Energy price worries, double-digit inflation, strikes, war and a new government — there’s a lot going on right now, and it’s all beginning to sap the confidence of sellers and buyers.
The market is still robust, with Halifax this month reporting that house prices are 11.5 per cent higher than a year ago, and the typical home now costs a record £294,260.
But some potential sellers aren’t convinced and believe it’s better to wait until spring to see if buyer confidence returns.
Holding off: The housing market remains robust, but some potential sellers aren’t convinced, and believe it’s better to wait until spring to see if buyer confidence returns
Of course, the cuts to stamp duty that Prime Minister Liz Truss and Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng have announced may change a few minds.
But research by savings website VoucherCodes suggests that rising costs have forced 11 per cent of all potential buyers to delay by at least a year.
And a separate study by Nationwide Building Society says seven in ten would-be first-time buyers are putting their plans on ice for some months at least.
So if you’re looking to sell and prevent your home from languishing on the market for months on end, it may be best to spend the next six months getting into pole position for the market in 2023.
Here are our ten top tips…
1. Take top-quality photos
Choose your estate agent now and make sure they take photographs of your home as soon as possible, while the weather is still relatively good.
Then it will look its best regardless of when you decide to list it — and you can choose to start marketing at short notice if the conditions are right.
2. Help your buyer
‘Create a pack including everything you can to reassure buyers and cut delays,’ says Clare Coode, an agent with Stacks Property Search, a buying agency.
‘This should include, for example, a certificate for your wood burner, up-to-date electrical certificates, planning permissions, building regulation sign-offs, information about ownership of boundary walls and documents related to access and rights of way.’
3. Fix a mortgage deal
With interest rates rising, and likely to increase for another 18 months according to commentators, securing a competitive multi-year, fixed-rate mortgage in principle now makes sense.
But many of these deals have to be acted upon within a few months, so ensure you’re in a position to buy before the deadline expires.
4. Boost energy efficiency
This is a key issue for buyers, even after Liz Truss introduced a financial package to ease the burden of increased energy costs.
‘Double glazing, improved insulation or a new boiler could be achieved in a few months, and would likely boost both the appeal and asking price of your home,’ says Location, Location, Location star Phil Spencer.
‘There are also solar panels, but these won’t add enough value to recover their cost in the short term.’
5. Update the kitchen
Consumer group the HomeOwners Alliance says the kitchen is worth more per square foot than any other room in the house, so it’s worth making it look tip-top.
Spend autumn and winter refacing the cabinets and smartening up the walls and floor.
But don’t fit a new kitchen — you won’t recover the cost if you sell soon and an installation hitch could derail plans.
6. Be competitive
Try not to pay too much attention to any one house price index, but look at the overall trend and be prepared to set a competitive asking price in the New Year.
Many estate agents say an asking price at the lower end of your expectations will encourage rival buyers to bid against each other — good news for any seller.
And an overly ambitious price may see the home stuck on the market, especially during a cost of living crisis.
7. Try a neutral restyle
Declutter, of course — but do more than that. ‘If your interior is looking a little dated in style, then redecorate in line with current trends,’ says Alex Lyle, director of estate agency Antony Roberts, based in West London.
‘But try not to be too ‘out there’ as this may put off some potential buyers. Likewise, if carpets are looking a little tired, think about replacing them or switching to wooden flooring.’
8. Spruce up the garden
‘Assess how badly the garden suffered from the drought,’ says Josephine Ashby of John Bray Estates, an estate agent based in North Cornwall.
‘Something planted in the autumn should be thriving by spring. Outside space is important, so doing anything to spruce it up will be rewarded.
Fresh gravel, a trellis to hide eyesores, dramatic pots and cleaned-up furniture with pretty cushions are all easy fixes.’
9. Remember the lights
‘Swap old halogen lights for LED fittings,’ says Emma Barkes of Stacks Property Search. ‘These use 80 per cent less energy to produce the same amount of light.
‘Make the change early so you can demonstrate lower winter bills and also to give you time to paint the ceilings, as the fittings will almost certainly be a different size.’
10. Finish old projects
There’s no excuse for outstanding repairs if you have six months to deal with them, but remember that it can take longer than you think to get a tradesman in.
Maintenance firm HelpmeFix says it typically takes four weeks to get a bricklayer or roofer, and at least a week to get a plumber to do a routine boiler check.