Updated May 2021
Selling a house on the open market can be a frustrating and lengthy process, but exactly how long does it take to sell a house in the UK? According to The Advisory’s “Time to Sell” benchmark study, the average time it took to sell a house — from the first day of marketing to completion — was 18 weeks in 2019. Some homeowners can be left waiting for much longer if their property is in an unpopular location, needs extensive work or is an unusual building. Almost half of all house sales fail before completion, leaving the sellers to start the process all over again.
So what factors affect how quickly a house sells, and how can you speed up the process?
The Impact of COVID-19 on the Housing Market
As the country went into lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on the 16th March 2020, many property professionals feared a devastating impact on the housing market. It is estimated that almost half a million buyers and renters were forced to put their plans for moving home on hold during the government’s freeze on new property sales and lets.
Since restrictions eased on the 13th of May, the country has experienced a mini housing boom and, in September, Rightmove announced that more homes were selling in a week than at any time in the past 10 years, and the positivity in the market looks set to continue well into 2021.
The temporary stamp duty holiday on properties worth under £500,000 and changing homeowner needs post-lockdown — a desire for a garden, fast wi-fi, a home office and access to public green spaces — has led to a buyer’s market, with much more demand for popular properties than there is supply. The original deadline for the holiday has been extended to 30th September 2021 (although from 1st July it will only apply to properties for less than £250,000).
However, while the pandemic may be leading to faster sales of certain types of properties in desirable locations, house sale transactions are taking much longer to complete. Recent research has found that homes are taking 14% longer to sell in 2020 than they did a year ago. As mortgage providers tighten lending criteria — making it especially hard for first time buyers — and businesses across every sector struggle to conduct “business as normal”, the time between offer acceptance and sale completion is rapidly increasing.
There is a backlog of transactions to process due to the number of house sales that were put on hold during lockdown. Furthermore, according to Simon Law, incoming chair of the Society of Licensed Conveyancers (SLC), the current circumstances are placing unprecedented constraints on surveyors’ abilities to process transactions and there simply aren’t enough of them to visit the volume of properties on the market – “conveyancers (are) being stretched to the limit”. Rob Hailstone, founder of Bold Legal Group (BLG) points to the dependence on outside parties to progress transactions and lengthy waits for a mortgage offer as further causes of delay. At every point of the house sale process, from valuation and securing finance to the completion of searches and surveys, the housing market is under pressure.
If you’re thinking about putting your home on the market, provided your property ticks all the boxes of the post-lockdown buyer, you could be spoilt for choice with offers in record time but have a long wait to hand over the keys. This could mean that, overall, there has been little change between how long it takes to sell a house in the UK pre and post-lockdown. Furthermore, when the stamp duty holiday ends on the 30th September 2021 and as unemployment rises, there is likely to be a drop in demand which should see prices start to reduce.
Reasons Your House Is Not Selling
Regardless of the impact of COVID-19, there may be multiple reasons why your house is not selling.
The Asking Price Is Too High:
The Advisory’s study found that overvaluing a property is the top reason a house does not sell. Furthermore, if a home seller sets the asking price too high and subsequently reduces it, this can add months to the time it takes to sell. An overpriced property will attract fewer viewings, which means fewer chances to sell.
Many people start their property search online. If an advert does not include images or the photographs used are of poor quality, there’s a good chance potential buyers will swipe on by. Equally, ads that lack sufficient detail or are not well written will fail to attract attention. Homeowners that choose not to erect a “for sale” board could also miss out on passing trade.
Properties are easier to sell in a “hot” market, and sale prices are typically higher than those achieved in a “cold” market. Recent political turmoil and uncertainty over Brexit resulted in some industry professionals predicting a decidedly “cooler” property market in 2019. However, house prices did, in fact, increase slightly, and there is optimism that the market will heat up after Britain leaves the EU.
Ineffective Estate Agent:
House sellers have a wide range of estate agents to choose from on the high-street and online. However, not all agents work to the same standards. If your agent is not sufficiently pro-active, this will impact the number of viewings booked and, consequently, the time your property takes to sell.
Properties that are untidy, cluttered and uncared for will lack the necessary kerb appeal to attract offers. Poorly presented houses, both inside and out, are off-putting to buyers and can give the impression that a lot of work is required to make the property habitable.
If your property also fails to appeal to the post-lockdown buyer — no garden, no space for a home office, a city-centre rather than a rural location — you’ll need to put some extra effort into selling via the traditional route (on-market with an estate agent).
How to Sell Your House Quickly
If your home is taking a long time to sell, there are some steps you can take to increase the chances of a sale. If your property is not yet on the market, consider these factors before you start to advertise.
Set a Fair Asking Price.
Obtain several valuations from a few estate agents. Don’t simply go with the highest offer — some agents are inclined to overvalue a property in a bid to get your business. Research the recent sale prices of similar properties, and look at those that have been on the market for a long time to gauge what is a realistic asking price.
Take the Time to Market the Property Well:
Consider who is most likely to be interested in buying your home — be it families, young professionals or retired couples — and highlight the features and local amenities that will appeal to the target audience. Make sure your estate agent takes high-quality photographs that show the property in its best light. If you’re selling without an agent, consider hiring a professional photographer.
Time It Right:
There is little you can do to control market heat. However, if properties are moving slowly and not attracting high prices, you might want to consider waiting until the market improves before advertising your home. Many people are rushing to sell their homes before the current surge in demand and prices fall when unemployment rises and the stamp duty holiday ends. As we approach the notoriously slow period for property sales that is December/Christmas, time is running out for a quick on-market sale.
If you need to sell your home fast, a house buying service such as the House Buyer Bureau can provide a guaranteed fast sale in any market. Once a firm offer has been made and accepted, the funds can be in your account in as little as seven days.
Choose an Estate Agent with Care:
Ask friends and family for recommendations, and check out the types of property the agency sells. If you have an estate agent and they don’t seem to be pulling their weight, consider switching to a different agency. There are plenty of options to choose from — online estate agents, high street agencies and even hybrid agents. Alternatively, manage the sale yourself. No rule says a seller must use an estate agent.
Declutter, Tidy and Complete Repairs:
Take the time to complete any minor repairs that make the property look untidy, such as broken door handles and peeling paint. Make sure the house is tidy and free of clutter for viewings. Spending a little time and money on sprucing up property will pay off when potential buyers view your home.
Consider Selling to a House Buying Service:
Selling to a cash buyer will speed up the sales process because you’ll avoid the problems and delays — or worse, failed sales — that often plague property chains. However, cash buyers may be few and far between on the open market.
Using a cash house buying service is the fastest way to sell a property. There are no estate agent fees to pay, and completion can occur in as little as a week after a firm offer is accepted. The sale price will be less than the property’s market value, but when you compare the price achieved through a traditional sale to that of a cash sale, the difference may be less than you think!
House Buyer Bureau is the UK’s favourite house buying service. We buy all types of property in any condition or location. If you want to sell your house fast, complete our 60-second cash enquiry form, and we’ll be in touch with a cash offer in principle. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]