As buyers return to market following last year’s mini budget shocker, what should sellers be doing to make sure their homes are the ones that are snapped up?

As we transition to a buyers’ market, we asked Foxtons Chief Executive Officer Guy Gittins to share his advice for sellers in 2023.

Is now a good time to sell your property?

It’s always a good time to sell a property, whether the market’s going up or down. It just depends on what your onward move is.

If you’re moving up to a larger property and the market’s come off by 5%, then it really is a great time to be able to make that move.

But for the couple living in that large family home, who might want to downsize to a smaller property, that becomes a little bit less attractive.

If you are planning on downsizing, is it a good idea to wait?

It is so much more important, if you can afford the move, to be in a property that’s right for you and your family.

I’ve seen way too many people holding off a move because they’re trying to play the market and ultimately what happens is that they stay in a property that’s no longer suitable for them for too long.

The joy and benefit of being in the right property for you and your family, in my opinion, far outstrips any financial gain on a 5% trade if you’re trying to play the market.

Very often people will miss that moment anyway because nobody can call the top or bottom of the market, it’s very difficult.

And when you’ve stayed in a property for over 10 years, these small movements in prices year-to-year become totally irrelevant.

What are your top 3 tips for sellers right now?

1. It’s all about correct pricing. Take your agent’s best guidance on pricing, because they absolutely know the market and they’ve got the data on it.

2. Presentation is absolutely critical.

3. And plan your onward purchase. Because if you’re selling in order to buy, it’s very advisable to be doing both searches at the same time.

Once you go under offer, you don’t want to be holding that process up, particularly if you’re looking for a forever home.

And the last thing you want to be doing is trying to find that in a four week window, it just doesn’t work like that.

Are you seeing more of a typical profile of buyer at the moment? For example first-time buyers or downsizers?

Not at all, we’re seeing overseas buyers, first-time buyers, needs-based buyers, the spread of buyers has pretty much stayed the same as last year.

Are you seeing less demand from buyers at the moment?

As soon as we had the mini budget at the start of Q4 last year, buyer numbers dropped dramatically very quickly. In some instances by 50%, compared to what we were seeing before the mini budget.

But what’s been very interesting is that for the first couple of months of this year, those numbers have recovered considerably and we’re really seeing a large number of new buyers coming back into the market.

There’s a realisation that interest rates are not going to be 6% – 7%.

The swap rates between the banks – and therefore the actual interest rates that somebody would be paying – have come down considerably from the last couple of months of last year and that’s absolutely encouraging people.

What impact will mortgage rates have on the property market this year?

Bearing in mind how banks have had to be structured following the financial crisis, most mortgages over the last five years have been stress tested at 3% to 4%.

So when people are coming up to their next mortgage or their next move, that has already been factored into the market.

And while it might not be as comfortable and people might not have as much free cash, we’re not seeing forced sellers coming to the market, desperate to exit their property because they can’t afford their mortgage rates. That’s absolutely not happening.

And that’s because of the very sensible policies that were put in place following the global financial crisis.

We’re not seeing a crash in any way, shape or form.

What we are seeing is some of that really toppy part of the market, the froth from the first three-quarters of last year (which saw 5% gains from 2021), is now coming off of the market.

But we’re seeing a lot of activity, buyers are coming into the market this year, viewing numbers are high and we have a solid outlook for the rest of this year.

What’s happening with asking prices at the moment?

We are seeing a higher volume of price adjustments in the marketplace.

But when a property’s been on the market for a while and it has that price adjustment, it’s stimulating a lot of interest.

It’s about being correctly priced against where the market is trading. That’s the key.

At Foxtons, because we’ve got access to so much data, we’re able to price very accurately, stimulate activity and get you the best price for your property.

That is the value that agents bring, having access to that vast amount of data, so that we advise clients accordingly.

What can sellers do to make their home the one buyers want?

With anything in life, it’s all about first impressions and they really do matter. So the presentation of your property as it appears to the outside world is really, really important.

The photos that the agent takes are absolutely essential to be able to capture everything that’s special about your property.

That’s the first hook as your window to the world to engage and create some interest.

And when the viewings actually start, it’s really important that the home is presented in the very best possible way.

It might sound old school, but decluttering is essential. Buyers want to see the property and all of the space.

If it’s looking a little bit tired, it’s surprising what a lick of paint can do to an entrance hall, a living area or a master bedroom, it really can lighten the entire experience.

Always have the curtains open if you can, you want to flood the property with as much light as possible.

And make sure anything that makes the property look like it’s in poor condition has been rectified before viewings start because that might turn some buyers off.

If they see a big patch of damp in the corner, they may be put off by that. But if it can be dealt with ahead of marketing, then that’s something that incoming buyers don’t have to worry about.

Can it actually add value to a property if sellers take these steps?

For sure. And we would recommend to anybody selling a property to ensure they have some carefully chosen furniture to present the space well, so people can see the lifestyle that they may be able to have.

And finally, what are your top 3 tips for buyers in 2023?

1. Educate yourself about your chosen area. No matter what the market is doing, you’ve got to know where things are trading at and the type of property you can genuinely afford.

The more defined your search, the more educated you’ll be about that market. And when you see the right thing, you’ll be able to press the button on it.

2. Work with your agent and not against them. The best agents are able to hold your hand as your search evolves. And everybody’s search evolves.

A very small percentage of buyers actually buy in the area that they first started looking in, at the price they first started looking for, with the property attributes they initially wanted.

As their search evolves, their attributes start to change and the best agents really can help you with that process.

3. Don’t expect an offer of 20% below asking price to be accepted, that’s not where the market is at. You’ve got to be realistic about going out there.

If you’re making offers that are consistently not being accepted, you have to track and understand where the market is.

It might be that your expectations are far below the reality.

We’ve seen an uplift in buyer numbers coming back into the market, far above what we saw at the end of last year.

This is starting to pick up pace.

Key takeaways

  • Plan your onward move as soon as you plan to enter the market, to ensure you don’t hold up your sale and lose your offer
  • Decluttering, giving your home a fresh lick of paint and rectifying any problems before putting up the For Sale sign can all add value to your property
  • More people are making price adjustments, but when you’ve stayed in a property for over 10 years, these small movements in prices year-to-year become irrelevant