During a boom, as a seller, you can afford to be careless about how you present your home. Buyers seem ever present and your main concerns tend to revolve around the vaguely unwelcome disturbance of viewers wandering around your home and whether you have set your sale price high enough.
However, during a property crisis matters are very different. Buyers are scarce, canny and looking for bargains. They know they have the upper hand and that they can buy what they want and normally at a significant discount on any sale price.
In theory, they can just view countless properties and make tough offers until they pick up an absolute bargain.
So, are you doomed not to sell - unless you drop your price to an absurdly low level? Of course not.
Buying a property is a delicate process that is rarely only about value for money. We are, after all, humans and therefore emotional and driven as much by subjectivity as the raw facts. This is easy to forget when you are frustrated seller watching sale prices of houses around you dropping into a void.
In fact, people generally buy properties because they ‘fall in love’ with them or because one is ‘everything we always dreamed of’. This is because the atmosphere of a property ‘moves’ a buyer and creates a ‘must have’ sensation. It is this powerful and deeply compelling characteristic that you must strive to achieve when you are preparing your home for sale. If you are successful in doing this you will increase your chances of selling significantly:
Few matters are more important to buyers than a ‘feeling’ of space. This is as important to someone seeking a studio flat as a person wanting a luxury villa.
Look at photographs in interiors magazines and see how fantastically desirable are the properties and what they all have in common – no clutter. Surfaces are clear and furniture minimal.
So, remove everything that in any way reduces the ‘sensation’ of space. This may have to include possessions that are dear to you. Few people will ever buy your property because of your belongings, so be ruthless and consider them as distractions. Store away as many as possible for the time being.
Make sure your property is filled with natural light as possible. A lack of plentiful natural light strikes deeply into the subconscious with places that are gloomy and always producing a negative sensation.
Get rid of any heavy vellum curtains and net curtains (however inconvenient in the short term). Make sure that windows are clean, heavy curtains are pulled well back and that any nearby vegetation or trees do not darken your house.
Deliver the dream
A few well placed bottles of champagne, a full wine rack and some yachting/golfing magazines can provide a high life ‘feel’ to a room. Fresh fruit and flowers always add colour and the smell of freshly ground coffee can be effective.
Make sure that the Mediterranean al fresco ‘ideal’ is emphasised - so ensure that any outside terrace looks welcoming and that your swimming pool (if you have one) has immaculate clear water.
Few things are more off-putting than properties that are unclean, messy, greasy or smell of cigarette smoke, damp or pungent incense sticks. Keep your house well aired and centralise all extraneous mess in one discreet area preferably away from the main body of the accommodation.
Prune trees and shrubs, clear your garden of weeds and undergrowth, power wash terraced areas and paths and make sure that your garden looks easy to maintain. Also mend broken gates, fix dripping taps and ‘sticking’ doors or windows.
Repaint scuffed areas of paintwork to provide an impression of care – if a buyer sees small areas of neglect he will suspect that your house has more profound problems
If you have a viewing, make sure that your property is warm (rather than too hot!). This is particularly important during the winter months when Spanish homes can be naturally chilly and enhance a buyer’s disappointment at coming to Spain and finding themselves uncomfortably cold. If this is the case, then their visit will be short and hurried.
Few properties are more difficult to sell than unlived in, empty shells. ‘Dress’ your property so that it feels like a permanent home and not somewhere that is temporary or deserted.
Always retain furniture in your property together with pictures, curtains, towels and the minimum obvious objects to give the impression that someone is living there all the time.
The impression of a buyer is not restricted to just within the boundaries of your property. Rubbish piling up close by, a badly potholed road, excessive weeds on pavements and discarded junk all provide a negative impression.
It may hurt to clean up the mess of others (or do the work of the town hall!) but it is essential to ensure that the immediate environment of your home looks good and not neglected.
So, get out there and fill in the worst of the potholes and regularly get rid of any junk and rubbish!
If your property is identical to many others close by, try to give it some aesthetic individuality (without being too extreme!). This may mean painting your property a different colour, having window boxes of colourful flowers, an enclosed naya, adding wooden shutters or perhaps some pretty water feature in the garden beside an imaginative shaded seating area.
Make sure your property stands out and has the capacity to leave a positive and distinctive memory.
Always give the impression to any potential buyers that you are perfectly relaxed and content. Never appear nervous, never over-sell and never mention anything derogatory about your home.
Have a plausible reason for wanting to sell and make sure that reason has nothing to do with anything that could be considered a negative about your property (‘we would like an en-suite’, ‘need a bigger garage’, ‘the garden takes too much effort’, ‘we hardly use the the pool’ etc.).
Take time to think about the best possible perception you can promote to your potential market and constantly work on presenting a seductive ‘dream’ to potential buyers. Obviously, never give the impression of being manipulative. However, do not forget that it is the first singular minutes that are the most important during a viewing and that any initial negative perception is extremely difficult to overcome subsequently. Finally, remember that normally you have only one brief chance to impress a potential buyer – so do not waste it.
23 September 2009
This article is reprinted with the permission of Nick Snelling, He is the author of ‘How to Sell your Spanish Property in a Crisis’ and ‘Taking the Heat’ available from Amazon and all good book stores. For further information or articles see: www.nicholassnelling.com
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