Is a letter-drop the answer to finding the right house?

Thu, May 23, 2013, 01:00

What would you do if you got a letter asking if you would consider selling your property? Would you find it intrusive and destroy it; perhaps disregarding it simply as junk mail?

Or would you go so far as to ring the number on the note and open negotiations as to a possible sale?

I’m hoping it could be the latter, because this is something we’ve started to think about doing in recent weeks. With supply still restricted in our search area, friends have suggested that a letter-drop could be the solution.

It might sound like a far-fetched option, but it doesn’t take long to find examples of people who have successfully done this. One couple I heard of had focused their house search on a particular street in north Dublin. With no properties coming onto the market, they sent letters to all the houses in the area. In the end they got two responses – and ended up buying one.

Another made their move having been underbid on a property in the same estate. They also got lucky when their letter found its way to a landlord who was looking to offload his house.

From a seller’s perspective, it can make sense. No estate agent fees, no hassle trying to get your house in order for viewings – and no having to vacate it every time. In addition, a direct sale can avoid all the stress – for both parties – that a bidding process often brings.

A key concern is likely to be the price. Without an open bidding process, can you be sure that your house will get as much as it could by going down the private-sale route – or would any premium be negated by the agent’s fee?

There’s no guarantee in any case that you would get a higher price and you could risk engaging in a protracted process – a bird in the hand and all that.

From our viewpoint, the arrival of the property price register should make the process, that bit easier because all parties are clear from the outset what a likely offer will be.

However, it’s not likely to be completely straightforward either – if a person hasn’t gone to the bother of putting their house on the market, are they really committed to selling? And could any expressions of interest just be a natural response to see how much they might get?

Still, it’s probably worth giving it a shot – now we just have to decide what to put on the letter. In John Lanchester’s recent London novel Capital all the residents on a street receive a note through their letter-boxes. “We want what you have,” it declares, above a picture of their house.

I’m thinking a less threatening approach might be better advised.

A hand-written note might give it a personal touch, and distinguish it from the plethora of notes from estate agents that are being dropped into houses all over Dublin. Indicating mortgage approval is probably also essential, as is saying that we are in a position to move quickly.

Some people have suggested that we should put a picture of our family with the note (or maybe get a stock photo of the “perfect” family?) to try and stir up the emotions of the vendor, but I think that really is a step too far.

So it’s time to get writing. Wish us luck!


*****


I wrote some weeks ago about rising asking prices, but I’m still not sure which direction prices are really going.

At the time, one house had come on at a strong €450,000 – given its condition – in Stillorgan, but it has already had €55,000 wiped from it, while two larger properties in Blackrock – on at €945,000 and €775,000 – have also had their prices reduced by 6.4 per cent and 4 per cent respectively since then. And, a four-bed in Goatstown, which came on at €525,000 is on the price register as having sold for €432,000. On the other hand, a four-bed detached house in Glenageary was put on for auction at €600,000 – but sold for €725,000.

With such volatility in prices it’s anyone’s guess where they’re headed.

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