Monday, 27 September 2021

Selling up? A quick refurb can make a big difference

Don’t be pushed into putting your house on the market before it’s in its best condition.

Don’t be pushed into putting your house on the market before it’s in its best condition. Not only could it mean you’ll still be waiting for a buyer a year from now, but it could also mean a difference of hundreds of thousands of pounds, says LUCY BOON

HENLEY is known for having a shortage of housing, and yet there seems to be an increasing amount of £1million to £1.5million houses that are not selling.

Yes, a lot can be put down to the increases in stamp duty at this level, thanks to 2014’s reforms. However, this is not the full story.

A number of London-based estate agents say the reason could be to do with the question: “Will my house sell ‘as is’ or will people expect me to drop the price to cover the cost of the changes they’ll want to make?”

They add that it may not even occur to sellers that this is an issue.

“If you’re spending, for instance, £1million on a property, for that kind of money buyers — and at that price that usually means families — expect the house to be pretty perfect,” says one London-based agent. “People today want at least four bedrooms and two bathrooms, and so on. Today’s buyer expects a lot for their £1million — and rightly so as it’s a lot of money.”

One local source intimated that some estate agents choose not to take this point of view. “Housing stock is so short in Henley that just getting a house on to the market is their number one concern, rather than getting the property to sell — and that very often doesn’t produce the results sellers want.”

One of the ironies of “doing up” your home to help you sell it is that once finished you may find yourself unwilling to move. But that’s a problem most people would be happy to have, if they knew the figures.

If you put things right — replace an old roof, reconfigure living space, or even clear out old-fashioned décor — you’ll find yourself in a whole different ball game.

“Get it right and the final sales figure will not be a difference of thousands of pounds, but a difference of several hundreds of thousands,” says another local source.

A great example of how well this approach can work is the recently sold Henley property Swiss Farm Cottage, on the Marlow road (A4155).

The property was marketed by Philip Booth of Philip Booth Esq, who says: “When the vendors came to me with a view to selling, and they walked me around the property, I told them the honest truth. If you put it on the market now you will get X amount and could be waiting for a buyer. If you take care of A, B and C you will get Y amount and could move faster. Luckily, they listened to me.”

Situated on the outskirts of Henley and yet still a flat 10-minute walk to town, Swiss Farm Cottage is a semi-detached home built in 1963, which comes with a huge plot of just under an acre that includes a duck pond and wooded area.

The house has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, an attic office space, downstairs WC, large inner hall, dining room, modern kitchen, and large living area with tri-folding doors opening to the outside deck and garden beyond. Most importantly, the vendors consented to a programme of decluttering, depersonalisation and refurbishment as part of a collaboration between Philip Booth Esq and Lothian Design, a long-standing local interiors business run by Louise Lothian.

“Once I established a list of things to change, I realised I would have to call for expert assistance,” says Philip. “And Louise has been tending to projects of this nature for the past 10 years.”

The refurbishment included everything to create a really good first impression — from clearing the garden, internal and external decoration and new carpets.

“However,” says Philip, “we’ve really paid attention to detail with things like power-washing the external brickwork and roof, and adding fresh shingle to the driveway.”

Louise offers her take on the project. “It’s hard for people to see the benefit of calling in someone like me. But once I start to talk through what needs changing and why that’s important, they suddenly start to see the full picture.”

The vendors were impressed by the results, saying: “I can’t believe what these two have done. I could see why they had suggested decluttering and depersonalisation because visually the house looked busy and didn’t show the space and calm.

“I can understand buyers like to be able to visualise their own possessions in the house. They need to be able to appreciate how they would live in the house and not get distracted by collections or sentimental possessions.”

Both Louise and Philip have a raft of people on hand — from expert carpenters to roof fitters. A service of this kind can cost £10,000 or £20,000, which should include the costs of building works, materials, labour and furnishings.

“I don’t turn the house into an interior design showpiece,” adds Louise. “It’s not about going in and making everything ‘beige’. It’s about fixing what needs fixing and using the existing furniture, decluttering where necessary, and adding low-cost touches. The deep blue in the hallway was already here, for example. I simply made the most of it.”

Likewise, there is a wonderful Rayburn, which runs on smokeless fuel and heats the water and saves on the electric bill from autumn to spring, in the centre of the house, which is a lovely feature and part of the history of the house.

“It’s a great core heat supply and a cooking option during power cuts — it also provides a place to dry wet shoes and coats,” say the vendors.

The kitchen and the wood-burning stove in the living room were also untouched. “We just gave them a good clean and chose a suitable floor covering in the living room,” says Louise.

The 24ft L-shaped sitting room is an incredibly light room, having folding glazed doors to the garden and Velux windows in the ceiling. To the far of the room there is a painted brick wall which is where you’ll find the wood-burning stove and exposed flue.

However, the biggest draw of this property has to be the amazing outdoor space. The vendors bought neighbouring land at the time they purchased the house, and they cleared and landscaped it to create a wonderful vista.

To the front of the house there is a shingle driveway providing off-road parking for several cars. This is also the site of the timber store, bike store and other handy outbuildings, some of which have light/power and insulation.

Swiss Farm Cottage is located at the entrance to Swiss Farm, which is a family-run touring and camping site with a strong, established following.

The cottage’s immediate neighbour has a market garden called Bosley Patch, which is also family-run and produces fresh seasonal vegetables and flowers from land to the rear of the garden.

The vendors both say they were very happy with the outcome of the project and that they were very pleased they had taken Philip’s advice.

Swiss Farm Cottage was on the market at a guide price of £750,000 with Philip Booth Esq. It has now sold. For more information, call (01491) 635343.

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