My husband and I had our first baby last year and we’re now busting out of the seams of our one-bed flat. We really need to move to a bigger place – ideally a house with three to four bedrooms.
We want to stay in the same area – Clapham Junction in London – but we’re struggling to find a solid offer on our flat, a beautiful one-bed with a basement and garden.
We’re also struggling to find a suitable house – there just seems to be nothing coming onto the market, and when it does, it’s gone in a day.
In the meantime, our son is getting bigger and we are finding it harder to manage where we are.
What can we do?
TV’s Phil Spencer gives the secrets to taking a successful second step up the property ladder
TV Property guru and founder of advice site Move iQ Phil Spencer replies: Making the step up from first home to first family home is a bigger leap than many people realise.
Think about it this way – when you and your husband bought your flat, you only had your own needs to think about. Now you’re buying for three people, not two. And babies and small children have different needs to adults.
Buying for a family is about more than just having an extra bedroom. You’ll want to think about having a garden, or at least having a good park nearby, not to mention the quality of local schools and what catchment area the property is in.
The longer the checklist of things you want to have in your new home, the shorter the list of suitable properties becomes. Unless, that is, you’re willing to improve your odds by searching across a bigger geographical area.
Given that you’re househunting in one of the most popular areas of Southwest London, this is something you should consider.
Even though prices in Clapham Junction have softened over the past 18 months, its excellent rail links and proximity to Clapham Common mean there is often intense competition for the few homes that do come on the market.
While a three-bedroom house in Clapham Junction can easily cost over £1million, your money will buy much more just a little further out, in areas like Earlsfield, Southfields, Tooting or Streatham – so it’s definitely worth casting your net a bit wider.
As for improving your chances of beating other buyers to the home you want, speed can be everything in a market starved of supply like London’s.
Make sure you register as a buyer with as many estate agents as possible, telling them exactly what you’re after and what areas you’re interested in.
Estate agents often send details of a new listing out to their mailing list of buyers before putting it online, meaning you could have first dibs if you’re on the right mailing list.
Also, make yourself as ‘proceedable’ as possible. This is estate agent speak for putting yourself in the strongest buying position you can, for example by having a mortgage offer in place.
Of course, the best way to make yourself proceedable is to solve your other problem – selling your current flat.
The longer your flat sits on the market unsold the harder it can be to attract a buyer
If you’re getting viewings but no serious offers on your flat, try lifting its sales appeal by overhauling the garden or giving the place a fresh coat of paint. This is a tried and tested trick of the trade; just a little elbow grease can make all the difference.
Alternatively, if you feel your estate agent is failing to get enough – or rather, enough serious – buyers through the door, you could list your flat with another agency.
You’ll need to check the contract you signed when you first listed your flat for sale, as it is likely to tie you into the property being marketed on a ‘sole agent’ basis for a certain period of time. But once that time is up, there’s nothing to stop you instructing another agent or even several other agents.
By giving your agent some healthy competition – and introducing the risk they might lose out on a juicy commission – you could force them to raise their game!
Finally, the bluntest – but perhaps most effective – way to sell your flat more quickly is to reduce the price. Study the asking prices of similar homes in the area, and be honest with yourself – might it be overpriced?
The reality is that in many of London’s previously red hot markets, prices have been falling recently – so you may need to recalibrate yours accordingly. If you opt to go down this route, do it sooner rather than later.
The longer your flat sits on the market unsold, the more ‘stale’ it will look, making it harder to tempt prospective buyers through the door.
With your son growing fast, you’ll soon run out of room in your one-bedroom home. So you clearly need to take the initiative, both to speed up the sale of your flat and improve your chances of landing the home you want.
If reassessing your asking price is the solution, take solace in the fact that if you’re staying in the area, the place you buy may well have been reduced too!
>> Read This is Money’s guide to selling your home here