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Seller’s guide

As valuable capital assets, London propertyinvariably yields handsome rewards for the astute investor by providing vital building blocks for portfolio expansion and diversification. It is vital, therefore, to regard the selling of a home as a tactical business decision to be undertaken with the aim of reducing costs and increasing the return on investment. The difference between a moderately profitable transaction and a financial windfall is usually down to the timing and levels of preparation that you’re ready to undertake and it’s in these areas that the expertise and advice of an established estate agent becomes an essential resource.

Make a plan

There can be many reasons for selling and some are more time sensitive than others; acareer relocation, schools, new addition to the family or even a need or desire to free up capital. Even if there are no time pressures, it helps to set a schedule, so that all the different components of the sale fall into place. Set aside a period for research of, not only the local property market, but also prospective estate agents, conveyance experts and local tradespersons should you need them. Assess the costs involved as well as the time their services will require.

Choosing an agent

Estate agents who claim that they can sell your property quickly are not necessarily the right people for the job. Agents will be in regular contact with you through what is widely acknowledged to be a pretty intense and stressful period, so it is important you do your homework and choose your agent carefully. You can spot the good ones by their proven experience and willingness to be transparent. Some questions to ask are:

  • How long have you been handling property for sale in London
  • What Government recognised memberships are you part of for accountability
  • What areas of London do you cover and know well
  • What other properties like mine have you sold recently
  • Can you provide evidence of your service through client testimonials
Marketing your London property

Good agents should be able to market your property readily, as soon as you instruct them. Theyshould also take professional, high quality photographs that show your property in the best light possible, guaranteeing plenty of interest. They’ll also give you tips on getting the rooms ready. Benham and Reeves also provide a video and floorplan, not all agents do, so do ask them what is included, where and how they will be marketing your property to ensure it reaches the maximum audience.

Accurate valuation

Maintaining a careful balance between attracting buyers and maximising profits should start with aprofessional and accurate valuation of your property. This serves as a solid base for negotiation and will enable you to budget accurately as you decide how much to spend on getting the property ready for market.

Benham and Reeves offer a free online valuation that can be accessed via our website and this is a good place to start. As you research, you’ll soon recognise that the age, size and location of your home are major factors in any valuation calculation, as is the state of the economy and these are variables that are more or less out of your control. There are, however, some other things that can be done in order to give your property the best chance of attracting the full market price.

Of course, any potential buyer will also be carrying out a survey and that’s where things get a bit more detailed and it’s important to have most of these bases covered. These details are what potential buyers will be looking at:

  • Structural improvements
    Additional rooms like loft conversions or extra bathrooms give more space and usually add value.
  • Fittings
    Modern kitchens are a definite must.
  • Room layout
    Open-plan living has become a way of life in the UK allowing more light into the home and in keeping with contemporary lifestyle trendswhich focuses on the kitchen/dining space as the heart of the home.
  • Electrics/heating
    New property developments score heavily here with many home features such as climate control and underfloor heating technology. You may need to consider adding some features yourself to add value if practicable.
  • Double Glazing
    Essential for keeping those energybills in check but do ask your Estate Agent if glazing your property will add the selling value you are looking for.
  • Storage space
    Storage becomes extra important when the home has reached its limits in terms of size and floor area so creating a solution for storage might be helpful.
  • Wear and Tear
    Paintwork, flooring and kitchen units don’t last forever and heavily used areas invariably need constant care and attention so do look carefully at the state of yours and how this might impact offers from buyers.

It should be noted that once you have done your research, a formal valuation should be sought and this is best performed by a qualified agent who will need to visit your property to take a proper look at the size and condition. It is advisable to get the valuation in writing as you may need this if hoping to secure a mortgage loan in principle.Contact us if you would like to arrange a free, no obligation of your property.

Best home presentation

So you have a property with great potential, near to vital transport links and full of attractive features. How do you add further value?The nextthreepoints focus on cost-effective strategies that can be carried with minimal fuss and bother:

  • Declare war on clutter. Be ruthless about all those unused items that have been blocking doors and covering floors. Make use of dead space to create storage areas and maintain this discipline, even while you’re carrying out home improvements. In fact, decorating a home presents a golden opportunity for getting rid of any superfluous items.
  • All homes benefit from a lick of fresh paint, especially in communal areas. Keep it neutral and tasteful – this is not the time for experimentation. Leave space for the buyer’s imagination to take over as they step into the property.
  • Make sure doors close properly and that light switches work. These are things that viewers will pick up immediately and will attribute to sloppiness rather than just “wear and tear”.
Soft furnishings that have high appeal

Potential buyers looking for a home in London can be pretty much spoiled for choice, especially when they’re looking at a new build. So it’s wise to ensure you havethe competitive edge when selling as there are likely to be other apartments for sale particularly if it’s a large scale property development built over several phases. You don’t have to make major renovations to impress. A selection of stylish and tasteful soft furnishings can transform your property from “Next, please” to “Yes please!”

Some estate agents have close relationships with interior design and furnishings experts and will make helpful suggestions regarding your property. High quality furnishings, accessories and artwork don’t have to cost the earth and their knack of providing eye-catching focal points often prove invaluable.

Services such as:

  • Furnishing packages
    As these are pre-designed, they can be often be delivered and installed quickly and also be tailored to suit your property.
  • Homestaging
    This service takes a more in-depth approach, but is still relatively easy to do. It involves looking at not only furniture items, but lighting, decluttering solutions and colour schemes. We would generally recommend this for larger houses although it can be an effective option if a smaller property is sticking for whatever reason.
  • Window dressing
    More than just an afterthought, getting a designer window treatment will impress potential buyers before they step across the doorway.
  • Art
    The London cultural calendar is full of affordable art events and they’re all worth a visit. Track down a picture or sculpture that complements the décor of your property and lifts it out of the ordinary. Of course, you’ll be taking your art with you when you go, but try not to be too funky – they are primarily devices for selling your property.
Viewings

Once you have instructed an agent, every viewing of your property should be treated as a potential sale. Keep the property in tip-top condition and take notice of any feedback or suggestions that might come your way; either from the agent or a prospective buyer.

Some agents do not need you to be available for every viewing but in some instances, it can be helpful – be guided by your agent.

Legal matters

Don’t leave the choice of a conveyance solicitor to the last minute or to chance. Your estate agent will be able to point you to any number of experienced professionals who will be able to take on the legal heavy lifting that goes with selling a property.

Getting your property ready involves getting your paperwork ready as well. Good solicitors will have all documentation up to date and accessible before you accept any offer. They’ll then keep in touch with your agent as to the progress of the sale and have contracts ready to sign as soon as both parties are ready.

Before your property can be marketed, you will be required to complete a property information questionnaire. This will ask you to include relevant information relating to any issues you may have regarding your property boundaries or any dispute with neighbours; whether you have appropriate approvals for any building works or freeholder consent for things like loft conversions or extensions. You will also be asked to mention any known defects. It is recommended that you be as transparent as possible from the outset as answers that are vague or incomplete are most likely to come up during the conveyancing process which could delay things and cost you more money in the long run. It could also impact the outcome of your sale.

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The London property market – June 2020

The housing market has re-opened and in the first two weeks since restrictions were eased, we have seen growing numbers of enquiries from renters looking to move home. Of course, the rental market we are seeing now is very different to how it was pre-lockdown. There is a lot of housing stock coming onto the market at the moment. In part this is due to Airbnb owners with empty properties looking to find long-term tenants for their properties, as tourism has ground to a halt. Many students have vacated their properties and returned home, while some professionals have had to leave their rental properties because they have been made redundant or furloughed and are unable to pay the rent. That’s the bad news. But there is a positive side.

Tenants’ priorities are changing

We are again starting to find new homes for professionals who are looking to upgrade or move somewhere bigger at the end of their current lease because they are now working from home, perhaps indefinitely. Working from home may be the new normal for many, at least for some of the time, so a dedicated work space or additional bedroom may become a ‘must have’. The Covid-19 lockdown has also seen renters re-assess their priorities and as well as desire more internal space, many are looking for a home with outside space such as a balcony or patio.

Working within the new guidelines

So rental demand is steadily returning but of course, this is a very challenging environment for all of us. Our lettings teams, including our directors, remain mainly based at home and are working extremely hard for landlords and tenants at all stages of the letting process, examining each transaction on a case by case basis and liaising between both parties if there is any disagreement to reach a satisfactory outcome. This could be when negotiating a new tenancy agreement, renewing an existing lease, assessing a tenant’s ability to pay their current rent or surrendering a lease.

Virtual viewings now an essential part of our service

Virtual viewings were already increasing in popularity pre-lockdown but now they have come into their own and are an essential part of our service for applicants. Applicants are now viewing properties online initially, before seeing the property first hand, reducing the number of properties they see in person. Some have even signed a new tenancy agreement simply on the basis of a virtual tour. And we expect this trend to continue, even when life returns to ‘normal’.

Property viewings have resumed in numbers

Each of our 16 London lettings branches now has a member of the lettings team conducting viewings in person, where necessary. All our staff are, of course, following strict guidelines including maintaining a two metre distance, washing hands regularly and minimising contact with anything in the property, including door handles. They wear a face mask and are spending as little time inside the property as possible. For more information on current government guidance, go to: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/housing-secretary-sets-out-plan-to-re-start-housing-market

Demand for good quality rental properties is picking up

Demand for good quality rental homes started to pick up again as soon as the housing market re-opened although demand is clearly nowhere near pre-lockdown levels. But it might be interesting to look at just a few of the transactions that have completed already. For example, in the first two weeks since the housing market re-opened, our Hammersmith/Fulham Reach branch concluded a couple of new tenancies. The first was for a two bed apartment at Distillery Wharf at £825 per week – a thirty six month tenancy with a twelve month break clause. The couple moved in two weeks after their offer was agreed. At nearby Faulkner House another tenant moved into a one bed flat at a rent of £525 per week, moving in immediately, which meant the landlord experienced no void period at all. Meanwhile, our Nine Elms branch immediately concluded three deals, with tenants planning to move into new apartments in June. The branch also received two new instructions as soon as the lockdown rules were relaxed while a further six tenants are currently in the process of being referenced or moving in to new rental homes. Also, during the first two weeks, our Knightsbridge branch commenced viewings again, with 10 tenancies being agreed and references now underway for tenants. Our Highgate branch concluded a new tenancy for a large, family home while at Beaufort Park, three properties were let within days. Of course, this is just a snapshot of what has been happening at several of our branches in the immediate post-lockdown phase but it is a clear indicator that rental demand is starting to increase and that, where possible, tenants are again starting to work out how they can resume their normal lives. And an interesting trend we’ve already noticed is that many applicants are looking to agree longer tenancies than previously. Many of the properties we’ve mentioned have been rented for two or even three years (with break clauses) indicating that tenants are looking for stability in these uncertain times. So, there are plenty of good news stories around for landlords and we remain committed to keep London moving.

Property sales in London

The property sales market in London is also seeing a surge in enquiries from investors and we’re finding our webinars to be a real help, allowing us to keep in touch and update our clients with the latest news. Our clients recognise that property investment in London is very much a long-term proposition so this period of volatility could represent an excellent time to buy property in London. Of course, many investors are simply making enquiries at this stage but they are doing their research, determining what type of property they wish to buy in terms of size, location and price and using this time to prepare and find themselves a good deal before the property market starts to strengthen again.

Successful property investment webinars

We’ve had a tremendous response to our new webinars too, with several hundred investors attending each one. They’ve allowed us to answer investment related questions about the current situation and give up-to-the-minute advice on current opportunities as they happen. This could be on any subject from which new developments are planning to launch; schemes which are offering the best discounts; maximising their existing investments through to re-mortgaging or refurbishment for maintaining the value of their properties. We’ve had great feedback from clients and some new rental property instructions too which has been good to see. Our webinars are free so to sign up for our upcoming events, visit our webinars page.

Please get in touch

We have remained open throughout this crisis, albeit in a different capacity, and we believe clients recognise our commitment to maintaining as comprehensive a service as possible. While our teams are still working from home most of the time, most are nearby our branch locations and you can contact any one of us in the usual way, and we are here, ready to respond.

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