The property market has slowed to a dead stop. The experts are using cheery-sounding phrases like 'It's a stagnant market' and the 'momentum is continuing to ebb'. London developers have started offering freebies to tempt buyers - from cars to iPads and travel passes. Elsewhere those who have a house stuck on the market have cut the price - by an average of £25,000. However, for anyone hoping to sell their home without slashing the price, there is still hope.
There's no such thing as an average house, so while there may be thousands of homes that won't shift, there are ways to ensure that yours is the most attractive in the area for buyers.
Research from Gocompare has identified the 20 features that buyers consider must-haves, and we explore the ones worth investing in; those that should be mentioned during a viewing; and the ones worth faking.
1. Central heating (69% see it as a must-have)
There are some things that most buyers feel they can't live without, so if it's missing, it's usually worth the upheaval and the expense to upgrade the property. Top of this list is central heating - listed as a must-have for 69% of people.
2. Double glazing (68%)
Whether it's worth worrying about depends on the property, the number of windows you have, and the type of buyer you are expecting. If you have a relatively valuable home, and you can double-glaze the property for £10,000, there's a good chance this can be repaid with a quick sale and less of a drop in the price.
3. A garden (65%)
There's not a vast amount you can do about this if you don't have a garden, but if you do, it's essential to make the most of it. Clear back anything overgrown to make it look as big as possible, re-seed the lawn and plant bedding plants to make it look attractive. Keep on top of the weeding too, so buyers don't dwell on the work involved.
It's also worth thinking about how aspirational buyers will want to use the garden. If, for example, there's a corner that gets the late afternoon sun, set up a couple of chairs and a table, so that during viewings you can paint a picture of relaxing with a gin and tonic in the evening.
4. Secure doors and windows (61%)
This is the easiest and quickest win of all, because all you need to add is sensible locks on each one.
5. A driveway or dedicated parking space (54%)
Think how key this is on your particular road. If it's essential, then look into the practicalities of turning the front garden into a driveway. Once you factor in the application to the council for dropping the kerb, and the cost of the drive itself, you could spend £2,000 or more, but this will be repaid several times over if parking is at a premium in the road.
If there's always plenty of parking on your road, then it is less of an issue. One handy trick is to keep your car parked outside. Then when you have a viewing, move the car. That way, there's a good chance that when the buyers arrive they will find a parking space directly outside our house, and won't worry about parking.
If you have a driveway - especially if you create one - make sure you move the car during viewings. You want to give buyers a sense of the ample parking space, and that's easier to appreciate when it's empty.
6. Plenty of electrical sockets (54%)
Buyers will mentally take thousands of pounds off the price for doing the electrics if you have extension cables trailing all over the house. Adding new sockets can involve plenty of work, and re-plastering, so unless your home has a ridiculously small number of sockets, you should be able to get around this just by staging your home carefully.
The first step is to look around your house and make a note of any extensions you can see. The basic rule of thumb is that if you cannot hide them, then you need to do away with them. First remove any gadgets that you can live without for a month - or can dig out of a box in the garage if you need to. If you're still short of sockets, then brace yourself for a few weeks of mild annoyance as you unplug one gadget and plug another one in.
If people see extension cables, it rings alarm bells: If they don't, they don't even think to question the number of plug points in the room.
7. Local shops and amenities (50%)
There's not much you can do if you live in the middle of nowhere. However, if you live in an area with plenty going on, it's worth mentioning this at any viewings. If there's a key shop within five minutes' walk, the kids walk to school, or you have a favourite pub around the corner, all of these are worth dropping in conversation.
Other easy wins
The rest of the top 20 are seen as must-haves by fewer than half of buyers, but it's worth considering them when you are staging your home or showing people around.
8. A good, reliable broadband connection (49%). If you have it, drop it in conversation.
9. Friendly neighbours (46%). If you get along, mention it. You could even suggest they speak to your neighbours about what it's like living in the area - although it's worth asking the neighbours in advance if that's OK.
10. At least two toilets (46%). It may be worth getting a quote from a plumber about the cost and practicality of installing a toilet under the stairs. If it's a reasonable space, and the water and waste supplies are handy, then for a relatively reasonable outlay, you can address something that buyers can get fairly obsessed with.
11. A bath (46%). If you have space for one, it may be worth asking a plumber about the cost of reinstating it - especially if you are selling a family home.
12. A good energy efficiency rating (46%). Your estate agent will have dug one out, so if it's good, it's worth mentioning.
13. A new boiler (45%). It's worth having yours serviced. That way, you have it in writing that even if it's not brand new, it's still working perfectly.
14. A reliable, clear mobile phone signal (44%). If you have this in your home, make sure you mention it
15. A shower cubicle (40%). If you have the space, get a quote for installing it. It may not be worth forking out a fortune for, but if it's affordable it could increase the property's attractions for two in five buyers.
16. A garage (39%). If you have one, it's worth clearing as much as possible, so buyers can see the space rather than the clutter. There's never been a better time for a car boot sale.
17. Cavity wall insulation (38%). Get a quote, because this can be very affordable, and not too disruptive.
18. A landline telephone (38%). If you have one, you can mention it. People seem keen - despite the fact it may seem a bit outdated.
19. A living room big enough for a flat screen TV (37%). If you have a big TV, ask a friend if it seems a bit imposing (it can be hard to see that sort of thing when you're used to it). One option to make it seem less dominant is to mount it on the wall. It's also worth considering painting the wall behind as a darker feature wall so it blends in.
20. A dining room (35%). This is a matter of staging. If you have something that used to be a dining room and has become a study/games room/dumping ground, then it's time to clear the clutter and stage it as a dining room, so people can see the potential.