People always claim moving house is the most stressful act after death and divorce, it’s also the biggest financial transaction you make in your lifetime, therefore it is really important to get it right. Luckily making a house ready for sale is not rocket science and even the most unloved homes can be transformed with a small budget and a bit of imagination. A well-presented property will hopefully ensure a better asking price and a quicker sale. So let’s get started.
You had me at Hello
The internet has changed our lives in so many ways, so it goes without saying that it has changed the way we buy and sell property. A decade ago most people would have started their property search at the local estate agent, you would have sat down, registered your details, been passed a few brochures then arranged to meet the agent at 15 Longworth Gardens at 4.15 on Friday. Now the majority of buyers start their search online, and this is why curb appeal, the way your house looks from the outside is so important. If you have gone all the way to 15 Longworth Gardens to meet Sophie the estate agent, the likelihood is, even if the front of the house doesn’t appeal to you, you will still go inside. If you are sitting at home on the computer searching RightMove and the front of the house looks grotty you are very likely to click the mouse and move on to the next property. So don’t neglect the exterior, first impressions count!
If you have a front garden, mow the lawn, tidy away the children’s toys, bin the old rusty BBQ you never use, pull the weeds out of the crazy paving. If your bins are visible try to hide them behind a bamboo screen or build a bin store. For those with entirely concrete front gardens, a splash of colour in the form of plants will really brighten up the look of the place. These days most big supermarkets sell plants and pots, geraniums, lavender, pansies or whatever looks bright and cheerful, window boxes of pretty flowers or pots scattered around arranged at different heights will cheer up even the most depressed looking concrete yard.
If the paintwork is peeling on your windows and front door, a fresh coat of paint is essential; you don’t want a buyer’s initial thoughts to be negative, if I saw flaking paint on the window frames I would think the house had been poorly maintained. If you live in a flat with a shared front garden and communal stairs I would still follow this advice, tell your neighbours you are selling your property and you would like to tidy up the garden, it might be galling cleaning others’ mess but it will pay dividends.
The most cost effective way to make an immediate improvement to the look of a property is a fresh coat of paint, it can cover all manner of ills from pet and cigarette odour to dated wallpaper, a paint job will transform your house for relatively little money. If the thought of spending a couple of weekends in overalls wielding a roller fills you with dread, a professional painter and decorator can paint an average 3 bedroom flat/house for around £1500. If the budget is tight, concentrate on the front hall and the principal reception rooms, kitchen, sitting room, master bedroom. When it comes to decorating your house for sale I believe it is best to play it safe and opt for neutral colours, creams, whites, very pale pastels will help brighten rooms and not offend anyone’s taste. You might like deep purples or Neon greens but they will not be everyone’s cup of tea.
De-Clutter, De-Clutter, De-Clutter
De-cluttering costs nothing other than your time and has a huge impact on how successfully your house shows to buyers. In my time as an estate agent and house finder I have seen the interiors of hundreds of properties and I can tell you that clutter and mess are a major turn off. A cluttered room looks smaller and it is harder for the buyer to imagine themselves and their belongings in the space.
Before you even get a valuation done have a major spring clean, get the bin bags out and pare down your belongings. Books, CDs, DVDs, ornaments and knick-knacks, kitchen appliances all take up valuable space. Even the tidiest of us tend to have stuff lying about that we don’t need, if you can’t bare the idea of chucking these possessions away or giving them to charity then ask a friend or relative if you can store your belongings in a garage or attic. If your sitting room is so stuffed with furniture you can’t swing a cat, be radical get rid of at least a third of it and just sit back and be wowed by how spacious the room becomes. The aim is to open up the space and allow the buyers to walk around, but have enough furniture to convey the function of the room. If your smallest bedroom is currently more like a junk room, clear it out so buyers can picture it as kid’s room or study, don’t just assume they can see past the mess and detritus. Also remember that people will look inside cupboards when viewing a property, storage space is valuable commodity so make sure it is looks neat and tidy inside and out.
Finish That DIY
but not so good at finishing the job now is the time to get serious, nothing puts off punters more than dodgy DIY and unfinished projects. Loose wires, sockets hanging off, wonky tiling, missing loo seats all give the wrong impression. Although buying a house is a huge financial decision people don’t just vote with their wallets, buying a house is a hugely emotional decision as well, this is going to be someone’s home, so you want them to fall in love with it, but nothing says unloved like shoddy home improvements. So if you can’t finish those little jobs yourself get a handyman in to do the job, believe me it will be money well spent.
This sounds obvious but keeping your house clean while it’s on the market is key, it might be hard work, especially if you have young children, but no one likes a dirty house. You might think I’m teaching my granny to suck eggs but you would be surprised the amount of houses I’ve seen that are filthy. The kitchen should be spic and span it’s the heart of the home and consistently voted most important room in the house. The counter tops should be clean and cleared, you want to show off how much space you have. No washing up in the sink, clean and deodorize the fridge, clear toys away, hoover floors, stairs and hallway, fold away laundry, make sure you have fumigated the teenagers room. Clean the bathroom, throw out any old shampoo bottles, clean the grouting, make the beds, ideally with matching linen which you can buy so cheaply these days in barging homeware stores or supermarkets. Fresh flowers will complete the job, they smell nice and look lovely. Try to be as flexible with viewings as possible, the more people you get through the door the quicker you will sell your house. So make sure your home is clean and tidy whenever you leave for work so it is ready to shine even for those unexpected viewings. The hard work will pay off.
The Light Fantastic
I can’t stress enough the importance of light, dark dingy homes are a massive turn off, but we can’t all be blessed with houses that are streaming with natural light from morning till night. So a little creativity is needed. Replace low wattage lightbulbs with their higher wattage cousins, in darker rooms invest in a few table lamps and an uplighter to sit in a corner spot. As I said earlier repaint dark colours with lighter hues. Make sure light coming in from windows is not obscured by heavy curtains and prune back any trees and shrubs that block those rays.
Give Them Space
When you have viewings try not to be present, go grab a coffee, take the kids to the park, have your nails done but don’t hang around like a bad smell. Your Estate Agent knows what he or she is doing and hopefully they have been given a full run down on the ins and outs of the house and local area so they should be able to answer all the potential buyer’s questions. In my experience people spend longer in houses when the owners and their family are not present, people want to nose around but feel inhibited if you are sitting in the kitchen pretending not to overhear what’s going on. The more comfortable viewers feel the longer they are going to spend in the property and that is good news. So get out of dodge and leave your agent to do the work.
Are you going to sell your house? How are you preparing? Tell us in the comments below.