With kids back at school and leaves on the ground, it is only a matter of time before the family group chat turns to Christmas festivities.
Saturday 16 September marked 100 days until what has become one of the biggest deadlines in the property calendar, particularly for those hoping to entertain in a new home at Christmas — or just avoid adding move-day stress to the January Blues.
We asked the experts what Londoners can do now to maximise their chances of selling and moving in before the big day.
1. Do your paperwork
Matt Thompson, head of sales at Chestertons, says there are “always” people who miss their target of moving by Christmas. They key to success lies in prompt and thorough admin, he believes.
“You need to get sale ready. Instruct a solicitor now; there is so much paperwork to be done. If you’ve had an extension or a loft conversion you’ll need to find completion certifications, if you’re a leaseholder you will need a management pack.”
Joanna Cocking, head of prime property at estate agent Hamptons, concurs, describing the legal process of selling as “medieval”.
“Get your selling solicitor to think like a buying solicitor. What will they be asked for and can you provide it now? It will cost money but it’s worthwhile investment. When it comes to December the key parties are often on holiday or at a party.”
Thompson says the same is true for those in the middle of a chain, looking to buy quickly as well as sell.
“Speak to a broker, do the paperwork and get your mortgage offer. You will need a wealth of documents; your last three payslips, bank statements and so on. Get ahead, don’t just assume you can borrow the money when the deal is done.”
2. Choose the right agent
Chris Burton, head of sales at the Dulwich branch of estate agent Knight Frank, says moving house from scratch in 100 days is achievable “if you do things right and get started now”.
This starts with getting the best possible team on your side, he adds, and no appointment is more important than your agent.
“Look for a track record of selling similar properties in your area,” Burton says.
“Get a few agents to value the house and go with the ones who have sold the most locally. Ask for evidence on suggested price. If they don’t convince you then they certainly won’t get money from buyers.”
Angela Kerr, director at property advice portal HomeOwners Alliance, says finding a good estate agent is “critical”.
“A good agent will stay in touch with parties up and down the chain, identifying blockages and helping you to get to exchange of contracts,” she says. “This will be more important than ever in an unsettled economic market where a lack of progress might give a buyer time to change their mind.”
3. Prepare the property
Burton says first impressions count, especially when you’re trying to sell a home fast.
“Declutter,” he says. “It is ok to use garages and lofts as dumping grounds for extra furniture and stuff the kids have left behind when they went to university. One hundred per cent of people think they have imagination when looking at a property but only 20 per cent really do.”
However, he cautions against going to the other extreme and showing prospective buyers around completely vacant properties. “We do probate sales and an empty house often looks small and soulless.”
Cocking says interest in refurbishing homes is slipping away with the last of the sunshine.
“People want turnkey properties, there is no appetite for doing work,” she warns. “People worry about finding the tradespeople, rising costs and limited hours and conditions over the winter.
“If you have a slipped tile, get it sorted, don’t leave it for buyers. Remove the obstacles.”
4. Price to sell
Liza-Jane Kelly, head of London residential at estate agents Savills, says pitching your initial asking price at the right level is “vital”.
“Adopting the correct price strategy helps us generate the enthusiasm in buyers that a more subdued market does not provide,” she says. “Given current conditions, the best approach is to launch at a keener price, in line with fair value, to attract immediate attention and encourage competition.”
Kerr agrees. “Your pool of homebuyers will have had their borrowing power eroded by today’s higher mortgage rates, and the market is adjusting with house prices slowly dropping.
“If you want to sell before Christmas you need to set a realistic asking price and expect buyers to negotiate.”
However, Chris Hodgkinson, managing director of rapid-sale vehicle House Buyer Bureau, urges caution when lowering prices for a quick deal.
“Think about where this means you will sit in the market, what kind of buyers you might attract and whether they will be in a strong position,” he says. “You are far better off attracting one buyer in a position to proceed than four who will pull out or cause your timeline to drag out for months.”
5. Think outside the box
Looking for cash-only or at least chain-free buyers is one way of increasing your chances of a pre-Christmas move. But beyond this you can consider what other levers you can pull to move things along.
Kelly urges sellers to be open-minded and willing to negotiate. “It’s not all about price,” she adds. “Think creatively too — consider offering to include white goods or curtains to seal the deal.”
Hodgkinson says use of quick-sale platforms or even auctions is another option for buyers whose circumstances demand a quick move.
“While it’s more commonplace in America, consider an open house,” he adds. “This is a great way to get a large number of buyers through the door at once.
“You could even have a Christmas party theme to maximise the feelings of festive cheer. The smell of finger foods in the oven and a little mulled wine could work wonders when it comes to persuading potential buyers.”
Taking it a step further, Hodgkinson suggests the idea of a Christmas gift, perhaps covering buyer fees if a deal is done in December. But if all this fails, don’t panic — Boxing Day is often one of the busiest days of the year on Rightmove.