How to get the best price when selling your property in Berlin
With mortgage rates rising and the borrowing capacity of buyers decreasing, real estate is increasingly becoming a buyers’ market. But if you’re deciding to sell your home, that doesn’t mean you should resign yourself to accepting a low offer. First Citiz, a leading international real estate agent in Berlin, gives their tips on getting the best price when selling your home.
Up until around this time last year, the buoyant real estate market in Berlin and across Germany was favouring sellers. With demand reaching record highs, buyers were frantically competing to outbid each other, pushing up prices and allowing sellers to essentially sit back and watch the offers come in.
But with mortgage rates now on the rise and the appetite to buy decreasing, the outlook is a little different. As fewer people can now afford to buy a home, demand on the market is shifting, and properties are no longer selling like hot cakes. Those who can afford to buy have a little more wiggle room and are meeting sellers who are increasingly willing to negotiate on price.
If you are looking to sell your property in Berlin right now, the market is certainly different to how it was a year ago, but don’t despair: a crash is not imminent, and quality homes are still commanding good prices, especially with the relatively strong demand for housing in Berlin. You just need to take some steps to put yourself in a good position and generate strong interest in your property. Here’s how you can give yourself the best chance of getting a good price for your home.
Get it looking its best
Before you even list your property and start viewings, it’s important to get it looking at its best. Most would-be buyers want to be shown a property that they can imagine themselves moving into straight away - so give it to them.
This doesn’t just mean tidying the kids’ rooms and weeding the garden - though that is of course important - but also fixing all those things that could combine to kill a first impression. That could be giving your tired-looking front door a fresh lick of paint, or fixing that broken handle on the back door.
If you’ve got any major refurbishments pending - particularly bigger issues that are likely to come up further down the purchase process - weigh up the cost of fixing them now compared to knocking that money off the sale price. You want to avoid the buyer noting anything that could be a big expense or a hassle for them, and subsequently deciding to reduce their offer to reflect this.
A real estate agent can help you with this. On an initial walkthrough of your property, they might point out minor repairs or changes that could be made to improve the appeal of your property.
Choose the right agent to get it valued
When preparing to put your house on the market, it’s also vitally important to pick the right starting price, taking into account the local property market. Setting this price too high could put off prospective buyers by convincing them it’s out of their price range, while setting it too low could mean you end up underselling it.
That’s why it’s worth consulting with an experienced real estate agent. Most agencies in Germany offer valuations free of charge and with no commitment. The agent will be able to compare your property with other properties currently for sale in Berlin and others recently sold in the area. They will then set a realistic price expectation based not only on the general market conditions, but also the location, the number and size of the rooms, the features and amenities, and the condition the apartment is being sold in.
That being said, the bottom line when it comes to house sales is that your house is worth what a buyer is willing to pay for it. In other words, they will stack it up against the other properties they have seen and ultimately decide which one is offering them the most value for the asking price. This is why it is so important to nail point #1 above: you want them to fall for your home - hard.
Have a declutter
In the same vein, once you’ve made those repairs, it’s time to start getting your house looking its best for the agent’s photos and viewings. This means having a major declutter. Having too much furniture and “stuff” everywhere will make your house look smaller and potentially drive down the price you get. You want people to be able to walk around unobstructed on viewings - without having to skirt around bulky pieces of furniture - and to be able to imagine themselves living there. That means striking the right balance between cluttered and bare.
If you have a lot of stuff, you might want to put some of your belongings in storage, or alternatively stash things in out-of-the-way places like cellars or attics, and put unnecessary items in cupboards or drawers. Keep a bit of your character, though, with some well-chosen accessories like cushions, prints and throws, to avoid the place from looking too clinical.
Pick an estate agent with a worldwide client base
With the marketing materials completed and your house officially on the market, it’s time to start generating some interest. With property prices and mortgage rates increasing in Germany - the latter in particular have more than doubled over the past year - buying a house is increasingly becoming beyond the reach of many. This is having a dampening effect on the market and making it harder to sell properties in Germany.
Working with a real estate agent with a wide pool of prospective buyers based all over the world therefore increases your chances of landing a good sale. The bigger the agency’s client base, the more visibility your property listing has, and the more interest it will generate. This maximises your chances of selling your home in a short timeframe and at the best price. When it comes to selling a property, it’s the “bums on seats” approach that works best.
If we link this back to the valuation question, then, it’s perhaps less a case of asking, “What’s the highest price I can get for this house?” and more a question of, “What price will generate the most interest in this house?” Pick a price that gets people through the door, and then let the bidding commence.
Properly vet prospective buyers
Especially if you choose an agent with a large, international client base, it won’t be long until you get some interest in your property and get some viewings booked in. It should go without saying, but just in case: make sure your house is clean and tidy for all viewings.
Lots of agents will choose to stack viewings up on the weekend to minimise disruption to you (it’s best to be out of the house while viewings are going on, so people can look around in peace) and also to give the impression that the house is receiving a lot of interest.
When offers do start coming in, give each one consideration but don’t jump to accept or dismiss any of them. A general rule of thumb is to wait at least five days before accepting an offer, to give time for all interested parties to submit, and for you to truly consider which offer is the best for you.
While the price is certainly important, a good estate agent will also vet the potential buyers and present you their offers together with a short profile, to help you make an informed decision about which is best. For instance, they might ask for the following:
- Proof of funds, if the buyer has a large deposit or is presenting themselves as a cash buyer (i.e. buying without a mortgage).
- A mortgage decision or creditworthiness check, if the buyer will need a loan to buy the property.
- A memorandum of sale or chain check, if the buyer has to sell their own home before they can buy yours.
You can weigh up all these factors to make an informed decision about which offer is best.
Get your documents in order
Once you get a good offer on your house, things start to move pretty quickly, and the buyer’s solicitor will ask you for lots of important pieces of paperwork to get the sale moving and to avoid any hold-ups later (which could put off your buyer, if they are in a hurry, and in a worst case scenario, cause them to pull out of the sale completely). An estimated 30 percent of house sale transactions collapse before the contracts are finalised - generally costing both the buyer and the seller thousands of euros - so you don’t want to fall into that stat.
To move forward with the sale, you might need documents like:
- Land register extract
- Floor plans
- Documents relating to any works completed on the house
- Safety certificates for appliances
- Energy certificate
- Rental contracts and utility bills (if you have rented the property)
An estate agent can help you if you are struggling to get your hands on any of these documents. It pays to get all of your important paperwork together ahead of time.
Get a solicitor in place
Once you accept an offer, more likely than not your buyer will be keen to get the ball rolling as quickly as possible - and hold-ups have the potential to give them cold feet. To prevent unnecessary delays, it’s a good idea to get your “legal team” in place well in advance of the offer being accepted. In Germany, you need to instruct a public notary to handle the legal formalities when buying or selling a property.
It’s a good idea to choose your notary before the offers start coming in, so they can start the conveyancing process as soon as possible once you receive an offer, and ensure the sale goes through as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Looking for a Berlin-based estate agent with a worldwide reach? First Citiz is an English-speaking real estate agent in Berlin with a client base spanning 50 countries worldwide. They offer a 360-degree service and full assistance throughout the whole process of selling your property. Get in touch to book a free valuation.