The housing market in England is open for business again, but with the reopening come a thousand questions. Who better to guide us through the uncertainty than the familiar faces of Phil (Spencer) and Kirstie (Allsopp), hosts of the long-running property search TV show Location, Location, Location , which celebrates its 20th birthday this year.PHIL AND KIRSTIE’S GUIDE FOR...
● What can I do to limit viewings?
Phil “Virtual viewings are helpful and will cut down the number of properties to visit. First do a video or 3D tour if there is one, then ask the vendor for a personal video tour on Facetime. You can ask: what is behind that door, show me the view out the window, but you can’t really make an important emotional decision without visiting in person. Feelings are a part of house hunting. If you feel safe with the protocol, get out there. If you don’t, don’t.”
Kirstie “Do better online research than ever before. Use Google Earth. Look at floorplans online, then get out a tape measure to see what 12ft is. Do a drive-by. Walk down the street. Get a feel for the outside of the house and the area.”
● Should I try to bargain?
Phil “I feel it’s wrong to take advantage of the situation, but I wouldn’t be comfortable paying a February price now. If I am in the middle of a transaction, I wouldn’t knock 20% off. That is out of order. I would probably say to the agent: the world is a different place now, my finances have changed, I’d love to buy the house but I don’t feel I could continue at that price. Invite the vendor to suggest a price they’d be willing to sell at.
“It also depends how much you like the house, and your timescales. Keep in mind there is a lot of pent-up demand.”
Kirstie “People are talking about 5% to 10% adjustments. Banks don’t know the value of properties and will likely value conservatively. If someone made an offer in February, they might be within their rights to reduce that offer. But the seller is within their rights to refuse that offer. There’s no guarantee you will be able to get something cheaper than you did in February.
“If the house is perfect for you and you can afford it, don’t walk away because they won’t give you 10% off. It’s a home. What we have learnt through this crisis is our home is really important, it’s where you will have to spend a lot of time over the next few years. It’s not all about the money.”
● Which houses will sell at a premium?
Phil “Houses with more space and a garden, home offices, and easy access to the countryside. High-rise flats with no outside space, and with a shared lift, will not be in demand, so there might be more flexibility in price.”
Kirstie “Outside space is going to be so much more important. Flats with real square footage where you get the outside in will be worth more: a flat with a Juliet balcony where you open French windows and sit in the sun. In a rural setting, broadband and wifi are everything now. No one will risk buying something now that hasn’t got good contact with the outside world. People will be putting masts up.”
● Should I avoid buying a fixer-upper?
Phil “Not necessarily. It is possible for builders to socially distance and they will be keen for work. But there might be a backlog and you may have to wait for the builders you want.”
Kirstie “We are going to have to get used to working within the new normal and social distancing. There is no vaccine. Everybody is going to have to learn that everything is possible. We have to protect ourselves and our neighbours, but we are going to find a way through this.”PHIL AND KIRSTIE’S GUIDE FOR...
● Is now a good time to sell?
Phil “Ask yourself, what is your motivation? Were you always planning to move or are you just sick of the sight of the same four walls? Avoid knee-jerk decisions. Be cautious. You don’t want to give your house away if the market doesn’t fall off, but equally you don’t want to ask too much for prices to fall.”
Kirstie “I would do it sooner rather than later. While the market is active. I think there will be a lot of activity, a post-lockdown bounce for a while, because of the three Ds [death, divorce and debt], and people re-evaluating their lives and their commute. After the bounce, God only knows what will happen. I am not sure about a V-shaped recovery.”
● How should you handle viewings?
Phil “If you don’t feel safe, don’t do it. If you feel safe, follow the protocol and get stuck in.”
Kirstie “Get the agent to vet the buyers thoroughly to avoid tire kickers and time-wasters. Facetime tours are a great idea for the seller. To prepare for a tour, practise, practise, practise. Get your tidiest friend to ring you and give them a virtual tour and take their advice. Do tours when your house is sunniest.”
● Should you accept a lower offer?
Phil “If prices go down 5%, and you’re buying somewhere, then you’ll buy at 5% less. It’s all relative. You want to be confident you can buy at the same discount you’ve just agreed on your sale.”
Kirstie “It’s all down to personal circumstance and why you are selling. Things may be better in three years’ time, but I don’t think you will get more for your house in a year’s time.”
● Can you speed up a sale?
Phil “Don’t be overly ambitious on price. Make it tempting for the buyer. Also, get your solicitor to pre-prepare a contract, so when you agree a deal, it can go out. Have the paperwork and deeds ready to go. Ask about the buyer’s position. Go with the one who can proceed. It’s easy for the buyer to say I’ve got a mortgage in principle. Ask for the details. And try to avoid chains. The fewer people involved the better. Lives and businesses will be changing.”
Kirstie “I hate the expression cash is king, but that has never been truer than right now. And have a good lawyer, not some online conveyancer. That is my number one tip. They should be proactive and communicate well, not by snail mail. And keep the house tidy at all times. Nobody is going to let you walk around their house if they are not interested in selling it. So the market will be more pure and dynamic.
● What should I be looking for in an agent?
Phil “Someone you trust. Someone experienced, who has been around the block. Nobody knows what is going to happen. And ask who you will be dealing with, who will be doing the negotiations and viewings. You may like the branch manager who comes to your house, but often you never see them again.”
Kirstie “Are they being proactive? Do they do social media and have a good website? What do they say when you ring them? Are they hmmning and aahing? You want someone dynamic and interactive.”