Our star office manager Jasmine has been on the phone non-stop this week booking in appointments, particularly for those amongst you ready to sell and move to somewhere new.
So this week I’m going to be looking at how you can make sure that the all-important selling price is the best that it can be; whilst the canny amongst you will learn how to spot a diamond in the rough…
Step One: Kerb Appeal
As any good chef will tell you, the first bite is with the eye – which is another way to say that first impressions count. You could lose lots of potential buyers before they have even set foot inside – if they want to view it at all. So get outside and have a look at the place with a critical eye – are there weeds in the driveway? Cracked paintwork? Leaking gutters? Wobbly fence? Is that wrecked classic car you bought 10 years ago to “restore” still under a tarp on the front lawn? I’ve seen all of this and more! This is where it is worth doing a bit of light DIY, or even calling in the professionals and spending a bit of money can reap huge rewards at the negotiation stage. Try putting some hanging baskets or potted plants out to add a bit of colour to the place. Repaint the front door too – it is the first thing anyone will be having a close look at, after all.
- Buyer’s Tip: Don’t automatically discount a house that looks a bit rough from the outside. Instead, try to get a rough idea of what might need doing to fix those issues, get some quotes, and use that info as a bargaining chip to justify a lower offer later on.
Step Two: De-clutter.
By far the most common error we see is the seller leaving all of their belongings on display. I know that you are very proud of your novelty trinket collections, kids pasta-portraits and complete back issues of Top Gear magazine, but you’re running a house sale, not a car-boot sale. The aim should be to make the rooms feel as spacious and airy as possible, so either have a clear out to the charity shop, or for truly valuable possessions, consider boxing them up to go into the loft. You’ll be moving house soon anyway – this is just getting ahead on the packing! Hang mirrors in small or dark spaces like hallways to give the illusion of light and space, and while you are at it make sure that you replace any burst bulbs. In the kitchen, have a deep clean of things like cupboards and worktops. Put things like food processors and toasters away in cupboards to make the worktops look expansive – in fact leave out nothing but a kettle if possible. Strip the house back to the bare essentials if possible – just the furniture for now, and I’ll tell you what to add back in below.
- Buyer’s Tip: Take a measuring tape to viewings, or check the room dimensions if provided on the floor plan. You can try to relate this to rooms in your existing home, or somewhere else you know well to help you visualise the space in the way that you would use it.
Step Three: De-personalise.
These people are considering buying your house – not your whole life. You want them to be able to imagine themselves living there, and they can’t do that if the place is covered with reminders of your family, hobbies and pets. So take down most personal photos (unless this shows large faded marks on the walls!), get that motorbike engine you are repairing off the dining room table and get your Nan to look after Tiddles. That said, a subtle family photo or two (no more) can help prospective families imagine their kids growing up here.
Each room should clearly communicate it’s purpose, so clear the dining room table, make the beds up with fresh sheets, and make the living room somewhere you can sit down to chat without having to move Peppa Pig’s toy car out of the way first. A good way to get a feeling for what your home should look like is to go visit a nearby new-build estate and have a nosy around the show home. You’ll notice that all the walls are in neutral colours – so take the time to do the same in any room of yours with bold colours, which not everyone will enjoy. Fix any broken door handles or holes in the walls while you’re at it.
Step Four: Make it welcoming.
By now your home should be looking pretty functional – just essential furniture and a mirror or two. Yet this needs to be somewhere that your buyers can imagine living in. The trick is to make that happen without just unpacking your whole life back out of the loft. You could look at interior design magazines for inspirations, but a few key pieces would be:
- Living room: Vase of flowers on the coffee table, one or two decorative cushions on the sofa.
- Dining room: Set as for a dinner party, with matching plates and wine glasses etc. (If you don’t have a matching set, I’d skip this.)
- Kitchen: If you’re really keen, and good at baking, consider making a loaf of bread to fill the house with comforting smells ahead of viewings. (If you’re not confident here, again, I’d skip this. Burning smells and fire alarms do not sell houses.) A nice fresh fruit bowl can be nice too.
- Bedrooms: Decorative cushions can be layered up on the beds to make them feel inviting and luxurious.
- Bathroom: Fresh, folded, matching towels on the rail.
- Garden: Trim the lawn and bushes, then weed the patio.
- Anywhere: Use lamps to softly illuminate any dark corners.
When viewings are going to happen, pre-boil the kettle (polar bears, forgive me) so that when your guests arrive a cuppa can be made quickly if they want it. If you are home when the agent is showing people around, please don’t follow and add your commentary room by room – it’s our job to know what things to say, what to highlight and what to downplay.
- Buyer’s Tip: If you go to view a home where someone has skipped all this advice, don’t just walk out. If the place is a bit of a mess, clearly needs some DIY and decorating then this can work in your favour. Chances are, you will want to decorate in your own way anyway, but now you can point out the flaws and use it to haggle for a lower price. The trick is being able to distinguish between “needs some light DIY” and “the house needs to be gutted and rebuilt”. The way to check is to insist on getting your own surveyor’s report carried out before contracts are exchanged. These will point out any significant problems, which you can either insist that the current owner fixes before they sell, or knock off an equivalent value from the asking price and do the work yourself after you move in. (I’ve had my bacon saved twice now by doing this the right way, and avoided thousands of pounds in bills!)
Step Five: Clean. Your. House.
I can’t believe I have to say it, but: clean your house!
You want someone to part with a six-figure sum of money and you can’t be bothered to vacuum and dust the place first?! Seriously?! It baffles me when people skip this step, which happens all too often, and then wonder why their home is slow to sell. Vacuum, dust, scrub and mop until the place is fit to receive a Royal Visit. Wash the windows inside and out. Track down the source of those odd smells, empty the bins and bleach the insides, and use Febreeze if you have to. Bear in mind that you might have long-since stopped noticing what your home smells like, so get your most brutally honest friend or family member to pass judgement once you’re done. You may not like the answer, but they could be doing you a favour worth thousands of pounds, so put your pride aside and take that advice!
These simple steps will take a little bit of effort, and some may take a little bit of money. But remember my earlier blog, “What Is Your Time Worth?”; making the effort now could mean that your home sells faster, for a better value. That means less stress and more money in your pocket for the really exciting bit – buying your next home…