Home sellers need to make two good first impressions in order to coax buyers to view. Buyers make decisions about the properties they like before they even pick up the phone to the estate agent so, when you’re selling, nothing can be left to chance.
Online sites with multiple photos and expansive write-ups are the first chance for a good first impression, and the second chance comes when potentially interested buyers do a drive past.
It’s vital the exterior of the property is neat, tidy and in good repair. Some jobs cost only time, while other areas may need a financial investment to bring them up to expected standards.
In the building itself, the chimney, gutters, soffits and paving should all be in tiptop condition. Cracked bricks, patchy pointing, and sagging chimneys all indicate neglect and make buyers wonder what else they’d need to spend money on.
Likewise, regardless of its size, the garden needs special attention. Even the largest front gardens can look easy to maintain if they’re neat and tidy. Mow the lawns, not forgetting to trim the edges, cut the hedges, weed flowerbeds, and sweep up any fallen leaves. If possible, pressure-wash the drive and external brickwork to get rid of moss or accumulated debris in fancy paving. If you have painted woodwork outside, give it all a fresh coat of paint, clean up ironwork, oil hinges and repair latches.
A final welcoming touch is the inclusion of decorative planters by the front door, or hanging baskets in summer.
Letting in Light
Having tempted potential buyers with a pristine exterior, the next step involves following through when they step over the threshold. The hallway is the first area they see, so make sure this is as bright and spacious as possible. Mirrors can create an illusion of space and reflect light, and neutrally colored walls make closed in spaces feel more airy. I you have space in the hallway, a bouquet of fresh flowers cheers up the area and creates a pleasant aroma.
Throughout the house, put the emphasis on space and light. The primary source of light during the day is the windows, so make sure the panes are sparkling clean and drapes or window treatments are light, clean and modern. This is especially important if sheer curtains are used for privacy in overlooked rooms as they can cut quite a bit of light. You need to find a balance between protecting privacy and not creating too much shade. Vertical blinds may prove an attractive alternative look.
Create floor space by clearing rooms of clutter, and this includes removing personal items such as family photos or sentimental knick-knacks. Too many items on display, or left lying around on surfaces, gives the impression of too little storage – something no home buyer wants to contemplate.
Staging is a term than confuses many. It’s not about making rooms look artificial or like stage sets, it’s about targeting a room or area’s main function and arranging furnishings and objects that are in keeping with that function. For instance:
- Living rooms – group the furniture conversationally. This usually means having chairs or sofas facing each other, although this isn’t always practical in smaller living rooms. Try not to have all the chairs in rows though, so that people can’t see each other when they’re seated. Choose the focal point of the room, usually a fireplace but often the TV in many modern family homes, and arrange the seating so both viewing and chatting is possible. Strategically placed side tables have both social and practical purposes as places to put cups or glasses and areas for lamps to create soft lighting.
- Kitchens – if you have a dining kitchen, keep the dining table clear of clutter with maybe just a bowl of flowers in the centre. Arrange dining chairs around it to make it clear the space is both practical and comfortable for dining. Put away as many small kitchen appliances as possible so you have clear work surfaces. They kitchen will look bigger, and will seem like an inviting place to work.
- Bedrooms – create a relaxing ambiance with throws and cushions on beds, update the decor, clean old or buy new curtains, and put away all clothing and shoes. In children’s bedrooms, keep the floors clear of toys and avoid overly personal decor. Kids love personalized rooms, but only when they’re personalized to them. Princess bedrooms, for instance, will turn off potential buyers who only have sons, as they’ll see a big decorating job ahead of them.
If you took previous comments to heart, you’ll have cleared most ornaments out of the rooms, but knowing how to artfully arrange the ones you have chosen to keep will make them more attractive to buyers. If possible, arrange them in groups of three or five similarly themed items; for instance, collections of cat ornaments, or a collection of green objects. Odd numbers look artistic, whereas even numbers tend to look like a jumble.
Buyers love modern homes, even old houses must be tastefully modernized where it matters to attract the best prices. Where does it matter? Primarily in kitchens and bathrooms.
That doesn’t always mean a major remodeling job, as you can do wonders with a simple facelift instead. For instance, instead of replacing the entire kitchen, you can achieve a modernized look by simply replacing, or sanding and painting, cabinet doors. New work surfaces give a fresh modern look to a tired kitchen, and updating the taps over the sink gives a new lease of life to this overworked area.
In bathrooms, small improvements such as replacing shower screens or curtains and cleaning the tile grouting make an amazing difference without much fuss or expense. All bathrooms need to be sparkling, squeaky clean, so you could consider new flooring, updated tiling, or simply a fresh lick of paint. The important thing is to get right into the corners with no stinting.
It seems like a lot of work, but when the property market is buoyant and there are more houses available to choose from, the well-maintained, modern property will always get the most attention and sell first, at the best price.
Drew writes for Black Brick Relocation Agents – a leading, independent buying agency.