Wednesday, 11 July 2012

In Praise Of Our Estate Agent

As the dust settles and we wake up at a motorway service station on the first day of our new life we’ve time to reflect on the events of the past couple of months.

It’s just 76 days –only eleven weeks – since we arrived back from the caravan to find Karen Potter’s For Sale board outside and, in the current housing market, that has to be something of an achievement.

They say that selling houses is a matter of the 3Ps – Price, Preparation and Presentation and we followed that philosophy with a vengeance with the Preparation involving researching what had been happening in the local housing market of late and which agents were selling the most houses. A few years ago For Sale boards around our area were rare sights and went down almost as quickly as they went up; but over the last couple of years they have been going up and staying up resulting in a forest of boards around Churchtown and very much a buyers’ market.

Preparation involves Presentation. We paid a handyman to tidy up all those little jobs we meant to get around to. He came and re-grouted tired tiling, he fitted brand new taps in the kitchen and cloakroom, he repainted a couple of rooms, he repaired a damaged front door (first impressions matter) and worked for us for about a week. Marion bought new towels for bathrooms and specimen plants for the porch and conservatory to create a wow factor. We bought new external lights to fit by the front door and colourful new kitchen storage jars and a coffee machine to brighten things up. We de-cluttered by removing most of the family photos to make the house neutral.

As further Preparation we needed to research prices and, using Zoopla, RightMove and many other sites we checked out asking prices and sold prices over the past few years. It was scary as, not only were asking prices way down on their peak, the number of houses sold in our price bracket was miniscule – we realised we were facing a challenge.

So now we were all set to choose an agent. We drove around the area to see what names where cropping up on the rare SOLD estate agents’ boards; and one name kept cropping up regularly – Karen Potter.

We then looked at the quality of all the local agents’ websites and narrowed it down to three. Karen Potter was in the three so not only did she have the most SOLD signs but also had one of the top three websites. We asked all three agents to visit. They all loved the house (and though I say it myself, it is a lovely house) and they were all keen to sell it. Two agents were convinced that they could sell it easily; Karen was realistic and felt that, whilst it was a great property, we had to understand the market. Three valuations duly followed. Before they arrived Marion and I had come up with our own price. Karen’s valuation matched ours. The others were £10,000 and £25,000 higher. None came close to recovering what we had spent on it but we spent it to enjoy the house not as an investment.

When you have the chance to receive an extra £25,000 there’s always a temptation to run with it but we’d bought a property in Suffolk and didn’t want to be stuck with two and, however confident that agent was, we didn’t see many of his SOLD boards around.

So we gave the sale to Karen Potter and I have to say that we were extremely pleased with the results. She took over what seemed like a hundred photos and included plenty of them in the selling particulars. She was extremely professional in her presentation and (a very nice touch I thought) sent around her sales team to get to know what they were selling.

But it’s a buyers market and buyers are thin on the ground. We’ve spoken to sellers who have told us they’ve had just a couple of viewings in a year and we didn’t expect a flood. But we did get a trickle and, while we were away at the caravan in May, one of Karen’s team showed our eventual buyers around and the rest, as they say, is now history.

I can’t praise Karen Potter and her team of efficient young women enough. They presented the property well, they followed up every viewing with feedback, they contacted us every week to discuss progress, they showed people around the house and sold it, they were there to act as go-betweens when we had some trivial legal snags holding things up and were even there for a sympathetic hug when I handed the keys in having left our lovely house for the very last time.

If you’re selling in Southport you really don’t need to look anywhere else.