So the time has come for you to sell your family home. You never thought this day would come when decades ago you found that home where you invested your dreams and your choices of everything from furniture to the colour of the kitchen walls, the style of the bathroom tiles. Not to mention those years of getting the garden right.

Those were terrific years – watching the babies sleep in their cots, putting in the swings to work off their excess energy, sighing as your lawn turn into a football pitch; adapting the underused front room into a study as the big school exams came and went.

And now the family has shrunk back to just two again as the children depart to new pastures and you’re looking at a home that you love but is too big to manage. Heating bills that are too high, a garden that’s just too unmanageable and that ties you down when you want to spend weekends travelling abroad or visiting your grandchildren.

And you want a cosier home – a place where you can surround yourself with the lifelong mementos – just fewer of them! A home maybe without stairs but a lift in a modern apartment complex or a cosy modern bungalow in the locality.

So now with the support of our family you decide to sell your home and move to a smaller one. Where do you start on this journey?

Here we give you some of the top questions we think you should ask yourself before deciding to choose an estate agent, because that choice is one of the most important you can make. A relationship with a good estate agent can make what is a very stressful time a much less stressful one.

We recommend that you talk to a few estate agents before you make up your mind. Obviously it’s a good idea to talk to friends or family who have used an estate agent in their home purchase or sale. What they did like and what they did not like?

1. Do I want someone who may be a small operation but will give me good personal attention or someone with a very visible presence in your area who belongs to a franchise? The advantages of using a bigger firm may seem that you are getting a higher profile but a smaller firm will ensure the personal attention that’s essential to getting the best price possible.

2. Can I get a free valuation to give me an idea of what the house will sell for? Yes, Estate Agents will offer you a free valuation service. They will send a representative to your home to take a look around, and if you simply want a verbal valuation, they can do that easily for free. You can also take a look at the Property Price Register (LINK) for the area to find out for yourself what the previous property sales in your area achieved. You have to be able to compare like with like, though.

3. Should I always go with the highest valuation offered? Not necessarily. It might be tempting to think that the estate agent that gives you the highest valuation will then be able to deliver that but that’s not always the case. Some estate agents offer more than can be delivered. Be sure to give yourself some choices before deciding. Again look at the Property Price Register and see what price the equivalent house in your area got in your area in recent month.

4. Should I have an Auction or go for Private Sale? There are advantages and disadvantages to having an auction, and it really depends on what you are looking for. An auction can sometimes achieve a higher price, but it can be very stressful. Auctions work better for higher valued homes. It’s always worth seeing if there are other auctions of similar properties in your area being held around the same time. I know of one case where nobody turned up at an auction for a house in a very poor condition in a very good area because they were competing with an auction for a similar but more modernised property being held at the same time! The house subsequently sold by private sale.

5. How long will it take to sell my house? That depends. Give it at least two months from the time the sign goes up to the Sale Agreed. And that’s optimistic. It depends on demand, and if your home is in a desired location, then you are definitely going to get a lot of interest. Right now, almost everywhere in the Dublin area is in high demand. But it is also the case that potential vendors are finding it difficult to get the cash from the bank. We always advise not to rush a sale.

6. Should I invest in doing the house up before I put it on the market? We are looking at two scenarios here: The run down property in need of a very good modernisation, and a well-kept property that just needs some staging.

  • Staging means that if the home is empty of all furniture and fittings, it is good to bring in some and have it looking well so viewers are able to imagine what it would look like. We recommend you hire an interior designer who can introduce some nice furniture such a well dressed bed and a nice dining table and chairs, combined with some nice fittings for the kitchen area. Your estate agent should be able to help you with this as well.
  • It also helps to get a professional cleaner in to get it sparkling, as this makes it more attractive.
  • Small but significant additions like nicely prepared flowerpots at the front door make a big difference.

If the house is in poor condition – i.e. needing rewiring and a full renovation, it doesn’t make sense to spend a huge amount of money on it. However, it is a very good investment to remove all the out of date furniture, and get all the walls and doors repainted in a neutral colour throughout; have the house thoroughly cleaned first – that will make such a difference to the final price. So our advice is to be prepared to spend a few thousand euros doing up your older property and maybe a bit less on staging a newer but empty property.

7. What about the outside of the property? Certainly, have it clean and tidy for viewing. Get in a gardener to clear any big plants or overhanging bushes, and have the patios or decking power washed. Again some nice pots of brightly coloured plants – no matter the season! – make a huge difference and give a warm welcome to viewers at the front door. The look of the front of the home is very important; first impressions really do count. So wash the door and clear any debris around the front door; get the window-cleaner in as well.

8. How much will estate agents charge? Every estate agent will give you an indicative fee, usually a percentage of the final sales figure. In the same way that you would not always buy the cheapest in your day-to-day purchases, you should ask yourself if hiring the cheapest estate agent will deliver you the best value! In all cases, paying more for a service ensures greater quality, attention to detail, attention to the vendor, and a personalised service.

9. If I am living in the property while it is on sale, can I organise viewing by appointment only? Of course. While it is stressful, we do ask families to try to keep a home tidy while viewing is occurring. For us, we rarely have “open viewings’ – i.e. where dozens of strangers traipse through a home just for a look, with few really interested buyers. We believe that viewing by appointment identifies the serious buyer. And we always organise viewings to suit the vendor’s circumstances.

10. How long should it take from sale agreed to actual sale? That depends on the level of paperwork involved, and how complicated the circumstances are. But this generally takes at least three months from Sale Agreed to finalising the sale. Remember this is one of the biggest purchases an individual or couple makes in their lives, and these days, the banking and legal regulations are more numerous than before.

11. What’s the best way of ensuring I get the best price I can? Prepare your house as best you can (see above). Be patient, sit tight, and wait. And get an estate agent who ensures you get the full attention your property requires, finds the serious buyers, and keeps in touch with them when they do come to take a look.

12. Should I declutter the house in advance of selling even if I am still living in it? We highly recommend that you do a big declutter of your home in advance of putting it on the market. This can be a time-consuming and sometimes rather difficult thing to do, especially with possessions that have an emotional value, and we recommend that you get some help, either from a good friend, or a family member. How to choose what to take out and what to leave is not easy! But we are not saying that you have to get rid of everything. There are some excellent storage companies where you can put some of your valued possessions, including large pieces of furniture, framed photographs, and keepsakes, into safe keeping and easily accessible until you decide what to do next.

It isn’t always possible to make decisions about possessions without time to think about where your next home will be and whether it will suit. So that’s an important consideration to keep in mind.

And finally, remember that the light at the end of the tunnel is your new home. The cosy, easier-to-manage home you’ve dreamed of. And at the same time, a new family with new dreams, plans and energy gives your older home the attention it deserves, while you look forward to the independence and freedom your sale has given you.

Good luck!

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