How to sell your house… faster

My house is being prepared for sale

It took a long time to sell my last house. I’d had three lots of bad neighbours and declared that a deaf person was the only person who could live happily there. Please don’t take offence. I have a deaf relative and am not being insensitive, it’s just one of those things a person says in a moment of frustration.

It took two years for a deaf person to buy it. I kid not. Be careful what you wish for.

I’m preparing my current house to sell now as part of a drive towards downsizing and gaining more freedom. Freedom from the mortgage millstone and the perpetual and growing list of jobs that need doing inside and out. One thing I won’t be doing is baking bread or brewing coffee when people come to view because almost every article about selling your house tells you to do this! I feel the urge to laugh when I walk into a house that smells of bread or coffee. I want to know what smells they are hiding.

So here’s a breakdown of the best advice I’ve learned from experience and from searching online articles:

1. Eliminate bad odours (don’t mask them!)

Ask visitors and people who don’t live with you if your house smells. Get mould seen to. Clean the carpets, upholstery and furniture, especially if you have pets or are a smoker. Make sure bins are emptied and clean. Strong or unpleasant odours are a big turn off. They also make it harder for prospective buyers to picture the house as theirs.

2. Neutral colours are best

When browsing on Rightmove, I’ve found myself bypassing houses with extreme colours such as black walls in the bedroom or garish wallpaper choices. I’ll always look for a house that needs less changes making initially over one that needs a lot doing. Unless they are looking for a project, most people want to move in and live in a house without having to redecorate it all in one go. Neutral colours also help to showcase rooms without the walls becoming a distraction.

3. Clean thoroughly

We can all tolerate our own dirt, but many people will want to vomit at the sight of other people’s dirt. I’m talking about stained toilets, mouldy bath sealant and black grout on the tiles, dirty corners, spiders on display in their cobwebs, dirty finger marks around light switches and general mildew, dust or grime. If you can’t keep the surface of your house clean, prospective buyers are going to be even more worried about what lies beneath. Grout and sealant renewal are a must for bathrooms as are a clean sink, floor, cupboards and worktops for the kitchen. It’s worth giving carpets a proper clean too as they can be a source of odours.

4. De-clutter but don’t empty

Empty houses are hard to sell. So are cluttered ones. Even if you don’t use your boxroom, it should be cleared of clutter and set up as a guest room or office. Clutter is also a cleaning nightmare. If you can store over-sized items somewhere else, your house will look more spacious. If people can’t walk through your rooms without stumbling over coffee tables, get rid of excess and non-essential furniture. Think flow. Rearrange furniture into more attractive positions if possible. You can look at photos online or in home improvement magazines for ideas. Anyway, moving house is a chance to de-clutter and a chance that should be taken. If it isn’t useful, beautiful or very close to your heart, be environmentally-friendly and find it a new home. Try Freecycle or advertise on local facebook groups. Charity shops and auction sites are other options.

5. Keep the outside looking good

While the house is for sale, keep the lawn mowed and shrubs trimmed. A tidy garden is actually a good trick to make it look low maintenance even if it isn’t. However, if you allow everything to become overgrown, people will only see a lot of work and may have more thoughts about knocking the price down. If your pets use the garden as a toilet, it would be best to clear this up before people view. It could be worth removing some planting if your garden is overstocked or overgrown and trees that are close to the house should be pruned and not blocking the light. Ivy and other climbing plants can also pose a nuisance, take this from someone who has just replaced a garage roof for almost £1k, partly because of ivy damage.

6. Replace and Repair

A house that looks good can go for thousands more than one that is shabby even if they are essentially the same house with the same ‘worth.’ People will seek to knock thousands off unkempt properties so it’s worth making repairs to broken doorknobs or cracked floor tiles and replacing threadbare carpets if this can be done economically. Old patterned carpets and wallpaper from the 70s are a bit of a turn-off nowadays. I’ve had some real fun in my house removing badly stuck on wallpaper (I joke). It took ages but the rooms and the hallway where I did this are now looking much fresher and lighter with a clean paint job and it was surprising how dusty and dirty that old wallpaper was.

The first house I bought was so badly treated by it’s previous tenants that the owner removed the carpets and sold it without any! Not that I am recommending that, but plain, clean looking carpets or hard flooring in good repair is a bonus to help a sale.

7. A special mention for kitchens and bathrooms

People will sometimes make their decision based on the state of the kitchen and bathroom since these two higher value rooms are sold with fixed furnishings that are expensive to replace. As previously mentioned cleanliness and good repair will go a long way in making an older kitchen/bathroom look good. I’ve recently replaced the kitchen in my house, which happened to be the original (40 years old) and looking very tired. This was expensive but I’ve had the use of the new kitchen for a year at least and it will help sell my house. My bathroom is being revamped with clean tile grout, new flooring to replace the old carpet (never put carpet in a bathroom!) and new sealant around the bath and sink.

8. Shopping ban

I have now banned myself from buying any new furniture, wall art, ornaments, crockery or anything else that will end up as yet more clutter. The only things that might be admissable are pieces that enhance the appearance of your home and help you to stage it. Otherwise avoid buying stuff when what you really need to do is get rid. I find it scary sometimes how much stuff us humans have. Most families require a large lorry to move their home around. Do you feel weighed down by everything you own? It’s not very freeing is it? As Don Delillo asks in his novel ‘White Noise’:

‘Why do these possessions carry such sorrowful weight?’

9. Finishing touches

In order to effectively stage your home and help prospects to see themselves living there, make sure beds are made and windows are clean and well-dressed with clean curtains of the right size. By looking at pictures in magazines, you can add extra details to make your home look picture perfect, e.g. large cushions and pillows propped on the bed or a comfortable chair by the fire with a side table, flowers in the fireplace (if it is empty) or a lit fire. Be careful though, your home could end up looking so amazing that you might not want to move!

Remember, people decide within the first few minutes, seconds even, how they feel about your home. It’s all about showing your home in its best light if you’re serious about selling.

Having written this, I realise how much I have to do (especially in the garden where ivy is rampant). So I am off to take my own advice. I’ll let you know how I get on.