Some houses sell fast. Others stay on the market for months and
eventually fetch far less than the initial asking price. Sometimes the reason
is an unhelpful property market or an atypical property, but sometimes it's
just because the owners haven't prepared the property for viewing. To sell a property, you need to stop thinking of it as your home and
start thinking of it as a commodity. The hard fact is that no potential buyer
cares about your degree certificate, your pets, or your children's toys. They
are looking at a space that they intend to fill with their own lives, and the
best way to sell your property is to make it into a space that, while
attractive, is relatively anonymous.
First of all, that involves decluttering. Knick-knacks, toys, family
photos, all need to be put away. The more that can be packed up and put in
cupboards or boxed away, the better. While you are marketing the property,
tidiness is vital - not leaving clothes or shoes lying around, making sure
washing up is put away, and ensuring the property is left looking good every
morning when you leave for work.
A cleanliness campaign is the next step. Most of us, however
house-proud, end up being pragmatic about the balance between cleaning and
living our everyday lives. When you're marketing a property, you need to be
less tolerant. A good spring clean needs to make the taps in kitchen and
bathroom shine, clean tiles (and make sure the grout between them is not black
with dirt), make sure any limescale is cleaned up, and steam clean carpets or
polish wood floors. Windows, too, need to be properly cleaned of smears and
grime. The final touch is to ensure door handles and light switches - major
attractors of dirt - get a good wipe.
Every home ends up with some maintenance issues. Look for grubby carpet,
torn wallpaper, scratched or stained paintwork, and dirty grouting. A full
redecoration isn't usually needed, but some basic DIY putting right obvious
problems can make a property look better maintained to ensure a quick sale.
(This is also the time to jettison broken or chipped furniture.) If one wall of
a room has been stained by blu-tack, consider repainting that wall in a
contrasting colour to avoid having to redecorate the entire room.
If the kitchen looks tired, replacing the doors of kitchen units can
achieve a fresher, more up-to-date look without the expense of ordering a
completely new kitchen.
First impressions count for a lot, so focus some attention on what
viewers will see as they arrive. Scratched paintwork on the front door, a
wobbly or broken door knob, dustbins in the front garden or broken slabs in the
garden path, all tell a distressing story of neglect and are likely to put off
potential purchasers. A very small investment can reap rewards; a couple of
little topiary trees in terracotta pots, for a town house, or just a new door
knocker for a flat, can help with what the agents call 'kerb appeal.'
For the final touches, it can be helpful to think about what type of
buyer is most likely to be interested in the property - young couples,
families, singles, or perhaps retired people. Lay out the house to show what's
best for those buyers. If the property is quirky - perhaps with lively décor that
won't prove to everyone's taste, or laid out to suit live-work use in what is
predominantly a young family neighborhood - it may be worth spending a little
money to try to make it more typical of the area. That will broaden the pool of
potential buyers and make a quick sale more likely.
Finally, ensure you have a realistic idea of the price that you can achieve. It may not be a bad idea to go on a few viewing expeditions focused not at finding your next property, but assessing the competition for the one you are selling. Work out where your property sits in the spectrum between top notch, 'lived-in' and redevelopment prospect, and price it accordingly.