Go to your letterbox and, most weeks, householders will find an offer of a free market appraisal from one or more real estate agents.
Designed primarily as the first contact point in what agents hope is a lifelong relationship, the obligation-free quote can be a positive experience for interested parties, depending on how it is handled.
In effect, the appraisal should be the first step towards obtaining at least three opinions of your property’s value, with the median (or middle) value probably a more accurate indication of its worth.
Is the price right?
It’s fair to think that a good agent should accurately predict within 10 per cent of the sale price, so if the figure quoted seems too high or too low, this might be due to highlighting flaws in the marketing or valuation processes.
Of course, there will always be properties that defy expectations, but these are the exception rather than the rule.
Marketing, commissions, auctioning styles and gut instinct should also form part of your assessment about who you entrust with a job that will have a major financial impact on your future.
The makings of a sound appraisal
Any appraisal should include advice on how to present your property in its best light, and whether any potential improvements are worth carrying out.
Always remember that most buyers instinctively cast an eye over the external appearance. If it appeals, they will investigate further. If not, they will turn their attentions to other properties.
That’s why — in the case of a house — it’s vital to first pay attention to your garden and path leading to the front door. Oiling gates, repairing cracked tiles, cleaning windows, polishing door handles and ensuring the doorbell works make lasting impressions.
Then, once inside, it’s important to create an invitingly lived-in look, which your agent can advise you about in terms of lighting, fragrances, pets and general tidiness.
The time-honoured enhancements of fresh flowers and brewing coffee are hard to ignore, as is adding a drop of vanilla essence on a warm hotplate for a just-finished-cooking aroma.
Vendors should keep their distance
But that doesn’t mean the presentation package includes you. The major reasons agents recommend that vendors not be present at inspections are two-fold.
The first is for vendor protection. Because everyone has different tastes and levels of tact, eager buyers are always willing to offer their opinions about various parts of your home, which may cause offence to sensitive vendors already experiencing a wave of emotions.
Secondly, homebuyers may feel they are intruding if you are there, possibly reducing the welcoming atmosphere you are trying to convey. After all, buyers are also seeking that special feeling when they walk through your door.
Flexibility is essential
Many agents recommend vendors be flexible about inspections during the selling period, and to go for a coffee or to the park during inspections.
Inspections are a necessary process in any selling period, but by adhering to a common goal, vendors can expect to reap rewards on auction day.
And that appraisal you acted upon could well be the difference between moving forward financially and being left behind.