After decades writing about the property market and counselling put-upon estate agents (no they don’t smile all the time) I realise that almost everyone makes a mistake when they’re selling their home.
Some make small mistakes and correct them quickly. Others make a lump of stonking great big mistakes at once, ignore professional advice and lose money large or the sale of their home as a result.
To help you avoid them, here (in my view) are the 10 most common mistakes made by Irish home vendors.
1 They appoint the wrong estate agent
Ireland is a country obsessed with networking, be it former schoolmates, GAA club contacts, golf or rugby club buddies, political contacts, or extended family. So a good chunk of us choose a professional just because we know them personally or know somebody who does.
But for selling your home, you should get the person who will be the best for the job, not the one you know best.
With estate agencies you need to choose between one of the big networks or a small operator. The latter can work out well in their own back yard because they know the ground, the homes and the people. They are also likely to give you more of their personal time and attention.
But as in any business, there are good and bad. Don’t move the competent small guy you play tennis with out of the locale he or she excels in and dump them into yours where they know nothing.
Large networks offer the benefit of nationwide exposure. Through economies of scale on marketing, they can get your home under everybody’s nose. The problem comes when they appoint an inexperienced youngster to sell your property. The best case for hiring a larger network is where they have swallowed up the business of, or hired, a local operator with local smarts.
2 They appoint their agent based on the lowest fee
Irish people tend to think houses sell themselves and so go for the lowest fee.
When I sold my first home there were three similar properties on offer on my road. I paid twice as much in fees than all the rest to have the right agent.
Two of the other properties were sold by chancers flying under a convenience brand that wasn’t too fussy about experience and qualifications. They were in aluminium sales one week and home sales the next. Those houses sold at over 10pc less than mine. The vendors paid less to lose more. Conversely, a higher fee should reflect a solid and recognised brand with a big reputation and a rock hard sales record.
3 They leave dirt and smells
The number one killer of homes sales is dirt and nasty lingering smells. When it comes to couples, women buy houses. The male part of the equation may have power of veto, but she picks out the house that they will end up buying.
Agents will tell you that women will walk away from dirt and smells even though the house just needs a deep clean. Odours the owner has acclimatised to in carpets, curtains and kitchens can cost tens of thousands in this market. A stripped out but clean and odourless home will sell better than a smelly furnished one. New paint provides a fresh clean whiff associated with new homes.
4 They don’t declutter
By ‘clutter’ we mean your day to day stuff, aside from relevant furniture. Books, clothes, magazines, delph, wellies, umbrellas, coats all makes the house look smaller and congested, even though you don’t think so. It’s about what others think.
Hire some storage. Ship out everything. Agents advise thinking about what you’d find in a hotel. No more than that.
5 They don’t neutralise and depersonalise
When someone walks into a house and sees masses of photos of graduations, weddings and communions everywhere, it brings home to them that this is very much someone else’s home. It diminishes their ability to imagine it as theirs. So get all the family pics out.
You might love that purple wall and how it works great with the black ceiling. But selling a house is about appealing to the widest audience. You’ll hate to do it, but get the magnolia in.
6 They don’t make themselves scarce
While most vendors are sensible enough to remove themselves from their homes before viewers come to inspect it, some people stupidly insist on stay in situ.
Their presence, even in another room, intimidates viewers who feel they are invading someone else’s privacy.
In a worse case scenario, idiot vendors talk: “I’m really sorry about the mess” (there’s none). Or “Mammy, God love her, died in that room.”
7 They don’t really want to sell
The bane of estate agents and home hunters alike is the idiot vendor who hasn’t thought it through.
Agents could retire if they had a penny for every time they heard this after four months with a sign up: “Do you know what? When I really thought about it, I realised all my friends live around here, and my family is near, and I realised how much I love this house. So why would I ever sell?”
So, DO “really think about it” before you think about putting up a sign. Save us all the grief.
8 They know better than their agent
We wouldn’t think twice about over-ruling our dentist (no actually I think that abscess will go away by itself) nor our accountant (well I know someone who didn’t pay that tax and nothing happened to them).
But for some reason, Irish people think they know everything about property because they live in a house or bought/sold one.
And the biggie is over-ruling their agent’s advice is on price. Because everyone thinks their home is worth more than it is. “Oh no, that’s way too low. Sure didn’t we spend €100,000 on that extension alone.”
Estate agents know what they’re doing when establishing the asking price. It means absolutely nothing more than an opening position from which to coax bids.
Almost no one achieves their asking price. So the asking prices you’ve seen for similar properties in your neighbourhood also don’t indicate true value. They can ask and ask and ask. It’s about what they get.
The agent might hope to get €700k for a home, but put it on the market for €625k because in the current rising market buyers will look at €700k and think “that’s going to go for €750k.”
But how high or low you open is crucial. So go with your agent’s advice. If you know better, sell it yourself.
9 They’re also trying to buy a home at the same time as they’re selling
You’re fooling nobody and in this market you will become unstuck. No one wants to buy a home from someone who only transacts on the basis that they can nail a good deal themselves. There is a special place in hell for idiots who collapse chains and hurt everyone else into the bargain.
10 Pure greed
“If we’re already at €40k over the asking price, why not just hold out...”
This speaks for itself and it’s the biggest vendor vice of all.