NPME

PuttingYourHomeOnTheMarketPart1

posted by Natalie Paddick

I was talking to a friend on Twitter the other day, who is selling her home and it occurred to me how difficult and unsettling this process is… Not to mention the stress of trying to live in a home that has to look like a show home … I have sold and styled a large number of houses, for ourselves and for clients so I thought that I would share a few helpful tweaks with you…

Declutter – Obvious! But the advice is don’t declutter too much! What does this advice even mean? Basically it means tidy up your rooms take out any ‘stuff’ that makes a room look messy, clear surfaces. It is key to make a room look like it has free open space… But don’t make the rooms look sterile, for example leave the odd attractive ornament on show, to give the room a bit of ‘panache’. Remember the proportions of a room and work with that. Try and make key focal point in each room. If the rooms are very large, then be more expansive. People like to buy into a lifestyle, so make yours look attractive. [Which of course I know it is *winks*] Quirky is okay but not too distinctive or individual!

Fix, Clean & Freshen Up! – Obvious [again], but so often people do not do it!?? You would be surprised at how many people think that they don’t need to clean an item because they are taking with them? No! and No! Again! Clean everything in your home! Inside and out! Make your home sparkle! Polish and clean to your hearts content, if that is not a direct contradiction in terms! Trust me when you get to the end of your cleaning frenzy, you will wonder why you don’t always live in this stratospherically clean new lifestyle. Well to be honest you will only feel this sense of euphoria, for a brief period! Because you have now imbibed so many cleaning chemicals that it has gone to you head in the form of endorphins. As this wears off, it becomes clear to you that keeping your domicile as tidy as this, whilst the house is on the market, can become more than a bit tedious, if not almost inhuman! But needs must! Don’t tidy up before each viewing, you have to keep it clean as you go forward with the sale. You are going for the ‘wow’ factor and the ‘curb’ appeal! All buzz words but you have to keep your spirits up in the face of possibly months on the market, whilst you live in your own show home!

You have to take on board that, although this is your home ….It is no longer really your home, it is your bargaining chip to your future life … What I am saying is keep your chin up and/or drink wine, which also helps! .. Start getting detached from your house … Not easy … But necessary!! Stiff upper lip and all that!

Get a theme going – Sounds obvious, again, but it is about drawing people in, making them believe that this is their new Utopia, I know this all sounds a bit exaggerated, but buying a house is a big deal… The most expensive purchase most people are going to make…Let’s move on to Estate Agents!! Pick carefully, make sure that they do all the viewings, I have worked with estate agents that try and get you to “show” the house for them… No! Keep your distance from a potential purchaser and don’t forget, you are paying the estate agents fees, and that is not going to be cheap! I think it’s essential to tell the estate agent how the house is to be viewed, for example, which rooms to go into first, so there is some sort of story being told, making the visit flow….Be strong with your agents. Have a viewing plan.

I have experienced on many occasions when a property does not sell in the first couple of months, the Estate Agents sometimes try to put pressure on you to reduce the price… If you don’t feel this is right don’t… For the record I have never reduced a price of a property because, if someone is interested they are entitled to make a fair offer for your house, on the other hand if you have reduced the price, a potential viewer then sees your property on line, they can sometimes think that there is something wrong with the property or that you are desperate to sell and it will / can put people off viewing. Don’t get me wrong estate agents are very good at their job, but it is a job! They want to get your house sold as quickly as possible and pick up their fee. Also keep in mind, they put the price on your house in the first place! They have done viewings, hundreds of times over, they can get a bit laissez faire. I once sold a house to Freda, from the iconic pop band Abba, so star struck was ‘our’ estate agent … He forgot if he was working for me or her, [she was lovely, by the way]. And I had to ‘re-focus’ his mind on the fact that it was us paying his bill! So take the estate agents advice, but don’t be afraid to make your own rules, it is your house / asset after all!

The Kitchen – Is the most important room in the whole house, it is worth the most per square foot, in the whole house and can make or break a deal, prevent or prompt a potential buyer into submitting the all-important offer..

Here are some simple ways you can update the look of your kitchen, for example replacing the cabinet handles on the kitchen doors for a different or more contemporary style, can actually make a dramatic difference. There are so many styles of handles can be purchased very reasonable with a quick Google search. Important Tip - Make sure you measure the screw holes in your cabinet doors accureratly, the last thing you want is new handles that do not fit to the existing holes!

Once you have cleared the surfaces, which makes the kitchen look bigger, find a feature bowl and fill it with fruit.... Or, I am a particular lover of glass vases full of eggs …. I think it is the earth mother in me?

Be sensible accentuate the positives, for example if there is a nasty stain on any of the worktops, why not disguise it by putting a strategically placed chopping board over it then place a plate of cheese and grapes on top! You are not being deceitful you are selling a perception, anyway the survey the buyer should have will pull up any relevant faults, but by this time your buyer is already hopefully sold on your house and a small stain won’t put them off. … Remember, all houses come with their quirks and foibles… That is part of their charm.

Another great and simple tip of mine, is to get a recipe book stand, find one of your favourite cookery books, and flip it open on a lovely picture and showcase it on the stand! Simple but this will just remind a potential purchaser of just how delicious this room is going to be for them. People love food, hence we have so many cooks and cooking programmes! Even I blog about food and my favourite recipes.

If your oven /cooker /Aga is a bit old, looking sad, buy some bright fresh new T-towels that you can bring out on visiting days and hang them decoratively over the oven door handles which hides a multitude of sins and freshens the look! This sounds mad, honestly I am a ‘bit’ but it works. I have always liked to bake bread, on a viewing day the delicious smell of a loaf in my bread machine cooking away makes the room and house smell delicious.. I have also been known, when selling a property in the winter time to stand over an Aga stirring a large pan of drinking chocolate! Silly but really it helps the purchaser get into the mood! And anyway my children are always ready for a hot chocolate! .. So it made sense to me!

Sitting Room – Make it look as spacious as possible, people want to relax in this room, but they like it to look stylish, too … Buy some new bright colour coordinated cushions, to spruce up the look, if you have the budget, you could always put in some reasonably priced blinds to match, there are many companies that will make bespoke blinds at great prices. Please do not make the mistake of just buying one or two cushions, more is better, don’t make it look like you are desperate, that is worse than having no cushions at all! If you don’t like cushions [men don’t seem too], get a few feature throws for a bit of bling. Clean up the side tables and get some mood / ambient lighting to set the scene, all the lifestyle stores sell these items at reasonable prices or there is of course our on-line, buddy! Remember to switch them on for the viewings and turn the main light down for the maximum effect… If the room is large, strategically placed vases of flowers can make a big impression. Not necessarily just cut flowers, buy some good quality fabric flowers and top up the look with a few sprigs of real greenery from the garden, which can easily be changed to keep the display at its best. Top tip, put a cap full of bleach into the water, no too much, but what this will do is keep the water clear, this tip also works well with real cut flowers too, there is nothing worse than murky, stinky water in a flower arrangement! [Well there is, but let us not go there in this article!]

Many viewings are of course during the evening so why not put an open bottle of wine on a table with a couple of glasses and some nibbles? This will make for a relaxing homey environment… And you get to eat and drink it later! If it is winter light the fire, if you have a working fireplace - obviously! Otherwise it is not advisable! Make sure you light the fire in advance so it is crackling away when your viewers arrive, don’t light it too early so that it is just a damp squib when they arrive, it is all about planning and strategy. If it is summer (see my previous blog) fill the fire place with candles, doesn’t matter if its candles in bottles or candelabra’s, just remember to light them before your viewer/s arrives… It will give the most amazing atmospheric feeling… It will feel like home …. [Theirs!]

Bedrooms – Eeeeek!! This can be a bit of a minefield… I drove my children mad … Once, [actually I drive them mad quite a lot!] It is so difficult to get young children to keep their areas tidy and you will drive yourself mad if you even try! … Just go with it, the best you can! Decorate a high shelf or two that is out of the child’s reach making the feature look cute. Put a big old basket, chest, designer bucket, whatever suits in a corner of the room - this can be a life saver! It makes tidying as quick as quick, you can ‘lob’ all the toys in the basket at the last moment, making the room look tidy! Teenagers are a little more challenging, in every respect! I have no idea why they revert back to being ‘mucky’ cavemen as they get older? It is a mystery? … There is no point in fighting them! .. You have enough on your plate, so my advice is to short circuit the shouting and do a quick daily circuit around their rooms and ‘mess’ areas. I know I should make them clean up … But trust me when selling a house it is just not worth the agro, there is enough stress already! Also Fabric Freshener comes in handy, if you know what I mean!

So back to bedrooms …. Clean crisp bedding is obviously essential, try to withhold any need you might have to use “overly” patterned sheets or too vibrant colours. Keep the theme cool and sharp …

Again pinch ‘that’ tip from the sitting room, putting stylish new cushions at the head of the bed, plumped up and perky… Make your bedroom look sumptuous.. This is the relaxing area… Make sure there is a mirror or two in the room, you know what I think about mirrors …. If you don’t, I will tell you .. I love them, they are my go-to interior design tip! Strategically placed they open up a room, reflecting, refracting and making the perspective of the room appear bigger and brighter. Add ambient lighting with a couple of well chosen bedside lamps. They can add a sculptural feature and change the dynamics of the mood – Try a dimmer too! Add a throw, for a bit of sumptuous charm…

Really / Really important … I have worked in hotels where they completely overlook the ‘blinking’ obvious! No make-up or hair drying / styling areas, a necessity in a bedroom! I cannot express how important this is… If you have a dressing table … Great .. Set it up! A mirror, perfume / cologne bottles [with a spray or two before the viewing], a pot plant on the table, better than cut flowers as it will last longer.

Perhaps a nice stylish tube / tub or two of hand or body cream. If you must have your make-up on show, moderate it, put what you need in colour co-ordinated bowls, and make sure it looks fresh and clean. If you do not have room for a dressing table then mock one up! A chest of drawers will suffice as a substitute, put a mirror on it or on the wall to maximise space. The reason I say this is because it is an important style tip, men and woman feel that they have a private ‘personal’ styling space, essential. How many times have you gone on holiday to a hotel or stayed in a villa and found yourself doing your make-up whilst balancing your make-up bag on your lap, trying to get close enough to a miss-placed miniscule mirror on a wall that is placed at the wrong height! Don’t even get me started on sitting on the floor blow drying your hair! The same situation applies to men…. Most probably not the makeup bit!

Again, you are not selling your house in a completely perfect condition, no one does, houses have foibles! It is a living entity and therefore needs maintenance, if someone puts in an offer, then of course they are going to do a more forensic investigation of the property. That being said, if for example, your carpet is not in the best condition think about an “on trend” rug, there are loads on the market, which can add a new dimension to a room.. PS! Try and find a place to put a full length mirror in the room, if you can’t find a place what about putting one on the inside of the cupboard! Or just outside in the hallway…

See Part two below .......


PuttingYourHomeOnTheMarketPart2

posted by Natalie Paddick

Bathrooms & The Little Girls Room – Make sure it smells nice! You can hide air fresheners discretely in the room. New fresh towels are a must! A must! They are your stage set for colour, you can move them out of the room when not being used for a viewing, and they give a fresh crisp and clean feeling! Good quality hand soap and hand cream, always looks and smells nice too. Always check the toilets before a viewing …! A new loo seat in a colour coordinating style to your towels can harmonise they the whole look. In some of the bathrooms I have used horizontal poles on hooks over which I draped magazines… Let’s face it people read in toilets and the magazines add a splash of colour and pizzazz. Make sure they are new magazines .. If you get my drift!

Halls and General Areas - Make sure there is good access, don’t let dozens of shoes block the floor area, remember this may well be the first viewed area when your potential purchaser pop’s their head through the door! Make a statement, this is your big chance! Open up the area with the strategic use of mirrors and maybe a statement piece of art work. Hallways in old houses can sometimes be quite dark, a good way around this can be the use of feature secondary lighting, such as plug in socket lights on a wire cord. When using this type of lighting make sure the spot light is focused on a subject.

Gardens & Outside Areas – Apart from keeping them tidy, it is always important to make a view, a focal point or two! It does not matter if it is summer or winter, you want to give your buyer an idea of how lovely it will be to relax in this space. If the outside area is small, make it appear to be bigger! Again mirrors! Wall mounted planters or just some simple but bold flushes of colour are essential. If the garden is bigger… Personally I love a water feature, and there are so many to suit any design or budget. But it can be expense work, so if you feel you do not want to run to that, put out a table and chairs, in the summer use cushions make a splash of comfort, pop a jug of orange juice and some glasses on the table, Pimm’s if you prefer! Because I am a avid cook I usually have a cake or two around for the children, pop one on the table with a couple of plates for your “guests”!.. Just for the look, this gives an image of how they can relax and / or entertain in their new home. If you don’t cook improvise with some posh biscuits… Make it look normal and natural, you have to sit somewhere whilst there is a viewing, why not outside? I know it sounds a lot… First impressions count! … You have to pull out all the stop’s my friends!

If it is winter, leave the table and chairs out, keep them clean and pop some colourful foliage on the table in some lovely pots / Baskets … Choose a colour scheme that suits your design… Colour in winter is a challenge, but evergreens with brightly coloured berries are in abundance……

If you have the opportunity to have some pots, hanging baskets or window boxes go for it, especially to the front of the house. First impressions again! Secure them well! ….

Lighting – Go around your house, switch the main lights off and the side lights on, check the focus of the lighting – ambience! Consider if it is worth the relatively small investment of dimmer switches as an option for the main lighting so you can select the effect creating an atmosphere. If any light bulbs have blown …. Change them!

If your kitchen is dark, work tops hidden under overhead cabinets.. Why not brighten things up with under counter / cabinet lighting. Mains, low voltage, LED and battery there is a simple solution, which will not require an electrician or in fact any real DIY aptitude on your part. This can be unbelievably effective and can really make a difference to the feel of the room.

Storage – Whenever I look at a house for ourselves or for a client, storage is one of the things I consider high on the ‘tick box list’. You can kill a viewing dead with not giving the impression that the property has a good amount of storage space. If you love books and magazines and have a collection they can look great if organised. Put them in piles of similar size and quantities. Erect the shelves according to the size of the books, biggest books at the bottom, largest at the top, it makes a great feature and gets them out of the way. I have been known to use utilitarian garage storage shelving, it is brilliant, it is cheap and easy to erect, you can choose the dimensions of the shelves to suit your items and they come in a range of sizes and frame colours – and they are very strong and durable! In fact they are perfect in children’s bedrooms to get the clutter off the floor, but make sure like all items of furniture that they are securely fixed to the wall! Just in case your ‘little darlings’ find them an interesting climbing frame!

Do a purge, you don’t want to take all this unused ‘stuff’ to your new home, it takes up space AND it will cost you money to get moved there, when in reality you are only going to throw it all away once you get there! Cut out the middle man! Put clothes that you are not going to use away, I store them in suitcases and hat boxes on the top of my cupboards, which look great and it is another way to get things out of the cupboards and make space. What about shoe boxes, they can be easily obtained on line and are a fab way to sort your shoes and they stack neatly. It is good advice…. One big job done ready for your move to your new home, which will reduce the stress levels … Now there is a plus!

Just a thought! (A big thought)

If you have not already utilised every conceivable option to maximise your property … Here is another idea to throw into the mix? Is there any extra leverage in say, a loft or garage conversion, this may seem like a massive expenditure! But just obtaining the planning consent will add immediate sales and value to your property with a minimal investment.

One last thing … It is so disheartening when you have made all this effort and a viewer comes into your beloved home, flits about the place like they own it already, makes one or two disparaging remarks and the odd very negative comment AND looks down on you like you are a second class citizen. This happens, you do and will have to suffer this indignity but it is always the means to the end! Grin and bear it, they just may buy it!

Don’t get jaded, hang on in there! When you’ve had a number of viewings, but still no offers… It is easy to get a bit low … Don’t

The” purchaser can very often be the last person you would imagine! But there is a purchaser for every home. Just keep the faith and keep the house looking like a designer shop…

I have had some very odd viewings over the years, one old couple, two ladies, after the viewing sat in the garden on the outside bench and ate their sandwiches! Needless to say they did not buy the house – Day trippers - Yeh!! On another occasion, [another house] I used to try and keep our delinquent cats out of the house, believe me they were not socially acceptable! Unfortunately, the Estate Agent left the door open and our most outrageous Bengal cat … strolled nonchalantly into the kitchen to join the assembled family of potential purchasers. Without further ado or formality, in my beautiful kitchen, Bangers the cat started to vocalise in a very animated way, “retching” and “retching” as if she had swallowed her entire body weight in fur balls! The guttural howling was spectacular, it was like a soundtrack from a horror film which culminated in her regurgitating one half of a masticated baby squirrel! Hideous and disgusting in equal measures … The family were ushered out of the kitchen, ‘quickly’ and that was the end of that viewing! …. No, they did not buy the property, but as far as we are aware needed no long term counselling either!

Finally, there was one occasion when a person was so enamoured with the prospect of replacing our lives with theirs in our property, that when viewing they asked me where we ate our dinner? I was a bit bemused by the question as the property had a large kitchen with centre island console that sat eight. Plus a separate twelve seater dining room and a sitting room large enough to comfortably house a table for six should you want to eat whilst watching the TV… Eventually I came to my senses and responded … ‘If you buy the house …. You can of course eat wherever you want!’ … They did not buy the house, perhaps due to confusion as to the eating arrangements – Who knows!

But the person who did buy the property I thought was a fantasist, not a purchaser! Posing in every room, hand on chin, hand of hip … Looking pensive, looking important… He requested I take his ‘selfies’ in every one of his various states of repose and in practically every room! Frankly I thought this man was a complete waste of time.. WRONG .. As I said – You never can tell - He was the one that bought the house!

So good luck, keep up the hard work, maybe get a few interior design magazines to give you some ideas …. And soon you will be moving into your new home …. X


BlogNightmareNeighbours

posted by Natalie Paddick



Winter Landscaping .. Making a Space Look Bigger …  With or Without your Neighbours Help!


Over the winter, we had the opportunity to make a client’s outside space look brighter and bigger. The property a new build home had a small dark front courtyard, as a result of the neighbour’s large misshapen overhanging fir tree. The courtyard had dark gravel, weeds and a great deal of debris which dropped from the overhanging branches and not to mention the droppings from the pigeons living in the foliage overhead! Not a pretty sight!

Now the obvious solution to this is to approach the neighbours and come up with a reasonable solution to either reduce the tree in height, thus stabilising the tree or as the tree was so misshapen take it down completely and replace it with something more suiting to the location. Or so you would think! It is a potential ‘neighbouring dispute’!

Your rights within the law in this country is if a neighbours tree, shrub or bush overhangs you perimeter creating a problem. You are entitled to remove the overhanging branches up to your boundary line only, making sure before you do this that the tree concerned does not have a preservation order on it! Again it is good neighbourly behaviour to advise your neighbour that you are going to do this. You must ask them if they require any branches and leaves that belonged to the boundary hedge back as they are your neighbour’s property. You can’t just throw them back into the garden of your neighbour as this is considered fly tipping! Our clients are Malaysian, just arrived in this country to their beautiful new home. The law in Malaysia is that if your neighbour trees, shrubs etc. overhang your property then the owner of said tree has to have them removed at their cost. A much more sensible option?

If you have tried to negotiate with your neighbour over the reduction of the “high hedge” impacting on your property, and they are being difficult about it, then another way of dealing with this issue is to approach your local council under the High Hedge act; Anti-Social behaviour act of 2003. The council will then mediate on your behalf for a fee of circa £400.00. If found that the hedge is too high and therefore anti-social they will enforce the owner of the hedge to remove/lower the height of the hedge at their expense. However this can be time consuming!


Our clients being very reasonable, honourable and decent people requested that I went around to speak to the neighbours on their behalf to explain the problem …. Here we go! So first I wrote to the neighbours explaining the situation, (they were not unaware of the problem, the developer had already written to them about the issue and I had a copy of that letter.) A week later, I rang the gate bell of the neighbours and the automated gates opened.. I walked in and went to what looked like the front door. No one came to greet me. So I went back to the gate and rang the bell again assuming that the owners would talk to me over the intercom. Nothing happened apart from some very strange incomprehensible electronic sounds out of the speaker … I waited and waited … But after about 5 minutes still nothing happened….With the exception of the electronic gates opening and closing .. So I moved on to the other neighbour who had other tree’s that were overhanging my clients garage to advise them that we were going to take the branches down. This neighbour was full of courtesy and was happy for us to take the damaged trees down. As a gesture of good will I offered to replace the trees with some new more appropriate specimens of her choice. Simple!

Suddenly, I became aware that someone had come through the electronic gates behind me. I approached the women, smiling (I had no reason not to smile!) As I got closer I could see that she was extremely agitated. I said ‘Hello’ … ‘I am working next door and your fir tree is overhanging my client’s garden creating a mess and shade …. My clients would like to remove the overhanging branches as they are undermining the roof of their garage….. ‘This women went ballistic … She pulled on to her hair saying that she was about to wash it and I had disturbed her… She said she hated the developer … And that her house was here first! …(This was not going according to my plan!) .. This woman continued to rant, her voice rising in volume’  … It was spectacular in a bizarre way … I started to wonder what I had said that had produced such a hysterical Cruella de Vil performance; it was like the moment in the film when Cruella realises her two Hench Men had lost the valuable puppies!!

I am not a wall flower, (anyone that knows me will tell you that!) But I am all for peaceful negotiation where possible. So … I tried in vain to pacify this enraged contorted puce faced women. I pointed out the facts in as nicer manner as possible. Best tactic I could think of when dealing with a screaming hysterical banshee. She threw her hands up, pulled further on her hair and screamed that she was going to see me in court! Rolls eyes … Like I have said before Interior Design & Landscaping is a dangerous career!

The problem I have found with this job and dealing with my clients neighbours over the years is that in most cases it is not about the problem in hand, in this situation, for example, the overhanging branches. It is about something far deeper… No one likes change and jealousy’s set in … And become deep seated… It is ‘road rage’ on a property level …

Subsequently, I received a three page letter from this woman’s husband to the office. Stating that my ‘invasion’, (ringing the gate bell!) Had upset his wife, his letter was full of misinformation that was completely irrelevant to the situation in hand. The overhanging branches! It was full of vitriol, personal insults and information on how important their lives are over a menial like me? I am not without caring for people’s emotions and personal feelings, but some rational approach needs to be taken?

Yes I really have to deal with this type of nonsense regularly! More often than you would think! ..My advice if you have a neighbouring dispute is; try and stick to the point! Most neighbours just want what is reasonable .. It is not a personal attack on the way you choose to live your life .. Try and negotiate for a happy all round solution to the problem … Try and take your neighbours feelings into account … Don’t turn it into a war .. And I should point out that it does not matter how long your house has inhabited its location if the local planners have approved planning then there is nothing you could do about it! Move on!! Please note I understand these things can be difficult … But be reasonable ….

The upshot of all this … Is that my courteous Malaysian clients are still dealing with these neighbours writing polite letters in order to negotiate with these people … But these disputes can go on for ever! …

So in the meantime … Our brief was to make the dark courtyard brighter. We replaced the dark gravel with bright creamy white Travertine paving slabs. Put in a huge, nearly 4ft high pot with a bespoke stainless steel water feature in the corner of the courtyard. Installed uplighters and down lighters in stainless steel, which creates views, atmosphere, movement and sound and in the evening focal point oasis of light. Installed a bespoke wooden planter filling it with sculptural plants, which as they grow will give shape and form. This completely opened up the area, made it feel much larger and to some degrees has actually defused the darkness caused by the overhanging trees. 


Footnote! Before we stopped working on this project, albeit we are going back later in the year to do the front garden and a conservatory. The tree neighbour’s husband came by to look at the landscaping … Interesting that it is fine for him to come over unannounced and walk onto the property with his friend to look at his overhanging tree! Double standards? Any way he told our workmen that because our neighbours had made the fateful mistake of landscaping their front garden; would mean that no tree surgery was ever possible! I roll my eyes! This is of course just rubbish and another excuse not to do anything about the tree! The point is that the branches, if not the tree will need to come down at some stage … You wonder what the point of the battle is? Like I said it is all about control, jealousy and unreasonable behaviour … I will keep you briefed on what happens next! …. But the courtyard looks fabulous … Result!  



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