Loving your home
- Credit: Archant
Letting others see in before you move out…
The day you decide to sell your home is the day you start looking forward to a fresh start. It is at this point that you also need to look round your house with a fresh pair of eyes… or borrow those of an expert.
You may love your house just the way it is, even if you haven’t quite managed to put all the plans you had into action: the extension, the garden overhaul, the new colour scheme throughout – they never quite materialised. Or you might not have got to grips with your current home, can’t look around without feelings of frustration, and you are desperate to move on.
At this point, you will understandably resent having to spend any more time or effort on further decorating or DIY schemes but you know, in your heart of hearts, that you need to spend money just to deal with those small jobs that were always at the bottom of the ‘To Do’ list. But you do not have to spend a fortune – and, if you have time in hand before you are putting your property on the market, then at least you will get the benefit of your endeavours!
I canvassed two sets of “eyes” to find out what were the most important things to get done if you had to prioritize and did not have a large amount of cash to achieve them. Firstly I spoke to our Sales Team, who were in no doubt that if your home is loved by you – and others can see how nice a lifestyle is afforded by the way you live in your house - then prospective buyers will too. When our Team first come to your home, remember that aside from the financial advice, they are there to be “the other person’s eyes”: be prepared to take some interiors advice as it’s hard to see your home into which you’ve put your personality from another perspective - and try not to feel judged.
First impressions in property are, as with people, important: if it needs it, repaint your front door. Cut back creepers to maximise light, weed your pathway, prune hedges, and clean your paving. It is definitely worth allocating some of your budget to crumbling concrete or thinning gravel. Make sure your house is nicely aired – musty mildew, pet odour, or the aroma from last night’s takeaway are very off-putting, but the senses need not always be greeted with the small of fresh coffee and newly baked bread: just keeping your house fresh and full of clean air is under-rated.
Our team will also recommend de-cluttering: I’ve come to understand that this is a vastly misunderstood action – you don’t have to erase all aspects of personality and have to throw away your ornaments or the drawings on the fridge, but you do have to keep them out of sight: think of it as a chance to get ahead with your packing! The balance is not to make your home devoid of character but try not to impose your character on others… let them be able to “see” the house. People want to see that you and your life is ‘removable’ from their “dream” – they need to see the blank canvas. You don’t want people to think it will cost a fortune to get you, the previous incumbent, out of their new home.
Catch up on your “repairs” list: paint the scuffed skirting, tackle the small paint jobs, clean mirrors, replace light bulbs, and make sure you don’t have bare bulbs or dangling lampshades in rooms – things that you just don’t notice any more as you have been living with them for a number of years!
If you have to invest in any dry- or steam-cleaning, concentrate on the carpets, as they are bought with the house: you don’t want to put people off with thinking they have an enormous expense as soon as they move in of replacing them all. If they simply can’t be cleaned, then consider taking them up and painting the floorboards. If your curtains are somewhat tired or a little dated, it is definitely better to take them down than try to disguise them – and don’t go to the expense of replacing them! When you have viewings, it is important to let the light in anyway – make sure all your curtains and blinds are open – and that all the windows are clean.
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I know we’ve mentioned de-cluttering… but there are certain rooms that are paramount in the first viewing, such as the kitchen and the bathroom. People need to know the space they have to play with, so these are great rooms to do an early pack! Leave out things that are attractive (lifestyle items), do the washing up and put it all away; tidy all the plastic bottles off the side of the bath, redo shower silicon and clean the grouting… And don’t forget the utility room: this is high on current wish lists when house-hunting. Make sure it lives up to its billing – and potential purchasers can see how well it works.
You will be used to living a certain way in your house that really suits you, but you will have to consider setting up and living a different way whilst your house is on the market. For example, if your dining room is currently a play room, but there is nowhere to eat as a family in your kitchen (and you eat either in shifts or on the sofa!) then it is definitely worth sacrificing the playroom for the moment, and turning it back into a dining room. You can either invest in some fun storage boxes for excess toys, or again, use it as an excuse to get ahead with the packing.
My second pair of eyes comes courtesy of an interior design consultant – who was passionate on the subject of furniture and its layout. I’ve never really thought about it that much – but I will admit to doing some quick rearranging when I got home after our chat! Think hard about furniture layout…. Try not to let all your sitting room furniture be focused round the TV! If you have slightly overwhelming pieces of furniture (the ones you have inherited and didn’t know what else to do with!), consider storing them in a friend’s garage or renting a storage unit. Many of us can’t easily imagine rooms without existing furniture. It is rare that your house will sell straight away: ultimately you have to make some longer-term adjustments – but then you can enjoy the benefits of your compromises. If you have no budget for renovations, then she says you can revitalise your house using your existing furniture and swapping pieces round. She suggested that we should all avoid having tall pieces of furniture immediately in front of you as you walk into a room – it makes the room feel smaller!
Beds should be made, and wherever possible should have lamps and bedside tables. And, as she pointed out that people will open doors and cupboards, don’t stuff built-in cupboards with everything you are trying to hide (imagine the horror of it all tumbling out onto your nearly-buyer!) and time spent clearing out your airing cupboard and folding everything to perfection is not time wasted.
If you have the time, and the budget and are going to repaint the slightly more “tired” rooms, don’t repaint in plain white. The high-street DIY chains have good colours that are not Magnolia! White makes everything look colder. If you have “exciting” decoration, make sure it’s balanced with more neutral decoration elsewhere as it will tone your house down: she suggests that as much as 50% of the house should be neutral.
The most difficult area of décor to tackle are children’s rooms. Most of us find it difficult to look past fairytale murals, farmyard friezes, dinosaurs and circus animals: if you can bear it, it might be better to repaint neutrally, and replace with bunting and fun canvas storage boxes. People can then more easily mentally then turn those rooms into an office, guest room or teenager’s room without worrying about getting over the expense and hassle it would cause.
Her main point was to make enough room for purchasers to mentally think they will improve your house when they move in! Leave room for them to imagine expanding themselves into the spaces you’ve left.
Remember, people coming round your home aren’t judging you – they are evaluating your house, not your lifestyle so don’t let your lifestyle get in the way of their dreams.
Strutt & Parker, 37 Lower Bridge Street, Chester CH1 1RS 01244 354888