Greedy estate agents are making the process of selling your home longer, more difficult and far more stressful than it needs to be. They are also costing homeowners thousands of pounds. A report by the Nottingham Building Society found that overpricing is a major problem across the country, causing headaches for thousands of sellers.
Its survey revealed that 41% of people who have sold a house in the past five years, said the price they finally sold for was lower than their original target. It also showed that around one in 12 had to settle for a considerably lower price than they had originally hoped for.
In some parts of the country the problem was particularly bad. In Yorkshire and Humberside, 57% of people had to drop the price to sell, while in the South West and the North West 55% of people did, in the North East 50% of people did, and the South East 44% of people did.
The Nottingham says it highlights the importance of realistic valuations from the start, along with the kind of support needed to help people make the right decision as to how to price their home. Su Snaith, Head of Estate Agency at The Nottingham, said: "Price is not all that matters when you are selling your house but it can be absolutely vital if you are relying on a certain price for your next purchase, which means realistic valuations are essential."
Why asking prices are cut - and why it's a bad thing
The issue lies in estate agents who don't care what you want, and aren't focused on a realistic sale price. They just want to inflate the price to win the business. They know that if your home doesn't end up selling at the inflated price, you have signed a contract, and you're stuck with them, so they can suggest you reduce the price to match more realistic valuations from other agents and you cannot move.
By now, of course, buyers will have seen your home sitting around with no interest, so they will assume there is something undesirable about the property. The risk is that you have less interest than if you started with a realistic asking price, and it may even fail to sell with a sensible price tag.
If you cut the price again, buyers see a home with a series of incremental price cuts, and get the impression that the house is failing to sell at any price. Instead of tempting the bargain hunters, you run the risk of making your property toxic. Sam Ashdown, author of The Home Truths, points out that nobody is keen to snap anything up when the price is falling, because they can hang on and get it even cheaper.
What can you do?
If your home is hanging around on the market, then there are five things you need to do to get the estate agent to start making money for you rather than risk losing you a sale.
1. Get other agents to price up the property. That way you will have an idea of how realistic your asking price is. Also ask them for feedback on anything you can do to make the property more saleable. Only if they all say the property is very overpriced should you make a change.
2. 'Stage' your property. At this stage you don't want to be decorating, but you need to sort anything that's incredibly off-putting. This includes tidying up, removing large or dominant pieces of furniture, and possibly painting anything very tired or unfashionable. You should also think in investing in some fashionable and luxurious accessories that you can take with you, which will improve how the property looks dramatically.
3. Get your agent to send in a better photographer. You may need to be pushy on this one, and if push comes to shove, you may need to employ a professional yourself, but they will come armed with good lighting, and the tricks of the trade that will make your property look 100 times better than the original photos.
4. Push your estate agent on the marketing. Look through the details they have sent you, Are they selling your home, or just filling in the bare minimum? Where are they advertising? Have they featured your home in any of their marketing drives? They will make a decent sum out of selling your property, so they need to work for the money.
5. Get them to show you round the property. Are they doing enough to sell it? Are they showing rooms off to their best advantage, and pointing out the benefits? Are there things you can tell them about how you live in the property that may help - is the patio a lovely place for an evening glass of wine, is there somewhere that the Christmas tree looks stunning, or are the neighbours particularly lovely?
Once you start to push for a better service, it's safe to say you won't be the agent's best friend, but if they know the only way to get you off their backs is to put some effort in and sell the property, you may be surprised how many buyers they can get through the door.
That way they'll start making money for you instead of costing you dear.