Crazy to sell in a buyer's market?
If you are considering selling property but are afraid it might be neither nor viable nor sensible at this time, you may be pleasantly surprised to discover that there is a market out there – you just have to know your audience and what appeals to them...
If you have a property that you are keen to sell, you may be debating the wisdom of doing so at a time when prices are dipping and so many others are holding back, but though it may feel like a lonely and risky path to take now, you would not be the only person in the country doing it.
"We're seeing a mix of people selling at the moment," says Gillian Flanagan of Felicity Fox Auctioneers in Dublin. "We have a lot of people trading up, particularly young families with children who have outgrown the space they're in, people who need to move because their employment has changed location and people from different countries who are moving home. At the same time, a lot of people who want to sell can't afford to, but every circumstance is different."
Taking a close look at the current typical buyer demographic is a good barometer for any potential seller trying to gauge their chances of selling a property in the current market.
"A lot of them are living in rented accommodation, have been so for quite some time, are fed up renting and want to live in their own homes" says Ronan O'Hara, director of Savills in Ireland. "Some people sold when the market was strong and have been sitting on the fence ever since. Others are coming back from abroad, seeing for the first time in ten years that there is a bit of value in Ireland. There are also people who know they are going to take a big hit when they sell their homes, but they are getting that back on their purchase as they are typically trading up and the higher the price on a property before, the bigger the fall now."
First-time buyers are said to be seizing the chance finally to buy an affordable property.
"First-time buyers don't have to wait for a property to sell before they buy, and they also don't have to pay stamp duty, which is a big plus," points out O'Hara.
"We're seeing a little more activity now," agrees Gillian Flanagan. "Interest rates are low and so it's a good time to lock into a fixed-rate mortgage. There's more value out there now, whereas first-time buyers would have been priced out of the market a few years ago. People can't keep their lives on hold forever. I was talking to a couple who are getting married and they've been renting for the past two-and-a-half years; now they just want to buy."
With specific types of buyers emerging, it follows that certain types of properties will be more popular than others.
"It has always been the way in a down market that people will go back to basics and look for the normal, traditional sort of houses; three or four bedrooms, semi detached or detached – nothing weird or wonderful," says O'Hara. "Flashy isn't flavour of the month because you have to pay a premium for that."
"The older period properties in the city centre with a back garden are selling well," says Flanagan. "A lot of period houses in Dublin 4 and Dublin 6 that were expecting well over €1 million a while ago can now be had for €700,00 or €800,000. They are still selling, as they are limited in supply, and they also have good original features."
Unfortunately there are few words of comfort or optimism for those who have an apartment to sell.
"There is an enormous amount of brand new apartments sitting empty, so second-hand apartments are almost impossible to shift," admits O'Hara. "If it was bought in the last few years you would be better off to hold onto it."
"There are a lot of people who would have had to buy apartments in the past because they couldn't afford what they wanted, but are now well-placed to buy something that's well located in the city centre" says Flanagan.
Three crucial factors prevail when it comes to your property's attractiveness to prospective buyers: location, price and presentation.
"There is nothing that you can do about the location," says Fiona McLoughlin of website Privateseller.ie, "but what you can do is look at price and presentation. If you're not getting any calls about your property then it may be worth looking at the price. If people are coming to view the house but not bidding then the price isn't the main issue, but the presentation."
When you're pricing your property, selling the house yourself, rather than through an agent, is an avenue that you might like to consider to slice a chunk off the asking price.
"Sixty-five percent of people who sell from our website are people who started out with an auctioneer but failed to sell their property and are now looking to try something new," explains McLoughlin. "Private sellers can factor the profit that would have gone to auctioneers into the price of the property and use that to make it more attractively-priced than competitors' property, immediately dropping thousands of euro from the asking price."
Put time and effort into making your property attractive and appealing and you'll be positioning it well to stand out against the crowd. Interior designer Neville Knott, colour consultant with Crown Paints, advises playing it safe when it comes to décor.
"Neutralise everything to appeal to the masses, and tone down anything that is too individual. Go pale with off-whites and creams to keep the house looking fresh and make it feel bigger. It's important to paint a house before you sell it – it will help to get rid of all those smells that a house retains. It gives a sense of cleanliness – if it smells clean and it looks clean then it must be clean. When prospective buyers come to look at your house they're not actually looking at your house, they're looking at their home of the future. It's a psychological barrier that people need to cross. They need to go into a house and feel as though they will be able to say 'this is my home'."
Interior designer Danielle MacInnes of Fuse recommends some hard work and just a little cash to spruce up your property.
"It's a cliché, but the biggest thing that you can do is to declutter," she says. "In the kitchen, clear off all of your countertops, but leave a few necessities. If you have a wooden kitchen paint it white, as wood absorbs light. Remove some of the furniture, if possible, to make rooms look as spacious as possible, but don't go overboard. If bedlinen is looking old and grubby replace it with inexpensive plain white duvet covers and always make sure that they are ironed and that the beds look neat."
The key to a successful sale is knowing your audience, and post-boom Irish property buyers are a clued-in bunch who won't be taken for fools – especially on price.
"If a prospective buyer sees something to be overpriced then they will tell you, and they will usually give you a lecture about why it is way overpriced," says Ronan O'Hara. "Unless they feel that a property is priced reasonably, buyers won't even look at a property – they're extremely well educated now."
"Before, people were prepared to compromise, but now they're not" warns Gillian Flanagan. "They want everything on their wish list and they'll keep looking until they find it. Sometimes there is just nothing you can do other than alter your price to reflect the features your house doesn't have – if it has a north-facing garden or if there is no parking, for example."
Report by Eimear Nic an Bhaird - Sunday Tribune