Moneywise reveals 10 common problems that are likely to impact on your home’s value and saleability
Anything from noisy neighbours to smelly pets can be enough to deter would-be buyers, so if you’re selling up you need to be aware of potential no-nos.
Buying agent Henry Pryor says: “Home buyers can be fickle – I have sold thatched properties to people who said that they would never look at one and I have bought flats for clients who said they only wanted houses. In the end, it is usually the property itself that turns someone’s head, but even with perfection there are some classic turn-offs.”
1. High crime levels
According to recent research by insurer Direct Line, almost half of the 2,000 Brits they polled say they would check crime statistics in neighbourhoods they might live in, while 47% would not buy a home in an area with a high crime rate. Over a third (36%) admit they would expect to pay less for a property in a high crime area.
Direct Line says that 8% of adults have been a victim of a crime, but don’t report it because they are worried it would devalue their property.
To find out about crime rates in your area, visit Crime-statistics.co.uk/ postcode or Police.co.uk.
You can reassure buyers by setting up a Neighbourhood Watch scheme. To find out what’s involved, visit Ourwatch.org.uk.
2. Nightmare neighbours
A new survey carried out for Moneywise by online estate agent eMoov found that one in four people are put off a property by nightmare neighbours.
Arguments in the garden cause the most angst, according to a poll by retailer Rattan Direct. Almost a third admit to disagreeing with their neighbours over noise, broken fences and walls, and untidy gardens – including overgrown trees and hedges overhanging a neighbour’s garden. Neighbours’ kids and pets also caused annoyance.
Always try to resolve disputes amicably before contacting your local environmental health or planning department, or police.
If you decide to go through the courts, your solicitor will be obliged to let buyers know that there is or has been a problem.
3. Over improving your home
Ruining the proportions of your home and carrying out the wrong types of ‘improvements’ will deter potential buyers, according to Mark Hayward, chief executive of the National Association of Estate Agents.
Examples he cites include turning a double bedroom and two singles into two doubles; astro-turfing the lawn; and making the downstairs totally open-plan so there is no ‘quiet’ area.
“Keep it simple and don’t over-extend or over-personalise your property,” he advises.
4. Poor-performing schools
According to a recent report by property portal Rightmove, parents in England are prepared to pay, on average, £52,000 more – or an 18% premium – to buy a home that secures a place at an outstanding state primary school rather than moving near a school with an Ofsted grade 3 that ‘requires improvement’.
So if your local school does get a bad Ofsted report, expect it to affect the value of your property.
Mr Hayward says: “School catchment areas are hugely important, but people need to be aware that catchment areas change on an annual basis.”
Visit FindASchool by 192.com or use Rightmove’s School Checker (Rightmove.co.uk/schools) and key in the postcode to find out the latest Ofsted ratings.
5. Neglecting your home's exterior
Fail to give your house ‘kerb appeal’, and potential buyers may not even make it through the front door. House hunters take just 10 seconds to decide if they like a property from its exterior, according to a survey last year by Barclays Mortgages.
Mr Pryor advises: “Tidy up the garden and make sure the house is looking its best. If you are demanding a king’s ransom for your property, give it a chance by putting the bins together and washing the windows.”
6. Air pollution
A relatively new addition to a buyer’s wish list is clean air.
Paula Higgins, chief executive of consumer group the Homeowners Alliance, explains: “More information is being published on the impact of diesel, so air pollution is in the public consciousness.
“We have had members contact us complaining about pollution from nearby roads. Buyers with children are more likely to be concerned about air pollution, particularly because of its effect on conditions such as asthma.”
Look out for free apps that give real-time data on air quality in your street – for example, Air Quality or BreezoMeter for Android devices or CleanSpace for iPhones.
7. Clutter and dirt
Catch up on TV shows such as Get Your House in Order and Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners to inspire you to declutter and clean.
Mr Pryor says: “If the buyer can’t see into the room, then why would they shell out for it? If you are describing something as a bedroom, put a bed in it!
Ms Higgins adds: “While poor decor can usually be overlooked, dirt and smells cannot be so easily ignored. If a house has a bad smell or appears unhygienic, it can be hard to get buyers to see past this and view the house with an open mind.”
Consider storing some of your possessions in a self-storage unit while you market your property – Safestore.co.uk, for example, quoted me £20 a week (including 50% off for the first eight weeks) for a 25 sq ft space.
You can also hire firms such as Taskrabbit.co.uk or Handy.com for a one-off deep clean.
8. Poor energy efficiency
Energy efficiency has grown in importance for buyers since Energy Performance Certificates were introduced 10 years ago, and it’s due to become even more important next year.
Ms Higgins explains: “From April 2018, it will be illegal to rent a property with a poor energy efficiency rating (worse than E). Even though it won't impact on those buying a home to live in, prospective buyers who are looking to rent out the property will be put off.”
Visit Energysavingtrust.org.uk/home-energy-efficiency for tips on insulation and draught-proofing.
9. Crime scene
Marketing a property with a chequered history can be challenging, particularly if it has been a home to a serial killer. The best way forward is to be upfront about your home’s history and to expect it to sell for less than neighbouring houses.
“Celebrity connections are helpful for sellers, but a black history is not good and many buyers will be put off. Hauntings, murders, even a recent trauma such as divorce can put some people off,” says Mr Pryor.
10. Cats and dogs
While you may think that your family pets are adorable, buyers won’t welcome them on viewings and they may even cause you a lost sale.
Cats can deter buyers who may be anxious about moving in with children with allergies or the fact that cats may return after the owner moves, according to research by Harrison Murray estate agency and The Nottingham estate agency.