You may not be selling your house but this advice from guest blogger Amanda Lamb is always useful whether you’re selling or just planning a clear out.
I’m delighted to welcome the next guest blogger to The Mad House – television presenter Amanda Lamb. As many of you will already know, Amanda presents Selling Houses on the telly box and it’s back for a new series on More 4 next month. Amanda has visited hundreds of houses that are on the market and she has seen it all. This month, as the house selling season is about to get under way, Amanda is sharing her top tips for selling your house. If you’re not thinking of selling then bookmark this page or come along for the read. She’s got some good stories….Over to you Amanda:
1 KERB APPEAL
People always think they don’t want to spend money on the outside of their houses thinking that it’s what’s inside that will seal the deal, but don’t forget that it was probably a picture of the outside of the property that got you there in the first place. It’s the first thing anyone will see and most people will assume that the state of the exterior will be a reflection of the state of the interior.
The way we buy property these days is very different. Before the internet we would decide on an area and drive around it and get a feel for it, but now it’s all online and people spend three seconds looking at a picture before moving onto the next one. Even I do that and I know the tricks. It’s like Tinder for houses – everyone’s swiping left.
We are all drawn to the front of the house first and you have – I’m going to say that again – THREE SECONDS – to get them to click through to the images. And I’ll tell you another thing – if you see a garden shot in the main feed then you can assume the front of the house is ugly.
So, here’s what I always say Trim Your Bush and Polish Your Knockers. In other words – give the windows a lick of paint, build some bin storage. It’s a pain but it needs to be done. Because once you’ve got them to the door with those initial three seconds, you get about FIVE SECONDS more when they’re through the door.
It’s worth investing in a couple of window boxes or a bay tree – something classy. Make sure any outside cables are tidy and there’s no evidence of damp. If it doesn’t look loved from the outside no-one will believe it is loved on the inside.
2 MIND THE SMELL
Yes we’re going here first and it is definitely number 2 on the list It is absolutely the first thing you notice when you open the door. Sometimes the hall is too full of stuff or it might be really welcoming and tidy but if the first thing I smell is one of those plug-in things then I’m going to assume it’s there to mask something really bad.
Clean your carpets or get rid of any that are really bad. Let me tell you that cheap laminate is better than smelly carpet. If you have pets then put throws on your sofas for them to sit on so that you can remove them when buyers come round. And GET RID OF THE ANIMALS for the day. Smells are so important. Don’t have a curry the night before a viewing or people will turn away. I went to one house where a woman had six cats in the conservatory and a giant litter tray. People WILL turn round and walk out.
So open your windows, consider a nice candle – not a plug -in and get rid of the cigarettes and cooking smells. One piece of advice is ask a friend to come round and smell for you. We get used to our own smells and we can’t tell if there’s one or not. Even estate agents may not tell you as they want your business and don’t want to offend you.
There is a fine line between taking out your personal stuff and making it all too bland. Nine out of ten buyers have no imagination. You need to imagine that the removal men are coming that afternoon and you have to start clearing out. It’s going to have to come out of the house one way or another when you sell so you might as well make a start on it now.
My tip is to do one room at a time. Get four boxes – keep, dump or recycle and sentimental value. The last one is for the pictures, the inherited stuff, the things that you love and want to keep, but which don’t need to be on display all the time. Put that one in the loft. It’s a dog of a job but you have to do it.
I met someone who had nine spatulas once. You just need one good one. You don’t need 27 mugs either. Six will do. Or possibly eight. It’s the same with all those cookery books. You need to be ruthless. And take the running machine to a car boot sale while you’re at it. You are aiming for crisp, clean and clutter-free spaces.
4 CREATE A COHESIVE SCHEME
It shouldn’t be magnolia throughout but there should be some sort of scheme throughout your house. It should be reasonably neutral but soft whites or pale greys will be better than magnolia. If you love colour – as I do – then keep it to the accessories which buyers will find it easier to imagine changing. I have seen buyers walk away from a house because of a red dining room. You need to appeal to a wider audience. Consider Cornforth White by Farrow and Ball as a good neutral (or Dusted Moss by Dulux).
Nine of ten buyers cannot visualise themselves in a space if they don’t like the decor. They will not buy a room with yellow curtains even if you might think it’s easy to change. They will walk away and go and look at the next house. Keep the bedlinen plain and white and simple.
5 FIT FOR PURPOSE
This is another area where you can lose a buyer so easily. It might sound obvious but rooms have to be shown for the purpose for which they were intended. If it’s a bedroom put a bed in it. It’s no good sticking a desk in and saying it’s a home office that can be turned back into a bedroom because buyers won’t know if they can fit the bed in. Don’t have empty rooms either – if you’re short of furniture then go to one of those freecycle websites and get what you need. You need a bed and curtains, and the bed should be made. It needs to be spot on.
Finally, I would suggest that you go back to the website and find houses in the same price bracket and area as you. Then click the button that is sold subject to contract and have a look at what has sold versus what hasn’t. Take note of the decor and see what they look like and what style is popular.
Smell is a huge one for me. I once walked into a house that reeked of “wet dog”. it was in the walls. Definitely difficult to sell a house like that.
Thanks Amanda – great advice. I think for London with higher prices and increased stamp duty buyers are now more fussy. Even when the ‘problems’ can easily be remedied like decorating a few rooms or new bathroom, buyers appear to be easily turned off from a property. This also makes me consider my own tastes at home – I would love to have a more eclectic style but we are preparing to sell in the next year or so. Our area is pretty traditional and I think it would affect saleability, so I have limited my love of darker colours to small areas like the downstairs loo.
I’m not sure whether the majority lack imagination or whether marketing/media has made them lazy. We are so used to seeing slick presentation designed to encourage us to buy, so a house where several rooms are, at best ambiguous, or at worst a mess, can very easily put people off. If first impressions are good, people are more inclined to picture themselves living there and start to mentally make the changes that would improve it for them.
A friend who worked as an estate agent for a while had many hilarious stories of viewings, but the number of people who criticised homes in feedback because they didn’t like the furniture – or almost worse, loved a home primarily because of the way it was dressed, despite the fact that none of it was included in the sale – rather supports Amanda’s point.
People can be very irrational, who hasn’t thrown something at the TV when watching an ‘Escape to the place in the sun, location, fantasy home’ programme when they say ‘it’s lovely but where would we put our dining table?’ and then apparently rule out a perfectly good property, in a fabulous location, costing hundreds of thousands of pounds because of a table that probably cost £500 at most?!
Marketing and media are also responsible for the idea of ‘selling a lifestyle’ so you have to be careful what kind of lifestyle it is that you are suggesting, one where the permanently harassed owner is drowning in a sea of clutter and confusion is not exactly hygge!
Really good advice, and I like the idea of the 4 boxes to de-clutter, whether selling or not. But may I’d take issue with the fact that 9 out of 10 buyers have no imagination. In my (albeit limited) experience, people either fell in love with the house as it was – or were already rearranging it in their minds.