Seven Secrets for Selling Your Home
So you’ve instructed your agent and your home is up for sale. Now, you’re waiting impatiently for a flood of viewers who will fall for its charms and be keen to put in an offer as soon as possible.
That may or may not happen, depending on the market and factors such as the all-important location, but there are certainly a few steps you can take to make potential buyers more likely to decide yours is the property for them.
We don’t mean the old favourites like making sure visitors are greeted by the aroma of freshly-brewed coffee or bread baking in the oven, but we do have some pretty simple – even obvious – ideas that will present your home to best advantage and give you the greatest chance of securing serious interest.
- The first impression is the only one that counts
It doesn’t matter how good your home looks inside – your potential buyers have judged it before they even walk through the door. ‘Curb appeal’ is worth investing in, so ask a friend to take an objective look at your property from the outside and give you some honest feedback. Maybe you haven’t noticed the peeling paint on the fence or that half the shrubs in your borders are dead. Similarly, open the front door and take a look at the hallway. Is it cluttered with coats and shoes? Are keys and letters lying around? Clear it as much as possible and make it an inviting and welcoming space for visitors.
- Take the ‘home’ out of your house
It’s hard, especially if you’ve lived somewhere for a long time, but de-personalising your home is one of the most important things you can do when you’re trying to sell. You want potential buyers to imagine themselves living there, to visualise how their own things will look arranged in your rooms. Get rid of as much as you can – family photos, memorabilia and keepsakes – and either put it in storage or stash it with a helpful friend or family member who has room. If it’s in your budget, consider hiring a home-stager – they’ll be able to showcase your property properly as they don’t have the emotional involvement you do.
- Spruce it up – but don’t overdo it
Quick fixes can help you sell, so go ahead – replace the broken cupboard door handles and dripping tap. Clean the curtains and the grubby bathroom grouting, maybe give the hallway a lick of fresh paint. But there’s no need to invest in a mammoth makeover – after all, you have no idea what the new buyer will want to do when they move in and their tastes could differ wildly from yours. You could end up spending more on ‘upgrades’ than you’ll receive in an improved offer, so keep it simple.
- Remember not everyone is an animal-lover
If you have pets, you need to take extra care when preparing for viewings – after all, not everyone is a fan of dogs, cats or any other small furry animals. Furniture covered in hair, a litter tray that needs emptying or the smell of dog food will all put people off – much as we love our furry friends, for some people they can give the impression that a house isn’t clean. Do what you can to minimise their presence; if you have dogs, for example, you could consider making sure they are out on a walk when visitors are due.
- Show off your storage
As most of us know, it seems there is never enough room to put things – good storage is something every buyer looks for. Empty out any cupboards, drawers and built-in wardrobes as much as you can to give an impression of space and make sure whatever is left is neatly organised as buyers may well want to look inside.
Take time to consider the lighting in your home as well. Clean curtains and windows, cut back any outside bushes that block your natural light, change dirty lampshades and increase the wattage of your light bulbs. A bright, cheery and airy house is more likely to sell.
- Always be ready to show
You never know when your buyer will walk through the door so, while it’s hard work, it’s important to keep your home ready for viewings at a moment’s notice – or certainly in a state of readiness so that you don’t have to do too much before people arrive. Don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink or shoes lying on the stairs. Keep the bathrooms clean and the floors swept. Make everyone pick up after themselves. It’s inconvenient but it will make life easier if you have a viewing at short notice – and it will help your house to sell.
- Use a great agent
You should have confidence in your estate agent and trust that they are doing their best to sell your home – from marketing it as fully as possible to being aware of competing properties being offered for sale in your neighbourhood and their strengths/weaknesses against your own. They should stick to any requirements you have for viewings – for example, perhaps you would rather people didn’t come on Sundays – and follow up with potential buyers to find out what they liked or didn’t like, regardless of whether they make you an offer. After all, if there’s something specific putting people off buying your home, you need to know so you can address it.
Follow these simple tips and you’ll give yourself a much better chance of selling your property quickly. Don’t forget to price it correctly and be clear about what is included or not in the sale. Make sure you have any relevant paperwork, such as guarantees for built-in appliances or copies of planning permission for an extension, to hand.
Renting Your First Home? Read Our Checklist First!
Taking that step and living independently as an adult for the first time is exciting, of that there’s no doubt. Even if you’ve been to university it’s not the same as it’s generally still a protected environment with some degree of parental support.
But once you have a ‘proper’ job and think you’re ready to make your own way with no safety net, it’s a heady feeling to start browsing the ‘to let’ adverts and imagining a home of your own.
Just remember to keep your head out of the clouds when it comes to the practicalities. Whether you’re planning to live alone or share with a friend, keep these points in mind:
- Be realistic about your budget.
This is the most important thing to remember as it will affect how comfortably you live. You need to have enough money to pay not just your rent but your bills, as well as to buy food and other sundries. If you’re paying more than 30% of your income just on rent, you’re likely to struggle to meet all the other costs and will inevitably have to cut down on any luxuries.
Make a list of all the other regular outgoings you’ll have, along with estimated costs. Utilities – electricity, gas and water – are the obvious ones, plus there’s likely to be council tax. You’ll probably want internet and a telephone, and what about television – can you live without Sky Sports or the movie channels? At the very least, you’ll need a television licence. If you’ve got a mobile phone or subscribe to Netflix or any other services, you’ll need to take that into account too.
- How will you get from A to B?
If you have your own car or motorbike, then the costs of that – insurance, fuel etc – will be part of your budget. Is there parking, on or off-street? Will you have to pay for a permit?
If you’re relying on public transport to get to work, into town or for a night out, make sure your new home is close enough to bus stops, the train station or the nearest taxi rank for your needs. That dream place might lose its sheen if you’ve got a 40-minute walk in the rain twice a day during the winter.
- What will your moving-in costs be?
Make sure you’re aware of any advance charges – you can expect to pay a security bond and at least one month’s rent upfront. Find out if there are any fees to pay for your rental application or credit checks.
If it’s a furnished property, check what’s included and whether you need to provide items like crockery and cooking utensils yourself. If it’s unfurnished, then the list becomes a whole lot longer. If you don’t have friends or relatives with spare furniture to put your way, then auction houses, online classified adverts and local social media buy-and-sell sites are good places to source reasonably-priced, quality second-hand items
- Will you need a guarantor?
If you’re moving into your first place, then chances are you will need someone to co-sign your rental agreement. This is someone who vouches for your commitment by also signing the contract and agreeing to take legal responsibility for your rent if you are unable to pay it. If your income is below a certain level or you have a poor credit history then this may also be required.
If you think this might apply to you then find someone in advance who is willing to sign - this is likely to be a parent or another close relative.
- Take out contents insurance.
Even if you are renting somewhere furnished and there is some insurance in place, it’s still wise to buy your own policy to protect your personal items. Your phone, iPad and laptop are all worth a considerable sum, not to mention a games console if you have one, DVDs, clothes, books and other possessions. Our belongings are always more valuable than we think and it’s wise to be protected against anything that might mean they need replacing.
- Thinking of a house-share?
Even if you’re planning to move in with your best friend in the world, you need to make sure there are ground-rules in place. Chances are only one of you can be the official tenant, so you’ll need a second agreement between the two of you to make sure financial obligations are clear.
It’s a good idea to set up a separate, joint bank account into which you can each pay your share of the rent, any bills and money for shared household items like cleaning products and food basics.
Don’t just assume you’ll be able to work out it all out between you – agree on how you’ll tackle chores and rules for keeping shared space tidy or having overnight guests. Even the best of friends can fall out when one never does the washing-up so pre-empt problems by discussing them first.
Don’t forget your letting agent can be a valuable source of advice. It’s in their interests to make sure you’re happy with your chosen new home so ask questions and make the most of their expertise to find the right property for you.