Get higher offers on your empty home

Empty houses make buyers suspicious – and generally inclined to make lower offers than they would on homes that are still occupied and furnished.

However, says Jan Davel, MD of the RealNet estate agency group, there is much that owners and their agents can do to make an empty home more appealing.

“Of course there are all sorts of reasons for a home to be sold unfurnished. The owners may have had to relocate in a hurry for work, for example, or may have been letting to tenants who have now moved out. But buyers don’t know that, and will be much more likely to think that the property has been on the market so long that the owners had to move anyway, or that there is something wrong with it that has kept it from being sold.

“And this can quite easily lead them to the assumption that the seller must be desperate and will accept even a really low offer – especially if the property is dirty or neglected and is surrounded by a dying garden.”

In addition, he says, those buyers who do get past the front door of an empty house will often struggle to visualise how they will live there. “They may have difficulty trying to work out the layout or how big the rooms are and whether their furniture will fit – and when that happens they are not likely to make any offer at all.

“In short, it is really worthwhile for absent sellers to ensure that their homes will still make a good first impression by enlisting the help of an experienced estate agent who understands their situation and agrees to oversee all the work necessary to keep their properties looking good for prospective buyers.

“This is also a good idea from a security point of view since it will mean that only one person or agency has the keys, remotes and security codes, and that access to the property is controlled. “

Davel says that if you are an owner in this situation, things to discuss with your agent include:

* Having the house dusted and cleaned at least a couple of times a month;

* Hiring a garden service or gardener to come in regularly and keep the lawns mowed, the driveway swept and the plants watered;

* Making sure the pool is kept clean and properly ‘dosed’;  

* Making sure the post box is regularly cleared of any junk mail; and

* Renting some furniture if necessary to “stage” the property to create a better sense of size and proportion.

There are also several things you can do before you leave to improve your home’s appeal. These include:

* Repainting, inside and out, in neutral colours. Fresh paint is the number one attraction for prospective buyers looking at empty homes;

* Making your front entrance look inviting by repainting or revarnishing the door if necessary and removing all clutter from the front path, steps or porch;

* Getting the property professionally cleaned top to bottom as you move out; and

* Leaving curtains or blinds in place to make it look more lived-in.

And finally, he says, you should take into account that security is also a vital part of the package from the buyer’s point of view. “You don’t want prospective buyers to arrive for a viewing only to find that the property has been broken into or vandalised, so it is worth keeping up the payments to your security company while it remains unoccupied, and installing timers that will turn some lights on and off every night.”

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