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Seller’s guide

As valuable capital assets, London property invariably 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; a career 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. They should 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 a professional 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 trends which 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 next three points 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 have the 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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Hong Kongers will always consider London as a key investment

As real estate in the UK begins its recovery after subsequent lockdowns, there is more positivity around and confidence is returning to the market. Since the beginning of March, shortly after the UK Government announced a detailed roadmap for getting back to normal, our Hong Kong office saw a surge of interest, with London property investment the primary focus. When I joined Benham and Reeves Hong Kong office earlier in 2021, following the positive roll-out of vaccines in the UK, investors could see a clear way forward. And at the beginning of March, we started to see a real uptake in property sales which was a clear demonstration of the confidence that international buyers have in the wider UK economy. London property, in particular, remains at the top of the list (as ever), and we’ve also seen a surge of enquiries because of the BNO Visa scheme which provides a route to British Citizenship. Understanding what motivates Hong Kong investors is key I started my career in international residential property back in 2008 when the world was facing the global financial crisis. At that time, I had the advantage of working under the mentorship of a few London property experts whose vast experience and connections were combined with the right property propositions, made available to Asian investors, and I gained a lot of knowledge of what makes a good investment. My policy has always been to provide a customised, one-stop service to investors, from providing research and background advice on property purchase, through to leasing and management services and resale when the right opportunity arises. I have a strong base of clients who are recurring investors in the London market as they have experienced good capital appreciation and rental returns which London historically offers. I believe my experience is especially beneficial for new buyers, those looking for an overseas investment, investing in the UK market for the first time. With my property expertise, I have always ‘walked the talk’ and was a pioneer investor in the North- London regeneration project at Woodberry Down where I have seen capital values increased a staggering 96% since first launch in 2012, so I think I bought very well. Looking back, if I had that time again, I would also have bought a 1 or 2 bedroom apartment in Berkeley London’s Dickens Yard development in Ealing which was also recommended to me back in 2012 – the year when London hosted the Olympics - but Ealing was not top of my radar at that time. The area has also seen huge growth, almost doubling its value too and provides a good rental income with its continued success. Now there is Filmworks and other schemes coming to the area and the location has been totally transformed.

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Why Hong Kongers favour London as an investment Currently, there are two groups of Hong Kong buyers; those who buy mainly for investment, these are seasoned investors who know London well: London has proved that it is an extremely resilient City, an international hub for business with a prosperous jobs market and these are rudiments that underpin confidence. And there are individuals who are buying for own use as they consider migration options to the UK on the BNO Visa. There has always been an affinity in investing in London due to the long colonial history but especially so with the new BNO system which allows BNO holders and their immediate family members to live and work for an extended period of time, and the possibility of applying for the British citizenship. Zone 1 prime central London verses outer prime While Zone 1 central London due to its established market, continues to be an aspirational asset for many investors and largely preferred by established investors hunting for good deals, we are seeing more and more Hong Kong investors looking for increased value further afield. They are eyeing regeneration areas in the outer Zones 3-4 which offers good value and solid returns of beyond 4%. Families looking to relocate to London are also on the increase with high importance on a friendly neighbourhood with quality amenities and schools for their children. Family friendly areas outside of Zone 1 such as Barnet, Harrow and Greenwich are top choices for current investments. The Brexit effect on the buying habits of Hong Kong investors Now we have the conclusion of Brexit, Hong Kong investors are even stronger in their commitment to the London property market. The UK Government’s extension of the Stamp Duty tax has also provided more certainty and confidence towards the resilience of the London market. On top of this, the recent BNO visa policy has also given more Hong Kong BNO holders a reason to purchase homes in the UK. Looking to the future Here at Benham and Reeves, we act as a bespoke consultancy to Hong Kong investors. We work directly with select UK developers offering hand-picked projects that offer high quality and solid returns for all our buyers. Due to our long years of establishment, we have a good landlord base with access to of some of the best gems of the London secondary property market. 2020 saw us celebrate 25 years’ operating in Hong Kong and our ‘edge’ is not just providing buying and selling services to Hong Kong buyers, but also support on the rental, furnishing and tax filing services which our clients have come to greatly value. I think the pandemic has really refocused property investors and they are now reviewing their portfolios to ensure they have diversified sources of income. The UK continues to present attractive returns and increased growth potential. If anyone reading this would like to get in touch, our Hong Kong team can introduce a number of opportunities for new and second-hand properties.

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