Having helped individuals and estate agents sell property via the internet since 2004, we've developed a strategy for internet property sales, which in many ways is very different than selling property via a real estate agent. Here are some of our top tips:
Attractive photos are the single most important item in attracting people's initial attention, encouraging them to look at the property advertisement in more detail, and perhaps encouraging them to pursue a possible purchase of the property.
- Ensure that all your photos make the most of your property. When taking a photo of the outside of the house, cut the grass and clear away things lying about. When taking a photo of the inside of the house, clean and tidy it first. Pick up toys and make beds before taking photos of bedrooms. If there is something ugly in the photo, remove it or take the photo from a different angle.
- Redo Photos. If you have photos of your property already, carefully look at them and decide if they really reflect the best your property can be. Most houses are at their best bathed in sunshine, with a big blue sky background. Snapshots with friends or family members in the photo are often used, but are not ideal. A photo from years ago when your house was in the middle of renovation, with a hairy-chested builder standing beside a cement mixer, will do very little to sell your house.
- Property Changes. If you have redecorated or renovated the house, making it bigger or more attractive, update your photos and re-upload them to the internet site where you are advertising. It is no use saying "the old photo is good enough, they can see how nice it is when they come", because if you don't have the best photos possible you will get fewer queries and consequently fewer visits they you would otherwise.
- Feature Photos. One of the purposes of photos is to demonstate any special features of your house. If you have stone walls, wooden beams, a beautifull garden or a fantastic view, a photo is a great way to capture this. The old adage "A picture is worth a thousand words" is more than true. Describing the fantastic view from your house is nothing compared to actually providing a photo of it. With landscape photos, remember to take them under weather conditions that will make the most of the view.
- Limit Photos. A common mistake is to upload the maximum number of photos possible, trying to get the best value for money. Keep in mind that the purpose of the photos is to market your house, not to provide detailed information on it. If your house has 2 stunningly attractive rooms and several ordinary ones, you are far better to provide photos of the best two than to provide a photo of each.
- Sequence Photos. Put your most attractive photos first. Remember that the search facilities for most property websites will produce a list of properties and only the first photo is shown for each property on the list. If this photo does not capture the interest of the visitor, they will not click on it to see the other photos and detailed property description. Consequently, the first photo is critical and deserves special attention to make it as good as possible.
- Use small photos. With digital cameras becoming increasingly powerful and cheaper, people are taking increasingly high resolution photos. However, you are usually better off reseting the camera to take a low resolution photo (e.e. 100Kb) than a high resolution photo (e.g. 6000Kb). The reason is that it takes far too long for people to look at your advertisement if you have high resolution photos. A potential buyer with a slow internet connection may take half a minute to download 10 photos at 100kb per photo, but if you have used 6000Kb photos this becomes half an hour. Very few people will wait half an hour just to look at an advertisement, they simply skip to the next advertisement. So, you either need to take the photos at low resolution, or use your computer to resize the photo file size to make it smaller. When resizing a photo, it is worth remembering that the average computer screen is only about 800 pixels wide, so if your photo is much wider (e.g. 2000 pixels or more), the visitor will only be able to see part of the photo at a time and will have to scroll to see other parts.
Aside from photos, the next most important item is getting the price right. When selling property, the temptation is often to place a high price. However, the reality is that the price needs to reflect not what you hope to get for the property, but what you can realistically expect buyers to pay. Setting an overly high price simply means that there will be much less interest from buyers, and you risk missing many potential buyers who do not bother contacting you due to the high price.
- There are a number of ways to determine a suitable price. The best is to look at what similar properties in the same area are selling for. Keep in mind that the question is not what other houses are advertised for, but what they actually sell for.
- The next step is to consider the advantages and disadvantages that your property has compared to these properties. You can then adjust the price accordingly. These advantages and disadvantages need to be considered from the perspective of potential buyers rather than yourself. For example, if you do not have school-age children, the fact that there is an good school within walking distance many not be an advantage to yourself, but it could be a major advantage to potential buyers. Likewise, if you use the property only as a summer house, the fact that it lacks central heating may not be a disadvantage to you, but it may be an important issue to potential buyers.
- Finally, consider recent market changes. Property prices go up and down, so if your price is based on what properties sold for a year ago, you may need to adjust accordingly. Property prices are also affected by local events. For example, if one of the discount airlines starts up a new route to a property near you, that can substantially affect prices.
Your property description should bring out the key points of the property, and its attractions. Include both the technical aspects (e.g. number of rooms) and the features (e.g. high ceilings, wooden beams).
- Consider not only the property, but also the surroundings. Nearby shops, beaches or schools can all be important selling points. Remember that people buying on-line may have a general knowledge of France but are unlikely to know your specific area. Consequently, you will need to point out any significant local advantages. In general, foreign buyers of French property are buying not just a house but also a lifestyle, so they are interested in everything from local schools to local markets.
- Remember to write with the perspective buyer in mind, rather than yourself. For example, if you live in France full-time, the presence of an airport with discount flights to the UK may not be of interest to you. However, it may be of the greatest importance to some potential buyers. Your advertisement needs to discuss the property and its environment from the perspective of potential buyers, not just the aspects that happen to be important to yourself and your family.
- After having included all the important information, keep in mind that conciseness is generally a virtue. An advertisement should be long enough to cover the points of interest but there is no point in making it excessively long
4. Check potential fees and charges
There are a large number of websites which will allow you to advertise your property on-line. Some charge a flat fee, others charge commission, some a combination of the two. There are a range of fees which may be charged to either the buyer or the seller, depending on the website used. It is worth checking the small print before placing an advertisement to determine what fees you are liable for (in particular, any additional fees in the case that you are successful in selling your property through the website). Here at FPSI, we charge the seller a single advertising fee and do not charge any other fees or commissions to either buyers or sellers
5. Check for 'Sole Agency'
Many people advertise their property both online and with estate agents. Make sure that any agreements you enter into with an estate agent (or websites that charge commission) are not 'sole agency'. Estate agents often have you sign a sole agency contract, which means that if you are liable to pay commission to the estate agent for any buyer who has contacted you during the period in which the contract was in place. This means that if you advertise on the internet and find a buyer as a result, you may still have to pay a commission to the estate agent, even through the estate agent had no involvement in finding the buyer.
Consequently, if you are going to list your property online, make sure that any contracts you have signed with estate agents (or other websites) are not sole agency. In other words, ensure that the contract calls for commission to be paid only if the buyer was first introduced by them.
If you have a sole agency contract, ask your estate agent to change it. If they are not willing to do so, you may wish to cancel the contract with them. After all, do you want to work with an estate agent who expects to be a commission when it is actually your private advertising that sells your house?
Ensure that you do not provide inaccurate information, either in your advertisement, or in subsequent discussions with potential buyers. Providing inaccurate information can leave you open to being sued at a later date by a buyer for misrepresenation. Here are some tips to avoid this:
- Never Guess. If you are unsure, you can offer an opinion but make it clear that you are not sure and that the buyer should verify the point himself.
- Use About & Approximately. If you know the approximate answer but not the exact amount (e.g. how many square meters a room is, or how much the taxes are), preceed any statements by 'about' or 'approximately'. However, only do this if you actually know the approximate amount, not if you are unsure (see above point 'never guess').
- Use a Range. Specifying a range is usually better than giving an exact figure. For example, 'between 140 and 160 square meters'. Alternatively one can use 'over' (e.g. over 140 square meters in size) or 'under' (e.g. taxes are under 1000 euros per year).