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Preparing your house for sale – 18 Top Tips

set of door keys next to a model of a  house.

Preparing your house for sale thoroughly is vital if you want to sell it fast and for the maximum amount of money.

In the past year I have sold 2 houses, and bought a house, so I have picked up lots of tips on preparing your house for sale. I have also viewed a lot of houses, so I know what a difference these tips can make. My starting point is that most people have absolutely no imagination, so you have to lay it all out for them. Make your house look and feel as wonderful as it possibly can. Here are my top tips:

Before you call the Estate Agents

1. Declutter

I can’t say this one enough…get rid of absolutely everything that doesn’t totally need to be there. The tatty old shelves that you have been meaning to get rid, those old toys the kids don’t play with anymore…it’s all got to go. Go through each room and clear it out methodically. Think of it as a bit of pre-packing for your move. Before our last move I think I was single-handedly stocking our local Freecycle site for weeks! The less ‘stuff’ you have in the room, the bigger and lighter and more airy it feels.

If you have lots of things that you don’t want to get rid of, but you don’t actually need on display, use the loft, use under-bed storage, but get it out of sight. DO NOT stuff it into the cupboard under the stairs or fitted wardrobes and the like. Viewers will look in there, so you don’t want it all falling out on their heads! If you have too much stuff to hide under the bed, consider getting a storage locker for a few weeks. If the house looks great it will sell quickly, so this small investment will be well worth it.

2. Do all those DIY jobs

We all have those niggly little DIY jobs in our houses that need doing. I currently have 2 taps that don’t work and a couple of cracked tiles in the bathroom – to name but two. It’s easy to stop noticing these things when you live with them, but believe me viewers will notice. Make sure the sillicone around the bath and kitchen worktops is fresh and white, and you have done any little repairs. Not doing these jobs makes the house look a bit unloved, which makes people wonder if there are bigger jobs that have been left. This could mean they offer you less money than they otherwise might, or just don’t make an offer at all.

3. Ditch the dodgy furniture

Similarly, I would consider whether any of your furniture looks a bit scruffy too. Whilst people aren’t buying the furniture and therefore it shouldn’t matter – it does. People can be incredibly distracted by scruffy looking or old fashioned furnishings! If you can’t get rid of the furniture, then at least consider buying covers or throws to try and make it look a bit better – it can really help. Below is a picture of our dodgy dining room chairs with and without covers on. The covers were cheap to buy from Amazon, just pull on and can be easily washed, but make all the difference!

4. Ditch the dodgy decor

As part of your DIY jobs, going round and touching up the paintwork is also really important. I have two young kids, so our walls below waist height are always a bit grubby! Whilst touching up the paintwork, you might want to consider whether some of your decor choices are a bit ‘individual’. This is fine if you have no intention of moving, but when you are selling you want to appeal to the widest possible audience. People may view several houses on a Saturday, you don’t want yours remembered as ‘the one with the lairy wallpaper’! Some people are also really put off if they feel they would have to redecorate every room in the house.

Picture of a wall of striking wallpaper.  Neutralise when prepping your house to sell.

5. De-personalise, but not too much

Now this is a bit of a tricky one. You don’t want your house to be so bland (after you’ve decluttered and repainted in neutral tones) that it feels cold and unwelcoming and like nobody lives there. Equally you have to give people space to imagine what it might be like to live in themselves. Personally I think there is nothing wrong with having a few family photos around, as long as you don’t have millions and they aren’t massive. I once looked around a house where the owners had put up so many photos of themselves and their kids, that I actually recognised them when I saw them in the street – about 2 years later! Generally, attractive landscapes or abstract pictures in calming colours is probably the best way to go. Similarly, a few knick-knacks here and there are fine, but nothing too unusual or memorable. Don’t be remembered as ‘that house with the stuffed badger in the living room’!

The Estate Agents Photographs

Right, so you are prepped and ready to go, got your estate agent on board, you need to make sure your house looks amazing for the photos! These days your photos are the most important aspect of marketing your house. People have access to thousands of properties online, so if yours doesn’t stand out, they will quickly move on.

6. Use a Professional

If at all possible, pick an estate agent that uses a professional photographer to take their photos. Professional photos make a massive difference! If that’s not possible, then don’t be shy about asking the estate agent to re-take the photos if you aren’t happy with them. Also, insist that the photos are taken on a reasonably bright day, definitely not a day when the weather gives away the time of year – no snow photos!

7. Kerb Appeal

It’s guaranteed that you’ll have a picture taken of the front of your house – make sure it looks fab. If you have grass out the front, cut it and also trim any bushes as necessary. Weed your front path or drive. Make sure the front door looks good, and add a new door mat and some flowers in a smart pot. Make sure the doorbell works. Where are your bins? Make sure they are out of sight. See my post here for inspiration.

8. The Garden

While you are outside, check the back garden too. You see loads of houses where the inside is great, but the garden has clearly been forgotten! Clear out any clutter and rubbish, cut the grass and trim back anything that is a bit overgrown. If you aren’t much of a gardener, a few flowers in pots go along way and you can get them fairly cheaply from the supermarket these days.

If your garden is small, it might be an idea to clear out some of the children’s toys – e.g. the trampoline, as they take up a lot of space and aren’t great to look at. A personal bug-bear of mine in the garden is seeing photos with the washing line in! Fold it away and preferably remove it altogether for the photographs. Wash down the patio areas and depending on the time of year, sweep up any leaves.

Inside the house

9. Downstairs cloakroom

Do not under any circumstances allow pictures of the downstairs cloakroom to be on your marketing – in my view nobody needs to see a picture of the smallest room in the house!

10. Kitchen

Make sure you have removed all of the magnets and kids artwork from the fridge door / walls. Apart from a few key things (the kettle, maybe a plant on the windowsill), make sure the worksurfaces are clean and clear. If you have stainless steel appliances or a sink, polish until they sparkle. If you have animals, pop their food and water bowls somewhere out of the camera shot.

11. Dining table

Personally I think setting the table is a bit naff, but having a vase of flowers is perfect. If you have a table cloth, make sure it’s clean.

12. Living room

Make sure all of your sofa cushions look plump and inviting- get rid of any that look a bit limp and lifeless! Turn the TV off. If you have animals, remove their beds (and the animals) from out of the camera shot.

13. Bedrooms

Make sure all your beds are made really well. See my post here for some tips on this. Clear away any everyday clutter such as hairdryers and phone chargers etc.

14. Bathrooms

The bathroom needs to look sparkling clean for photos. Remove all of your everyday toiletries from the camera shot – no toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo etc. A posh hand soap is ok though. Remove all towels bar one hand towel. This towel needs to be clean and fluffy. I would suggest you buy a towel and put it out exclusively for the photographs and viewings. Make sure the toilet lid is down.

Viewings

So you are on the market, photos looking great, you are now having your first viewings.

15. Make the Estate Agent do their job

Personally, as a vendor and as a viewer, I prefer it if the estate agent does the viewings – at least on a first viewing. It just means that viewers can have a proper look round without feeling under pressure to say ‘ooh lovely!’ every two minutes, when really they are thinking ‘yuck!’ It also means as a vendor you don’t have to smile politely while people critique your home. If you have animals, remove their bowls and bedding (personally I just shove them in the boot of my car) and remove the animal. Also, don’t forget if you have animals, check the garden prior to viewings and remove any ‘deposits’ the animals may have left!

16. Clean clean clean

Your house can not be clean enough when you are trying to sell it. Our house is a normal family home, not usually immaculate, but when we’re selling it is cleaned and tidied to within an inch of it’s life! You often get viewings at short notice, or several on the same day, so it’s easier to be prepped and ready at 10 minutes notice at all times. Not easy when you have kids I know, but believe me the effort will pay off.

17. Smell fresh

Your house needs to smell clean and fresh – so no smelly damp dogs or pongy litter trays. Smoked haddock for dinner is definitely out! Try to keep a few windows open to keep the air fresh, and have a wax melts or scented candles around the place to help unpleasant smells disperse.

18. Keep people away

Another reason to get the estate agent to do the viewings, is even if your living room is a good size, if there are 4 of you and 4 viewers, plus an estate agent, pretty quickly it can start to feel a bit over-crowded! Best to have everyone out. If there has to be somebody there, have one person who can make themselves scarce whilst viewers have a nose.

Results

Prepping your house for sale properly takes a massive effort, but it really is worth doing. We sold both our houses in the first week, so we didn’t have to maintain it all for too long. When you have a busy family life, viewings can be super-stressful, so getting sold and moved quickly really helps – I couldn’t bear the thought of it for months on end!

Happy selling!

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