Stop right there!
Here is what you should do before calling an estate agent.
Some people will have a bit of a tidy up before calling in an estate agent or two for valuations, but that’s about it. Unfortunately in today’s competitive housing market, it is no longer enough just to sweep some of the kids’ toys into a cupboard, hoover the bits of the carpet you can see and put a ‘For Sale’ sign up outside. If you want to sell your house relatively quickly and maximise your chances of getting a decent price, you’ll be interested in my list of activities to be carried out before putting your house on the market. Granted, it is more work than just calling in an agent, but the recommendations below will put you in a far better position for moving. Oh, and they really will help you sell your house. This year. For more money.
- Repeat after me: “This is no longer my home, it is a valuable asset and I must make it look like one.” Go on, say it. And again. Just one more time. And now think about what it actually means – this is the one golden rule I have for sellers and everything else hinges on you accepting and acting on this principle. Selling a house reasonably quickly and for a decent price depends on maximising the probability that buyers will want it, and that means presenting them with a problem-free, well looked-after, nicely presented almost-blank canvas where they can imagine themselves making their own home.
- Taking a room at a time, clear out all the extra clutter that you really don’t need over the next few weeks. Don’t just hide it in the cupboards; I know you just thought you could get away with that!! Buyers will open cupboard doors, and if they’re stuffed to the gunnels then they’ll think there isn’t enough storage space. Separate it into 3 piles: one for taking to the tip (recycling as much as you possibly can); one for selling or giving away to family, friends or a charity shop; and one for keeping. Get rid of piles one and two immediately, and box up what you’re keeping – remember to label the boxes with the contents. Move these boxes into the loft, the garage, your parents’ house, or a short-term storage unit.
- Now apply the above principle to your furniture – do you have too much in any one room? If you do, decide what you’re going to do with it and make it disappear. Maximising the sense of space is really important for viewings, and this means ensuring that buyers don’t risk bashing their knees on chairs and table legs trying to get to the other side of the room. Look at the natural flow of each room, and arrange your furniture to complement rather than interrupt this flow.
- Sort out any DIY or maintenance issues that you’ve been meaning to address. Fill and paint over minor cracks, fix the door that won’t close properly, replace the broken toilet seat, make sure all the bulbs are working, mend the dripping tap, and sort out the kitchen cupboard door that’s dropped a bit. Basically anything that’s not quite working as it should but you’ve been ignoring it because otherwise it’d drive you nuts: those are the things you need to fix now. You can ignore them because you’ve lived with them for ages, but to a potential buyer they’ll stand out a mile and make them worry that there are yet more problems that they can’t see. Don’t let a simple leaky tap make them think the entire plumbing system is shot!
- Have a think about whether any rooms need decorating. You don’t necessarily have to redecorate everywhere, but if you do have a particularly bold statement going on, consider toning it down. What you’re trying to do is alienate as few people as possible, and though it may seem dull to you, neutral colours really are best for this purpose. And by neutral I don’t mean magnolia throughout!! That’s just uninspiring! Call a friend who has a skill for interiors and ask for their help. Or call me.
- Clean the whole house. Yep, all of it. Including the windows, doors and the bits you can’t see or reach! A dirty house is never going to get a ‘wow!’ reaction from a potential buyer, and let’s face it, that’s really what you’re after. Remember principle number 1: you’re trying to make the house look like the valuable asset it is, and you wouldn’t buy a filthy second-hand car now would you?! You’d be worrying about whether the owner had shown the same amount of neglect to what’s under the bonnet! Same applies to houses. If you just can’t face it, get a cleaning company in.
- Tidy up the garden and any outside space, especially the front of the house. ‘Kerb appeal’ is a term that’s been introduced to our language over the last decade, and it really is important. If people don’t like the look of your house from the outside, they may not even bother looking inside, so you have to make the house look attractive from the outside. Most agents use the exterior photograph as the first picture shown online, and if it’s not a good one, people won’t click through to see the interior photos and you’ve lost buyers right there. Mow and edge the lawn, use a high pressure water spray to clean off paving slabs and patios, trim and prune shrubs and hedges, repaint fences and gates, and consider investing in colourful bedding plants to create a welcoming image.
If you follow these principles, you should end up with the best version of your valuable asset (notice I didn’t say ‘home’?!!) ready to show to an estate agent and ultimately to all those eager potential buyers. And if it does seem all too much to handle alone, then I’m available to help. It’s what I do!