Preparing your home for market

27th January 2012

Stand in the road and look at the front of your property – really study it with a critical eye. Forget that you are the owner who has walked through the front door hundreds of times not noticing the slightly chipped paint, weed filled lawn or dripping pipe, but imagine you are a prospective purchaser on a viewing or doing a drive-by. What will the first impression be?  Will it tempt them in to your cherished home?

Experts tell us that within 15 seconds of entering a house we have made our mind up if we can make it our home. That may not always be the case but it does emphasise how important first impressions are so find some time and make a check list of essential jobs ; is there a wall or fence that needs attention? Check that the house name is clearly visible, keep the grass cut, hedges trimmed and remove weeds - especially anything growing in the rainwater gutters! Even if it doesn’t need re decorating give the paintwork a wash, make the windows sparkle and clean paths and paving. Remove anything that doesn’t need to be seen, including dustbins and plant pots if they’re not in flower or looking their best. The rear garden is also important, but most buyers will want to see inside the house first.

We all know how important it is to de-clutter, but not everyone is able to do it properly.  Think of it as a head start on the packing you will have to do anyway. If it cannot be sold, donated or disposed of then plan on having somewhere to store it - preferably away from the property.   Clear hallways of coats and shoes, even remove pieces of furniture if it makes it easier for two or more people to walk through. Half the number of pictures and ornaments. Eliminate odd odours with fresh flowers, scented candles or air fresheners – nothing overpowering, just enough to offer a pleasant ambience, especially if there is a lingering aroma of wet dog or stale tobacco in the air. It is not unusual for home owners to go as far as shampooing carpets before the house is put on the market for sale. You might surprise yourself with the difference this makes.

There are numerous websites giving advice about how best to present your house for sale and they all stress how buyers are attracted to clean and spacious rooms. Good natural light is an asset but not plentiful in all properties, so make the most of what there is. An estate agent will often lift net curtains to show how much additional light shines into a room. ‘About.com’ suggests on its website that vendors should consider painting walls neutral colours to avoid their home being remembered as "the house with the orange bathroom". Room lighting is also important so make sure all the light bulbs work and clear cobwebs and dust from lampshades.

Show the room off at its best by positioning furniture correctly. The current trend for large televisions does not suit all rooms.

Kitchens and bathrooms are particularly important. For many people the kitchen is the hub of a family home and is a practical working area rather than a showcase. We all like to think our kitchen would pass the test but all too often they do not make the grade. New vinyl flooring is a relatively inexpensive way to lift a tired kitchen. Clean or whiten tiling grout on the walls, straighten wonky cupboard doors and drawers. Replacing old appliances or the kitchen sink is more than most vendors would want to do, but there is no excuse for these items not to be sparkling clean. Invest in new hand towels and tea towels, not that they should be left hanging around just anywhere.

Remove cat and dog food from the floor - its clutter and the smell is unpleasant. It may be nice to display children's school artwork or friends' postcards on the fridge door, but it's distracting for buyers and best avoided. Take away the cookery books, perhaps with the exception of the latest Jamie or Nigella even if you haven't opened the covers since receiving them the Christmas before last. Give the kitchen a daily sprucing, in fact, vacuum and dust the house more regularly and use furniture polish for that feel good nostalgia.

Organise cupboards by disposing of outdated tins and half empty packets to make the cupboards appear more spacious. The same applies to bedrooms. Take out unseasonal clothes and hang shirts together, trousers together and jackets together just in case buyers can't resist having a peek at how much storage there is when the estate agent isn't looking.

The rear garden might be the last thing a buyer looks at, but it certainly isn’t the least important. As with the front, keep the rear garden looking neat and tidy, clear of dustbins, pots and anything that does not need to be there. Explain to your children that climbing frames and trampolines need to be taken down whilst the property is on the market.  Place a suitable mat by the front and back doors on which purchasers can wipe their feet or leave their shoes.

The buyers are purchasing a lifestyle as much as the bricks and mortar. They should be encouraged to imagine themselves living in your property and this is best achieved with as few traces of the current owners as possible.  This might sound harsh when you are selling your home but try and disassociate yourself. Make a mental decision to let go and imagine handing over the keys to the new owners.

Follow our advice and then you will be ready sell your property and your property will be ready to sell.