5 strategies that can help you sell a ‘problem property’



Selling your property, whether it’s your main home, holiday or rental home, can be a major decision. But if the building is not in great condition, you need to think carefully about how to market your property for sale in order to achieve a successful sale at the best price.

Start by taking a long, hard look at how much work would be needed to bring the property up to scratch. Could the problem be fixed with a bit of painting & decorating to give the house or flat a cosmetic facelift? Or does it need more serious repair? Is the kitchen overdue for a replacement or the bathroom in need of updating? Are there any structural issues, damp or roofing problems to deal with?

In the property trade, houses that require a lot of repair or renovation are called ‘fixer-uppers’ and you’ll be pleased to hear that there’s a ready market for properties in less than perfect condition. In fact, there are thousands of property buyers out there actively searching for a home they can ‘fix up’ and add value to, either for their own use or as a business venture. “’House flipping’ typically refers to buyers who purchase distressed properties, fix them up, and then resell them for a profit,” explains one property expert. In other words, making a good ‘problem property’ sale is perfectly possible, provided your sales strategy has been carefully thought through.

1. Position the investment as a smart move

Everyone loves a bargain and property buyers looking for fixer-uppers are no different. All buyers, and developers and investors in particular, will expect to get a sizeable discount off the full market value of a property that needs many thousands spending on repairs and renovations. Work with your real estate agent to set a realistic asking price that reflects the work that needs to be carried out to restore the property to top condition.

If the usual sales channels don’t yield any results, or your agent is concerned that that property is ‘too far gone’ or hard to get a mortgage for, and thus of little interest to their client base, you could consider selling at auction. This is where you’ll find property buyers looking for good deals, and who are willing to take greater risks for potentially higher profits. Spring and autumn are traditionally the best times to sell at auction. Set a reserve price and a guide price to reflect the property’s condition and see what happens. You may be pleasantly surprised.

2. Be upfront about any building-related problems

If there are serious issues with the property that you know will affect its value, it may be tempting not to disclose them. After all, ‘caveat emptor’ means it’s up to the buyer to find out if there are any problems, right? Actually, this is a really bad idea. As part of the conveyancing process, the Law Society’s Property Information Forms must be completed by the seller, providing detailed and accurate information about all aspects of the property.

In any event, any serious buyer is bound to instruct their own independent surveyor to take a thorough look ‘under the hood’. This will take the form of a professional RICS Building Survey (Level 3), which one property expert describes as a “detailed assessment […] of the construction and materials used […] and describing any defects present. […] The report will be comprehensive.” Providing incorrect or misleading information or trying to hide any serious issues that later come to light could backfire badly. The buyer may lose faith in you as a seller and decide to pull out of the transaction or, if the sale does go through, they could make a claim for compensation at a later date.

3. Draw attention to the property’s good points

Instead of getting tied up with the idea of selling a ‘problem property’, why not reframe the whole thing and highlight the positives? Your house may have obvious selling points you can promote such as large room sizes, lots of natural light, original period features, a good-sized garden or a great location. Show prospective buyers the property’s potential and the lifestyle they could have if they’re willing to put in a bit of work.

If the property has development potential, this is likely to be of great interest to interested buyers too. Loft extensions, garage conversions, basement conversions, building extensions… if there’s space to potentially extend out into, these are key areas to highlight. Better still, sell the house with planning consent already in place, and you’ll find the deal is suitably sweetened to receptive fixer-upper buyers.

4. Zoom in on your target audience

It’s important to realise that a property in need of repair or modernisation won’t appeal to everyone. Many buyers will prefer the convenience of a home they can move straight into, particularly if it is brand new. Others may not be in a financial position to take on costly refurbishments, and some simply won’t have the appetite to get involved in a major project.

This is why it’s best to direct your marketing efforts at those who are prepared to put in some money and effort to transform a dated or poorly maintained building into a desirable home. Focus your attention on affluent buyers looking to move into desirable residential areas where the most value can be added to a property. Also market to young families looking to settle down in their ‘forever home’ with plenty of space to grow. Finally, don’t forget property investors including serial ‘flippers’ who do up neglected houses to sell on at a profit, and buy-to-let landlords looking for a great long-term investment.

5. Act decisively to get the property sold

We’re all, on occasion, guilty of overthinking problems and worrying about how to sell a property in need of repairs may be one of yours. Actions speak louder, so contact an experienced estate agent for a chat and a realistic appraisal of what your less than perfect property is likely to fetch.

A good agent should be able to come up with solid advice on how best to present your property for listing including

 – Decluttering, deep cleaning and depersonalising the space to create a blank canvas
 – Dealing with small repairs and cosmetic imperfections to get rid of any visual negatives
 – Improving kerb appeal by refreshing the front of the property
 – Tidying up the garden and outdoor areas so buyers can see the potential of the space

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