Ahead of this month's A Place in the Sun Live, property negotiating experts Jonnie Irwin and Jasmine Harman highlight some helpful tips for both buyers and vendors
Jonnie: Tips for vendors
First and foremost choose the right agent. Don't be impressed by an agent because they have the most “For Sale” boards up in your area: to me this just highlights that they haven't sold their current stock. However, if they've got lots of “Sold” signs up, it's a different matter.
Another thing to bear in mind is that if an agent has a lot of instructions then they will be spread rather thinly, having to service their clients rather than chasing buyers! One advantage of using large estate agents is that they can offer more exposure through high profile advertising, with many now having networked offices. Bear in mind, many big firms send out someone (a lister) to “get properties on” and then hand over the selling of the instruction to another member of staff. In short, if you're impressed by the person you meet, make sure it is them who you'll be dealing with throughout the process.
Price correctly. The basis for valuation of residential property is the comparative method. By that I mean if a detached property on a street with three bedrooms sells for X then a similar property with something extra, for example a larger garden, should fetch slightly more in the same market (X + 1).
Make sure the agent you choose has sold properties similar to yours and in your area. Some agents deal with different types of property more effectively and will often have better access to more suitable types of buyer. Prior to approaching the market, why not register with a couple of agents as a buyer and see how you get on. This should also give you an idea of what similar properties to yours are selling for and help you with your valuation. It's far better to approach the market with a figure that generates interest than starting too high and repeatedly reducing your asking price.
Prepare your house for sale. The other day I was filming in a house and as I walked up the stairs I passed a cat litter tray complete with, well I'm sure you can imagine. Now that's not going to impress anyone and whilst many people can see through the mess, it still has a subconscious effect on a buyer's attitude. Make sure all the jobs that need doing are done and in plenty of time – if I smell wet paint I instantly wonder what's been covered up!
Know your buyer's profile. Trends emerge in markets across the world and agents can often pinpoint the demographic of a likely buyer. You can also do this yourself by looking at the type of people who've purchased properties locally. Help buyers to see themselves in the property by de-cluttering, but not so much that viewers might feel a lack of homeliness – it's a fine line, but common sense should overtake personal pride. Put yourself in the buyer's shoes and be prepared to answer any questions, whether they're about commuting or local amenities. And if you rent out the property, make sure you can produce clear information about income and maintenance.
Jasmine: tips for buyers
It is just as important for a buyer to enlist the right agent as it is for a vendor. So speak to other people who have bought locally and listen to their recommendations about agents. Checking out an agent's credentials and ensuring they are members of the appropriate bodies (such as the AIPP) will also give you peace of mind. Unlike vendors, as a buyer you have nothing to lose by registering with multiple agents. This will help you to discover which ones just talk the talk, and which also walk the walk. What you want is someone pro-active, who understands exactly what you are looking for and will contact you right away when something suitable becomes available.
You can help with this by being specific about what you are looking for. Whilst I feel it is worth seeing a variety of properties in the first instance, in order to get a good idea of what is available, you need to give your agent feedback about what you like and what you definitely don't like. There is no point continuing to view brand new five-bedroom villas on a new development when what you really want is a ramshackle stone cottage somewhere rural.
Try to look past décor that is not to your taste. One good thing about outdated wallpaper is that it shows the vendor hasn't tried to hide anything in a bid to sell. The last thing you want is damp or cracks appearing after you've moved in, so if somewhere looks suspiciously pristine, make sure you get a survey done.
The process will also be smoother and faster if you are fully prepared with finance in place, currency transfers worked out and legal representatives at the ready. This will also put you one step ahead of any competing buyers.
Don't be afraid to ask questions. The vendor, neighbours, local shop keepers, as well as your agent are all sources of information you can tap into. Find out about the current market, the vendor's situation, the condition of the property, the average prices for the area, if any other parties are interested in the property and how long it has been for sale. I would also visit the property several times – during the week, during rush hour, in the evening and at the weekend – and stay for a while to really get a feel for the place (the vendor should be accommodating if they think you might buy).
Once you've weighed up all these factors, you need to decide how much you want to offer but be prepared to negotiate. Hopefully then, you'll be able to agree on a price that everyone is happy with.
Jonnie and Jasmine will be appearing at A Place in the Sun Live on 30th March - 1st April at Earls Court London, as well as their autograph signing sessions on the magazine stand, where you can meet them and ask them your questions, they will be appearing on The Main Stage throughout the wekend, where they will be giving buying advice on the most popular destinations that Brits buy property abroad including Spain, France, Portugal, Italy and Florida.
Tickets are on sale at £15 for two when booked in advance and come with a free six-month subscription to A Place in the Sun magazine.