Sell your home in the New Year: 10 expert tips on getting your home ready for a spring sale

Savvy owners thinking of making a move in 2019 should start preparing their homes for the spring market now, in order to make the best possible impression on buyers who are, generally speaking, somewhat nervous and cash-conscious at the moment.

The London property market is shrouded in Brexit uncertainty and sellers need to go the extra mile in order to make their properties stand out.

A major spring clean, along with feel-good tricks such as baking bread and filling vases with flowers when a viewing’s due, are well-known ways to encourage people to fall in love with your home.

However, industry experts have plenty more suggestions to get the place market-ready — from hiding the shampoo to finding a foster family for the dog.

1. Dump your junk

Yes, it’s time to declutter. Nobody wants to look at stacks of old magazines, tacky holiday souvenirs, or dirty clothes heaped upon every available surface. Nicki Treffers, marketing manager at Beresfords estate agents, advises a stringent approach. “Never leave tea towels or shampoo bottles out, make sure everything is tidied away,” she says.

Once everything is as minimal as you can make it, take care that your rooms look as stylish as possible. “Symmetry is key,” says Treffers. “Look at hotels and showrooms — all of the best-designed places have a symmetrical focus, such as lamps and bedside tables either side of the bed.”

The bed itself should be  “impeccably” made, with duvet covers ironed, pillows plumped and co-ordinating cushions added, for that hotel feel.

2. Go neutral

If your taste runs to tangerine-painted walls or violently coloured floral wallpaper, now might be the time for a once-over with some sensible off-white. You may find it boring, but quiet and inoffensive sells much better than loud and loopy.

3. Let there be light

Doing up a property in order to sell it is time consuming and cash intensive, and you should only undertake serious renovations if you are convinced you will make a profit from them. Julia Kendell, interior design expert for The National Homebuilding & Renovating Show, says there are smaller things you can do to improve the look of a property.

“One of the key things to add perceived value to your home is to maximise the feeling of space and light,” she says. “Consider simplifying the window treatments by replacing heavy curtains with shutters, wood slat or flat fabric blinds.

“Good lighting is key to showing a home at its best, both in creating the illusion of space and to produce an interesting and ‘designed’ look. Use good-quality fittings to highlight good features and move the emphasis away from the less impressive. A statement chandelier or contemporary piece will add sparkle and raise the tone of the property substantially.”

On gloomy days, high-voltage light bulbs will help make your home look cheery and bright.

4. Set the stage

If you are selling a three-bedroom house but your third bedroom has evolved into a bit of a junk room/man cave, clear it out and stage it properly as a beautiful guest bedroom. Buyers can lack imagination and won’t necessarily see the potential of a space if you don’t make it blindingly obvious.

5. The sweet smell of success

Owners can become immune to the sometimes pungent pong of their pets. If you have four-legged friends, ask an (honest) two-legged friend whether your home ever smells like wet dog. If they say it does, you’re going to have to do something about it. Air the place thoroughly, clean carpets, upholstery and curtains.

Then line up a friend or neighbour to babysit your pet(s) during viewings. Hide your fur babies’ toys, too. But don’t go nuts with the air freshener – nobody wants to be choked by the scent of lily of the valley when they view a home.

Smokers face a similar challenge and should think about giving up their habit while indoors, during the sales period at least.

6. First impressions count

Buyers tend to make up their minds about a property within 30 seconds, says James Robinson, general manager at mews specialists Lurot Brand. So make sure the front garden is free of weeds and leaves, keep hedges trimmed and paving and pathways swept. Line up bins tidily or, if you have a bin store, use it.

Consider giving the front door a lick of paint if necessary, and polish door furniture. A couple of plants in pots can really make a home look more loved. If you have off-street parking space, remove your car so that prospective buyers can feel the benefit of it for themselves when they arrive.

James Robinson also recommends paying close attention to the hallway. “Unless your house is extremely grand, remove coats and pictures from the entrance hall and corridors, as they make them feel dark and narrow,” he says. Put up a mirror instead to bounce light about.

7. Finishing touches

Get the windows cleaned is the advice of Jamie Hope, managing director at Maskells Estate Agents. “Clean surfaces to create fresh-smelling surroundings and take the bins out the day before,” he adds. “And it’s an old trick but to create a pleasant general aroma, make some fresh coffee before a viewing.”

8. Brief your team

“A good agent will always arrange a team visit so the seller can meet the individuals who will be conducting the viewings and provide the feedback,” says Chris Mullin, manager of Hamptons International in Muswell Hill. “It also gives sellers the chance to show agents any unusual aspect or unobvious storage, and tell us what they have enjoyed about the property.”

9. Photo fantastic

Buyers scan hundreds of properties on websites before deciding where to view, so really fantastic images are crucial. Have a huge declutter so the rooms look as large as possible, and Hampton’s Chris Mullin suggests temporarily removing everything from rugs to photos. “Start to think about what you don’t really need to take with you, and if now would be the time to consider parting with it,” he advises. 

Some agents do a terrible job on pictures, perhaps taking a few wonky snaps on their phones. Either hire a professional, see if any of your friends are secret David Baileys, or do it yourself, taking time to get really good, clear, bright shots.

10. Future planning

Owners are increasingly investing in applying for planning permission for loft or rear extensions to their homes before putting them on the market. The process should take about eight weeks to complete. Planning consents generally have a shelf life of three years and can be passed on to a new owner. Knowing that they could add an extra bedroom or enlarge the kitchen without any council red tape can be a big inducement to buyers.

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