Selling a flat - UK filter
June 2, 2022 11:51 AM   Subscribe

Hi AskMe. Another question from me about potentially selling my home. What can I do to ensure the smoothest possible sale? I've been doing some brainstorming.

This isn't the first time I'm selling a home, but it is the first time I would be doing it on my own. I have a couple of main concerns that I would be grateful for your take.

I'm based in the UK.

I'm super early into the process. My main worries are:

1. How to stage my small, clean and neat but cluttered place into something that will look appealing to buyers
2. Managing the period in between closing the sale of this place and the purchase of a new place

Mine is a small one bedroom flat. My understanding from speaking to estate agents in the area is that it's most likely to be bought by a buy to let investor who will do it up and rent it out, rather than someone who wants to live in it. It's certainly too small for a couple, in my opinion.

So my first question is that, given that my flat is most likely to be bought by an investor, how much work should I put into doing the place up? My flat has not given me any major problems since moving in, but it is certainly a little tired with lots of room for cosmetic upgrades - old leaks that have dried up and discoloured, patches of damp etc. I have a lot of stuff - one of the reasons I'd like to move is that my life doesn't really fit into my flat anymore, especially now that I'm working from home and my home needs to be an office as well. I'm considering putting a chunk of clothes, books and other things I won't need immediately into storage now to make the place look a little less cluttered. I'm planning to get the place repainted. A lot of tips on staging your home for a sale seems more applicable to people selling family homes, 'help your buyers imagine their life there'. I don't want to throw too much money at this. What else should I do?

You guys were very helpful when I asked a previous question about moving house. My takeaway from that thread was that it was POSSIBLE I might be able to close on the sale of my flat and the purchase of a new home on the same day, but that I should be open to the possibility of moving into rented accommodation so as to become temporarily a chain-free buyer. My second question is, if I were to move into rented, at what point in the process should I do it? I can see advantages to moving into rented, then putting my flat up for sale so that the flat was empty of all my possessions and a buyer could be attracted by the prospect of a chain-free purchase. But then I could also put my flat up for sale and then move into rented once the sale was well underway or just about to be completed. I have not rented in the UK for many, many years. But I do know it's not that easy finding short term lets that are shorter than 6 months.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
posted by unicorn chaser to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
Well, it all comes down to the tradeoff of you making your home more appealing, vs cost and inconvenience.

Whenever I sell a property, regardless of the intended buyer, I "fix it up". Usually there are things that are cheap but make a big impact - things like painting the leaks, recaulking the bathroom/kitchen, etc.

Whenever I sell a property, ideally it is completely empty or staged with barebones furniture. However, given your situation, that probably wouldn't be ideal.

Here in the USA, our realtors often will provide free consulting and contracting for an interior designer. They will buy decor or advise you on what things you should put into storage vs keep in the property.

It isn't terribly difficult to ask for flexibility on move out / move in dates, assuming you already have a property in mind. Ideally for your convenience, you would actually move into the new place a week or so early, so you have plenty of time to move. Usually mortgage brokers (in the USA) don't mind that as long as your property will sell.

If you were to move out, I would move out before the photos are taken. Even if you had to move back in, the photos are the most crucial part of any property listing.
posted by bbqturtle at 12:18 PM on June 2, 2022

Best answer: I suggest making sure that the photos are good. If that means moving things around from room to room to make it look less cluttered then do that. You only need to keep up the sparklingly clean and tidy thing while you have people coming to view. Once you accept an offer you can relax your standards again. If you price it well, then I would guess that the time between putting it on the market and getting an offer will be a fraction of the time it takes to get from offer to completion.

For the buy-to-let market you are looking at, I think that it's most likely to be the price that will determine how quickly you get an offer. I personally wouldn't bother doing any real work on it but accept that will mean I won't get the highest price. By this I mean that I would fix anything that was obviously broken, touch up paint work, declutter but nothing else. The other alternative is doing all the work as if you were flipping it and selling as turnkey. This would be too much effort for me personally.

Look at comparable properties in your area, particularly those that have had offers accepted to see what's typical. You can also compare those to the photos of properties that are to let nearby. Don't spend any money/effort making it nicer than the rentals.

It will take anywhere between 2 and 12 months to sell, buy, exchange and complete. I would not bother going into rented unless and until I really needed to. That's because I would not want to carry rent and a mortgage for 6 months. But, if you did want to move out before putting it on the market and rent until after you complete on your new property, you'd be likely to use most or all of the standard 6 months lease (and needing to continue on a month-to-month basis as well wouldn't be that surprising).

Buying and selling property in England and Wales is much more fraught than in other jurisdictions. It takes longer and absolutely nothing is guaranteed. I strongly recommend you take England-and-Wales-specific advice on your approach.
posted by plonkee at 12:27 PM on June 2, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Declutter your home now by purging things you no longer want and by putting most other things you don’t use into storage. Storage is not very expensive, purging and boxing up stuff is normal part of the moving process. With less clutter you’ll be able to see more easily what, if any, cosmetic work would make sense to aid your sale. And it will be easier to get good photos and deal with viewings. And it will be easier to do the actual move, be it into a rental or your new home.
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:50 PM on June 2, 2022 [3 favorites]

Seconding using storage. It doesn't matter who is buying it, you want it to feel spacious - even BTL people want to feel like they're getting something they can rent, so attractiveness matters. Unlike the US, I don't think the UK market really bats an eyelid when it comes to formally staging things with decorous artwork in calming colour schemes, but potential buyers will want to know that they can swing at least a moderate sized cat.

BTL buyers also want it on the market the instant they buy it, because a month not renting is nearly 10% of your revenue and more than your rental profit for the year - so think like a renter, and ask yourself 'would I insist my landlord fixed this?' or 'would this turn me off renting here?' Non rental buyers may be more tolerant of putting in sweat equity, but even then you're probably doing yourself favours by fixing anything small or that might raise suspicions of a bigger problem where none exists. Last time I sold I painted the walls, replaced a cracked bath panel and fixed a bit of sagging floorboard, for instance.

I would ask your estate agent about your appliances. If it is most likely to go to an investor, they may be quite motivated to take your appliances with the house, especially given supply chain issues, assuming said appliances work well and don't look as if they're out of the 80s. I don't know how the UK is but now is a terrible time to be buying a fridge or stove in the US.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 1:07 PM on June 2, 2022

As hinted above, the process of buying and selling a house is considerably different in England and Wales than it is in Scotland, and I don't know for sure but I imagine NI is different again, so it's probably a good idea to specify which part of the UK you mean in such questions.
posted by Ardnamurchan at 2:06 PM on June 2, 2022

Best answer: See if you can walk into your flat and look at it with the critical eye of someone who might be contemplating buying it. What are the nice things about it? What goes in the minus column? Is there anything that would put you off completely? I think discoloured patches on the walls would definitely be in the minus column, and might be completely offputting, so it would be good to deal with those if you can put in a bit of 'sweat equity' and paint over them.

Otherwise, it's declutter as much as humanly possible—selling a place is a great time to get rid of stuff you haven't actually used in the last three years—and make the place look inviting. If there are small, cosmetic changes you can make easily, like putting up a picture or two, or a vase of flowers, that's nice. I went around with my son when he was looking to buy not so many months ago, and generally you make up your mind within a few seconds of entering a house! So a dirty kitchen area is an instant turn-off, a bright window letting in the sunshine is a good thing—not that you can do much about the sunshine, but still. Make it look like a practical and plausible place in which to live. Which it is, because you live there!

From the sound of it, you'll either be selling to a first-time buyer or to someone who isn't intending to live there: either way they will be at the bottom of the chain of buying and selling. You should be able to move out of your flat and have your stuff moved to your new dwelling on the same day, as unless the chain is inordinately long everything ought to go through in good time. There should be time between exchanging contracts and completing to get a removal van organised. So you don't need to rent at all. Considering how precarious buying and selling a property can be, it's probably best not to try renting in between, unless it suits you to do so. If the sale falls through, you're stuck with rent+mortgage for an unforeseeable future. Though you might find it handy to sell, then rent a bit before you buy—it can put you in a better position as a buyer to be at the bottom of the chain. However, if house prices are hurtling upwards where you want to live, it might not be worth the risk.

An estate agent can be really useful. They are not universally loved, but unlike solicitors, they do actually talk to one another. On my last house move it was the estate agents talking to one another who discovered that the buyer at the bottom of the chain would lose their mortgage offer if they didn't get cracking and sort out a date to exchange contracts *soon*. The solicitors were.... not precisely useless, but not proactive.

Good luck.
posted by Pentickle at 2:46 PM on June 2, 2022

« Older Because I hate applying that toxic topical stuff   |   Can anyone cancel a cashier's check? Or only the... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.