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 .......