Country houses for sale

How to sell your house: the truth

The prime property market can be a daunting environment. If all your competitors seem to have a moated manor, an old Georgian rectory or a grand Victorian house, how can you make your property stand out? According to industry experts, a picture is still worth 1,000 words and beauty really is in the eye of the beholder -as long as you can get the beholder to your front door. Nowadays, 80% of house sales start with buyers browsing on the internet, where attention spans are increasingly short.

To catch these wandering eyes, top quality photography is crucial, explains James Grillo of Chesterton Humberts. ‘We’ve done our own research with webcams and mouse movements to see how browsers’ pupils and retinas react to certain images. The evidence shows that we can’t help but look at pretty houses. They’re no different from a Ferrari or a Rolex, or even the Mona Lisa-our eye is drawn to those things we find aesthetically pleasing.’

This is precisely the reason why you should secure the services of a good photographer. ‘I’d go so far as to compare it to your wedding photos,’ states Mr Grillo. ‘Do you pay for a professional? Or do you ask your uncle to point and shoot on the most important day of your life?’

Ed Cunningham of Knight Frank has witnessed enormous changes in the industry during the past 25 years, but he also believes that the impact of a good professional photograph remains unrivalled-especially now that technology has made it easier to take and share images. ‘The techniques good photographers use-such as elevating the camera on poles and controlling the aperture and so on from their laptops-are remarkable. In the past, we would peer at black-and-white transparencies on a lightbox. Nowadays, pictures will go straight to onto smartphones and buyers can call the agent just minutes after they’re taken.’

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Southcombe Farm, in Devon, £995,000; Knight Frank (01392 423 111)

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The seller also plays an integral role in creating the perfect picture, stresses Edward Church of Strutt & Parker. ‘Don’t forget you’re selling a lifestyle and a dream, so you don’t want to show a sterile environment. If it’s a family home, then it may be better for it to look lived in.’

You also need to point both photographer and agent towards the key detail that makes your property unique so they can capture it to attract buyers. ‘The current owners will know the house far better than the agent ever could, so their insight is important,’ advises Mr Grillo. ‘We need to get to the essence of what makes the house special as quickly as possible.’

A degree of forward planning will help, because it gives the photographer the best opportunity to show off your house and gardens. Pictures of the wisteria in bloom, followed by the magnolia in summer, a spray of autumn colours and even a winter scene will give you a more eventful story to put on the brochure- and an edge over the competition. ‘If you can be the first to go to market in March, while the other sellers are waiting to have their pictures taken in April and May, you have an advantage,’ suggests Mr Grillo. Sellers should be careful not to go too far, however.

Although an inspiring picture can make all the difference, it, and the accompanying words, mustn’t fall foul of the Property Misdescriptions Act 1991. ‘We have to deal in facts,’ warns Mr Grillo, ‘so we can’t Photoshop out pylons. Besides, if you mislead the buyer, then you’ll invariably have a negative viewing.’

With words, less is more these days. ‘We now we just highlight the basics, because that’s what people want,’ notes Mr Cunningham. ‘But do let us know about the house’s special history. It all adds appeal.’

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