Sarah Beeny’s top tips for homebuyers and sellers

A flying start to 2010: predicted double dips, stamp duty cuts, the election and more mean the property market is even more uncertain than ever.

What will come in the future is unknown. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ latest survey suggests that the tide may have turned and, after a period where there has been a shortage of properties on the market, sellers are now outnumbering buyers. I don’t think demand from buyers has dropped back, but the ongoing shortage of finance options mean many are still struggling to get a mortgage.

Some analysts are warning that we’ll see house prices fall back again. Personally, while I don’t expect to see prices rise much, I can’t see that crashing double dip some are predicting.

If you’re thinking about buying or selling, don’t get hung up on housing market predictions. If now is the right time for you personally, then my advice is to get on with things and ignore the headlines. If you’re looking to sell and prices do fall, you may kick yourself for not putting your property on sooner, while if you’re looking to buy, prices are still below their peak and there are great deals to be had.

Here are some tips to help you get moving.


Be realistic

As a general rule, everything has a price. If your home is already on the market and you’ve not had any viewers, or had viewers but no offers, you're probably asking too much money for your property. If you really want to sell you need to drop the price, but not by a tiny bit. I would advise you get below the market. After all, you want your property to stand out.

You are far better off with several buyers banging the door down to buy, than with no interest at all. At least then you have a decision to make as to whether you actually sell for that amount or not.

The two ways to value are to find out how much a home like yours recently sold for, or look at what else you can buy for a similar amount in your area - if you think your two-bedroom flat is worth £150,000 but there are three-bedroom properties on the market for a similar price, you’re unlikely to achieve your asking price.

Clean the whole house

If you smoke, stop smoking inside and clean all ashtrays. If you have pets, wash their beds. Pet and cigarette odours come up most often in the 'put off' smells list.

Look at your kitchen and bathroom from an outsider's point of view. It may sound blunt, but if they are really manky do something about it - often it only requires bleaching the grout and re-siliconing. Get in behind the basin and loo and scrub there too.

And don't forget curb appeal. What do you see when you approach the front of your property? This is the first impression potential viewers get of your home, and it's very important. If it looks a bit of a mess, tidy it up. Freshening up paintwork, power-washing the path and a well-placed plant by the front door can make the world of difference.

And don't forget the back garden or yard. Outside space is a real luxury and one that should be cherished, especially in an urban setting. Give it a clean - get a few cheap pot plants and look out for an inexpensive table and chairs to show you can use the space.


You've heard it before, but it works: putting your house on the market is the perfect opportunity to donate all the stuff you no longer want or use to a charity shop. And if there are things you don't want to part with, consider putting the non-essentials into a cheap storage unit until you move in to your new home.

Trust me, you'll be surprised at the results: suddenly surfaces, corners and shelves will be clear and this can totally change the feel of a room. It gives a greater sense of space and more importantly, creates the feeling that your property is big enough to live in, in a tidy way, without it feeling cramped and cluttered.

Like small gardens, it's really important to dress small rooms well so potential buyers can envisage how the room could work for them.

Don't wait to get your house on the market

It's so difficult to time the market and, despite what you endlessly read, the truth is nobody has any idea what is actually going to happen to house prices. If now is the right time in your life to sell, get on with it.


Work out how much you can afford

To avoid disappointment I would suggest you see a mortgage broker before you start looking for a property to ensure that you are able to get the borrowing you need. Remember, mortgage providers have become more cautious about the amount they will lend so you may find you aren't able to borrow as much as you were expecting.

Don't be afraid to make a cheeky offer

Despite the fact we’ve seen more properties come onto the market of late it doesn’t mean there isn’t room for negotiation when it comes to making an offer. However, you need to play it carefully because the vendor needs to know you are a serious potential buyer.

This is where it's important to know the state of the local market and investigate how long the property you are interested in has been up for sale.

Your own situation will also play a part - if you are in a position to move quickly, maybe because you are not in a chain or are a cash buyer, you will be in a stronger position to put in an offer significantly below the asking price.

For example, take a house that is on the market at £200,000. If you can only afford to offer £170,000, but you have no chain and could complete quickly that offer may well be accepted. However, if you are dependent on selling your current home but have no buyer, you are in a weaker position.

That said, be bold and hold firm. The situation is dramatically different from a few years ago when in many instances there were bidding wars on properties. Try not to let your heart rule: once you've decided what you're prepared to pay, don't feel pressured into paying more, even if your offer is turned down. Keep the offer on the table, giving the vendor time to consider it more carefully. Even if it's turned down initially, if they're keen to sell they may come back and accept it at a later date or suggest a compromise between your initial offer and the asking price.

If the vendor doesn't budge but you can't bear the thought of walking away, it's time to increase your offer.

Look for warning signs

Check for loose tiles and subsidence, listen as well as look...Stand back and see if there are any slates or tiles missing or slipping from the roof - look at the flashing (the lead/cement that seals where the roof meets any vertical walls). Look for signs of movement, such as cracks or areas of new pointing in between bricks. You should be able to line up the vertical and horizontal lines of the exterior - window headers, end (flank) walls, pointing lines etc and these will tell you if there has been movement.

Even if you are concerned, don't panic as it won't necessarily mean that you should steer clear of buying the property - most of our housing stock was built with relatively inadequate foundations and will have moved around a bit over the years. Get a good survey: movement may be historic but if there are signs that it is ongoing, seek advice from the surveyor and a builder. After all, if you'll need to spend money on rectifying the problem, you can use this as a reason to re-negotiate the price.

Check out the hot water system - if the property has more than two bathrooms it should have a more powerful system than a combination boiler. If you are a big shower fan, turn the shower on and check the pressure.

Look around at the neighbourhood: there may there be specific noise at times of the day - it may be near a school or be on a road that is busy during rush hour. Many aren't bothered by children's laughter (and of course if you have children it’s likely to be in the catchment area of a good school!) but if you do mind then steer away.

Trust your instincts - do you like the house? There will inevitably be compromises to be made but if you get a good feel then it is probably the right one for you - if it doesn't feel right, then there’ll be somewhere better.

Get a homebuyer's report or a full structural survey...

You will have to have a basic valuation for the mortgage lender but this is for its benefit, not yours. It needs to know that the investment is sound, but remember, this is purely a valuation and will not necessarily identify any structural problems. Unless you are buying a new-build it is well worth paying extra for a more comprehensive survey.

A homebuyer's report is the half-way house. They are designed as a general rule for conventionally-built properties, built in the last 150 years. This type of survey will provide you with a great deal of information about the property, but not everything. Carpets won’t be lifted for example, and no investigative work will be done.

A full structural survey is the most comprehensive. It will cost more but it can be money well worth spending, particularly if you are thinking of buying an old property. This type of survey can identify more serious structural problems. If it does uncover something you weren't expecting, it doesn't necessarily mean you should pull out of the sale, but at least you are better informed about the money you are likely to have to spend on rectifying any problem - it can be another tool in the whole price negotiation process.

Be aware that no survey will be perfect and problems are likely to come up, so don't panic, just consider how much it is likely to cost to overcome them.

Don't go for a short leasehold

Many properties are bought on a freehold basis, but if you are buying a leasehold property - which is common with many flats - most mortgage companies want 40 years to be left on the lease once you have reached the end of your mortgage, which if you’re a first time buyer, is normally after 25 years. This therefore means that anything under 65 years on a lease is generally considered short.

This doesn't mean you can't buy a property with say 50 years left on the lease and take a 10 year mortgage. But there could be problems when you come to sell.

Therefore if the lease is quite short, investigate the cost of extending it. 

Sarah Beeny is a property specialist and television presenter. She has recently launched a property website,

About Tepilo

Tepilo is an alternative way to buy or sell your home online without fees.

Some people will always prefer to use an estate agent. But for those of you who would like to take control of the sale of your home, often your biggest asset, we have created Tepilo. The site simplifies and explains the whole process which is often perceived as something more complicated than it really is. We are here with all the advice you need to get through the whole process, and of course to save you many thousands of pounds at the same time.

  • Tepilo is completely free to use - with no charges for uploading your property or commission on the sale.
  • Tepilo makes it easy for you - the site is packed with advice on buying, selling, or letting your property - including a library of hints and tips that we are constantly updating. 
  • Tepilo provides practical profit enhancing tips - the "profit by design" section lays out ideas on how to design your house to maximise your profit. 
  • Tepilo hosts the negotiation process through the site - you are completely in control of how much they want to offer or accept on a home, but by negotiating on the site, Tepilo gives you more opportunity to get a good deal or hold out for the price you want. 
  • Tepilo encourages the personal touch - using owner descriptions and a magazine style layout, we aim to give buyers much more of an insight into what's great about each property. 
  • Ask Sarah - if you get stuck you can even ask me a question directly through Tepilo, and you may even win a home visit or consultation.

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