If you’d like to sell your house in the next year or so, you should start thinking and planning from as early as possible. The property market in Malta in 2017 is extremely competitive. Since you only get one chance to make an impression on the potential buyers who are in the market at the same time as you, you want to make sure that you avoid common mistakes.
Here are the top mistakes that we’ve seen over the years.
Let's unpack these shall we?
1. Listing before staging or renovations are completed
Most people only do a couple of small renovations in a ten year period, which means that if you’ve been living there for a while and now want to sell your place, you’re going to want to increase your chances by doing some upgrades to the property. The mistake here is underestimating the time it takes to do a renovation project - even something as simple as repainting the bedroom walls might take a couple of weeks. This is also the case when it comes to staging your house for sale. While it’s understandable that you want to start promoting the property as fast as possible, make sure that you only do so once it is actually ready to be seen.
2. Selling too quickly
People who accept the first offer they get typically think that the property couldn’t get more or are desperate to get rid of it. Don’t be like this - they might be shooting themselves in the foot and underestimating the property’s attractive features for the right buyer. What’s more, in any negotiation, it is much better to have multiple options to consider. Aim to have at least 3 potential buyers interested before considering accepting one offer. This will also give you a benchmark to compare against that is more realistic, rather than basing your asking price on what your neighbour managed to get when selling their house.
3. Taking too long to sell your property
At the same time, you don’t want to wait too much and be too idealistic. If you’re consistently getting offers that are at least 25% below your asking price, by the 5th offer, you need to start considering that you priced the property too high to begin with, and should revise your expectations. Waiting for too long will overwhelm you with pressure as the property sits longer unsold, and will eventually force you to drop the price far lower than if you didn’t wait as long.
4. Not negotiating with the buyer
More experienced buyers, such as those looking to buy property as an investment, might take advantage of a first time real estate seller’s eagerness to get interest by making offers that are way lower than they’re actually considering, as a way to test the waters. It’s never a good idea to take an offer at face value. The best way to negotiate a property sale is not to aggressively propose a different price, but to ask probing questions aimed at unveiling why the interest is there in the first place. This will highlight aspects the buyer might have overlooked, which you can point out during the negotiation.
5. Underestimating the competition
Depending on the type of property you have, its state and the location, you will face varying levels of competition. For example, selling an apartment in St. Paul’s Bay, Sliema and Marsascala is currently harder due to all the competition of similar offerings (source: NSO, Malta Property Index Q1 2016). At the same time, this is a boon, because it brings a lot of attention to the area - so the challenge becomes one of standing out, such as by targeting a different type of buyer. The mistake people make is either not knowing what the competition levels are, or not looking into what similar offerings are doing to make their property more attractive.
6. living on the property while trying to sell it
Doing this will make selling your property way harder. People want to be able to imagine themselves living there, so they don’t want to walk into a place for sale and find the owner’s personal items all over the place. It will also put a lot of extra stress on you & your family: you’d need to maintain your routines while keeping the house clean and make it available for buyer viewings at a moment’s notice. What’s more, one of the biggest subconscious factors that influences buyers is odors - imagine trying to live in a place while keeping any type of unpleasant odors down to a near-minimum, whether that’s in the kitchen, garden or bathroom.
If you yourself haven’t bought your second home yet, pack what you’ll need for three months, find a property for rent, move with a friend or family for a while, or stay at a hotel for a few days.
7. Not showing a room’s proper function.
Just because the property was used or labelled to be used in one way, doesn’t mean you can’t change things around. However, if you have potential buyers over, you need to make sure that you’re showing the actual best application of each room. For instance, if you have an additional bedroom that you’ve been using as a play area for the kids, you need to make sure to stage that room as a bedroom, especially if you’re targeting older families as buyers.
8. Neglecting maintenance and repairs.
Unfortunately, procrastinating on this over the years will have the effect of dragging down the value of the property, and making it less likely that you’ll find a buyer quickly. What this means is that before you even consider putting up your house for sale, you could get around to repairing anything that’s not working, or repairing areas that are breaking down. (The only exception, of course, is if you're selling a heritage home and targeting buyers who are looking for a renovation project).
List all the projects you want to do - from fixing electrical / light fixtures, to plumbing, to redoing the floor tiles - find a solid handyman and invest in putting your property’s best foot forward by the time your first visitors arrive. Remember, any project that you put off is simply being pushed on to the buyer - and don’t think they won’t notice, and factor in those costs when making a price offer.
If you have about a year since you want to sell your home, we suggest preparing a maintenance calendar and going room by room to set down what needs to be done and when. Remember, a little work here and there saves your plenty of time and avoids huge time-draining disasters.
9. Skimping on lighting (including natural room lighting)
If your house is closed off to sunlight, or is underlit, your potential buyers will be turned off both from the photos and from when they visit. Make sure to shine a light on any dark corners, so they get the most positive experience possible. People are wired to seek openness and brightness, so open a few of your biggest windows, and replace thick heavy curtains with modern blinds. You can also rethink the way your lighting is set up, as part of the maintenance project, by installing a few new fixtures or working with a staging artist / interior designer / interior lighting specialist to figure out how to best bring out the property’s strenghts for evening visitors.
10. Not doing a complete clean up
Before you move out - pick a couple of days and invest in doing a complete clean up of the place.
A lot accumulates over the years, so make sure to pack pictures, decorations, and other random items that might have sentimental value to you, but will not add anything to the buyer. Once that first layer is done, consider fumigating the house for any pests, as well as doing a complete “spring” cleaning - washing all the floors, dusting all the remaining furniture, sweeping under each rug and carpet, and cleaning all the windows. This will provide a fresh feeling for anyone visiting.
11. Throwing in everything & the kitchen sink
If you’re selling your house fully furnished you likely have furniture, appliances and more that will sell as part of the deal. Some people think that this will be helpful to increase the property’s value, but the truth is that fully furnished homes do not necessarily sell for that much of a higher price, because a lot of buyers prefer to imagine themselves living somewhere with their own style. At the same time, even if someone accepts the house fully furnished for a slightly higher price, there might also be the perception that you’re including all these “freebies” because the property cannot stand on its own legs - dragging down the property’s overall price in the process.
13. Not understanding the buyer or having a buyer in mind
Even if you avoid all the common mistakes, it’s easy to falter when actually meeting your prospective buyers. If this is the first time you’re selling your house, you’re probably too caught up in trying to make a good impression, instead of walking the buyers through their own journey. Selling a house you’ve lived in for years can be very emotional! Typically this means highlighting the wrong aspects of the property, because you don’t understand your buyer well enough and what they’re looking for. This is especially bad if you’re in a highly competitive market, as your property fails to stand out (see above).
14. Setting the wrong price
This is by the far the most costly mistake you can make. A lot of inexperienced property sellers might try to push their luck by pricing their property at the very highest range of what the market is willing to pay. While this might work if your property is luxurious and you don’t have a lot of competition, for the vast majority of property owners, you are going to price out a vast section of your potential buyers.
It is important to note that buyers take a few months to make a decision, and if you start reducing the price over time after being unable to find a buyer, they typically deduce that there is something wrong with the property and avoid it - even though it might be a perfect fit. This will also happen if you price your home too cheaply, as the low price will be perceived as compensating for something that might be wrong, and buyers will avoid it. It’s crucial that you get an expert valuation of your property to ensure you don’t miss out on opportunities to sell.
Visit our property valuation page to find more information about getting one of Dhalia's expert property consultants to give you a fair and objective estimation of your property's value.
When it’s time to move into your second home, it often makes sense to sell your house so your original investment can cover the costs related with upgrading.
In our 35 years of selling of property in Malta, we’ve helped countless first time property sellers find that right buyer quickly. Over the years, we’ve picked up some great tips for those selling their house.
What do you think? Did we cover everything? If you have a question, head over to our Facebook page and let us know what you think.