as Help to Buy.

Stamp DutyBut the main reason why many are staying put is the huge rise of the cost of stamp duty.   In the 1980’s,  no stamp duty was payable on homes that sold for less than £30,000 and only 1% was payable on everything else. Today, you pay nothing on homes under £125,000, but the rates increase until you are paying 4% on a £500,000 home and 5% on £1million property and that is on the total price, not just the proportion above each threshold. It could get worse in the future if nothing is done.

In teh UK a house worth £100,000 in 1985 (£150,000 in 1995) would cost about £525,000 today. In 1995, the stamp duty payable would have been just £1,500. If prices had gone up by general inflation since then (a lot less than they have) you would pay £2,442 stamp duty in today’s money. But even at today’s prices, at 1% you would still be paying only £5,250. But to buy the same house now, the stamp duty payable is £21,000.  No small wonder people are not moving as often as they used to!

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Borrowers stress-tested as mortgage approval gets harder

Potential home buyers are financially stress-tested as rules force lenders to crackdown on risky mortgages

Has Help to Buy really made it any easier to get a mortgage? Lenders are now using affordability stress tests based on borrower’s monthly spending and an interest rate of 7%!

house-of-moneyUnder the new system, lenders are carrying out a thorough “forensic” investigation of a borrower’s finances. They will want to know more details about your day to day finances, including, how much you earn, how much you spend on food and utility bills every month, gym membership, mobile phone contracts and the size of your existing debts.

The new checks are based on the Mortgage Market Review outlined by the regulator, do not officially come into force until 26 April 2014. However, the new rules are already being followed by most of the country’s big lenders as part of a crackdown on risky lending.

House pircesThe new affordability stress tests will be based on interest rates hitting 7% during the next five years, even though repayments may never reach this level. Potential borrowers will be refused mortgages unless they can demonstrate they will still be able to afford the repayments should interest rates rise.

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