After a couple of years where houses have been selling like hot cakes most experts agree that property is taking longer to sell right now …. and in an uncertain market sale times are more likely to increase than decrease. With that in mind we’ll look at what you might be able to do to get that sale in a slower market.
For example, this report quoting research by Hamptons says that the average home sold in March had been on the market for 48 days. This was 22 days longer than March last year, when time to sell was at a record low.
Is the market actually slow right now?
It’s important to bear in mind that everything is relative. Between late 2020 and mid 2022 it was not unusual for properties to sell within a few days of being listed. Sometimes before all the interested buyers were able to view them.
But that was far from a normal situation. Over the long term most experts would probably agree that a reasonable time to expose a property to the market and find a buyer would be at least two months.
According to official figures (although it’s not clear how they were arrived at) buying or selling a home normally takes two to three months.
There have been a few periods when the market was much slower. For example, in the early 1990s or after the 2008 financial crisis some properties lingered on the market for a year or more. But, in most years, a two to three month window has been a well accepted norm.
How to sell in a slow market
So, if you have a property that won’t sell within a reasonable timeframe what (if anything) can you do?
In uncertain times for the economy when significant numbers of people don’t want or can’t afford to buy it can seem a problem with no solution. But there are some possible solutions:
* Think well ahead. Sellers should try to list at the busier times of the year for house buying if possible. These are generally spring or autumn. It’s not so easy now to sell at any time that suits you as it has in the recent past.
When conveyancing time is added on it would be sensible to think of moving house as at least a six month endeavour, not a 2-3 month one.
* Sellers should shop around for the best estate agent to sell their property. Although this is always important it is especially important now. Check what an agent’s current selling times are, perhaps using one of the sites that offer this information.
* Consider alternative methods of selling. For example, selling in a property auction or selling to a house buying company. These might offer a sale within a shorter timeframe than offering a property on the open market. (Although bear in mind the price achieved and selling costs may be different.)
* Prepare a property for sale especially well in a slow market. In busy times pretty much any property will sell. But in slower times the smaller number of buyers out there may only view the best presented properties available. And they can afford to be more choosy. Make sure your property is clean and tidy, well presented and has no significant defects.
Agents shouldn’t be reticent to point out that sellers might not get any viewings if their property is poorly presented.
* Market a property for sale extensively. In busy times just listing a property on a portal or website will probably be more than enough to find a buyer. But more effort is needed in slower times. Agents need good quality sales material. They need to proactively market a property to registered buyers, and use methods like social media to promote it to a wider audience.
A good CRM system like Apex27 can help to make promoting properties effectively much easier.
* Correct pricing is essential to sell a property in a slower market. Estate agents are well placed to advise on this.
Property values have changed in recent months, and will continue to change. Recent sales comparables may only be of limited use. Many properties are likely to be worth less, but not all. The situation isn’t the same for every type of property and for every area.
Generally sellers should have more realistic price expectations at the moment. Agents shouldn’t be reticent to advise sellers of this, and manage seller expectations.
* Set a realistic asking price. This is probably the most important thing in a slower market.
When houses are taking longer to sell it’s best to avoid situations where you set an ambitious asking price on the basis you can reduce it later if you need to. In such a market reducing the asking price after a property has been first exposed to the market might not generate any extra interest at all.
With a realistic asking price you are likely to get much more interest. Even in a slower market you may get several offers, and may even be able to sell above the asking price, when you start from the seller’s minimum price expectation.