Tips for selling your house

Moving House | Selling Basics

Author: Lauren Coleman

In the very early days of Rock My Style I put together a feature with house buying tips. I had intended to follow with a post all about selling homes shortly after. When reader Marianne mentioned she was putting her house on the market it reminded me a selling houses feature was long overdue. Well better late then never.

Unless your name happens to be Dorothy and you have a very spangly pair of glittery shoes then you’re not going to find your dwelling can miraculously move location. Unfortunately there’s not much you can do to disguise a dual carriageway or a dark garden but there are a few things you can do to make your home more saleable.

Give Rooms Purpose

You might have lived in a house for four years and never used the spare room as anything other than a storage area for your laundry. However for the purposes of selling consider popping a bed in the room. At the end of the day you need to try your best to sell a lifestyle. If your target buyer is a young family then help them see how a cot or bed could be positioned in a room, if it’s young professionals then try to add elements to sell the entertainment lifestyle even if it’s a very small bar tray slotted in one corner of the room.

Declutter

There’s a balance here between creating a clinical home devoid of all charm and a personality laden property. You may have incredible vision but it doesn’t mean your potential buyer will have the same imagination so help them see the home they can create for themselves by paring back your possessions. By all means keep a few photos on show, light a few scented candles and leave some treasured trinkets on display but perhaps take down the images from your boudoir shoot. Folks want to imagine themselves living in the house, not feel like they’re stalking you.

Choose Where To Invest

  • If there’s one decor element to get your house ready for sale then I’d say it’s window treatments. Even adding a simple blind can make a room look far more ‘finished’.
  • If you have awkward nooks and crannies then do consider carving out storage places, perhaps even getting a carpenter to create cupboards in alcoves. Potential buyers love to know where they’ll store their coats and hoover!
  • As mentioned above it’s helpful to determine a rooms purpose so you may find yourself buying a small dining table or maybe a bed to help define the space. Do err on the side of caution here and take heed of tip one. If a double bed is going to take up the whole room then it’s best to avoid and plump for a single one instead.
  • Perhaps you don’t have the luxury of investing in the aesthetics as it may be necessary to spend money on structural work. Decide whether you’ll choose to carry out work before the house goes on the market to get the best possible sale price, or wait for a buyer to survey the property and potentially negotiate on the price.
  • I really would question if it’s necessary to replace a whole kitchen for sale as replacing the cupboard doors and updating the handles can work wonders. In fact I know a friend who was put off by a property having a brand new spanking modern kitchen as it seemed like such a waste to rip out and replace with their dream country cottage style units.
  • Avoid Seasonal Flowers

    Dressing your home with flowers always helps with the aesthetics and adds a gorgeous fragrance too. Personally I would avoid having any photos taken with any flowers that are extremely seasonal. Perhaps it’s just me and my hawk eye but if a property is on Rightmove in September with daffodils on the table I have to ask myself why it’s taken so long to sell! Of course there could be a million reasons why this is the case but it may be better to choose year round blooms such as roses for your photos.

    Do Your Homework

    You don’t just need to sell through a standard estate agent, you can go it alone or opt for an online only agent. If you do go through a third party then be sure to get several quotes and valuations to get the best idea of your home’s value. Also always check the small print. I do know someone who was caught out when they found out their fee was a percentage of the asking price, not the final sale. The agent didn’t do anything to help the seller get the best price as they knew they would get paid regardless of the selling price. Cheeky.

    Timings

    A savvy buyer will return for a second or third viewing at different times of day but try to take advantage of the best features of your home and arrange a first viewing when the house looks its best. Is your living room bathed in afternoon light? Are you on a road with busy traffic in the morning? Try to arrange first viewings to play to your property’s advantages so prospective buyers fall in love with your house and are willing to compromise if there are a few elements which aren’t on their wish list.

    Viewings

    When I was selling my old pad I refrained from being present at the viewings for a variety of reasons; it was an extremely small property so I didn’t want to clutter up the space; viewings took place mostly during office hours so I was at work and also I was paying an estate agent to do their thing. I also couldn’t guarantee I wouldn’t get a bit emotional about the whole thing. Our prospective buyer probably wasn’t interested in me babbling on about how I’d picked my colour scheme. I’m interested to read the approach others took to being present (or not) at viewings.
    If you’re selling in the winter and are letting an agent handle the viewings then do consider how you’ll make the property as inviting as possible. Can you pop back before the buyers arrive to pop on the heating and turn on the lamps or even set up a timer to do it for you?

    Clean

    This goes without saying and is really quite self explanatory. However I’m sure we all have a few tales to tell of when this matter has been overlooked!

    James and I were very lucky to sell our home within a matter of days during the depths of the recession but as we all know I’m no expert at this so please do chime in with your tips on selling your house. What has been your experience of selling?

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    27 thoughts on “Moving House | Selling Basics

    1. I recently sold my flat where I’d lived for 10+ years. It was my single girl about town pad and bought in the height of my Carrie Bradshaw obsession! Fast forward a decade and a moved in boyfriend who turned into my husband and it was time to sell up. I did do all of my viewings because I felt that I could sell the lifestyle that my flat offered more effectively than an agent (maybe I was wrong about that though, who knows!). It did sell and now I’m waiting for my new house to be ready to move in to..I will always have a soft spot for that flat though.

      1. Congrats on the upcoming house move Louisa.
        I think I’d have been okay doing the viewings on our old house if the target market had been young couples like us. In my heart though I knew it was going to go to an invester just to rent out and all they were interested in was if the boiler had been tested and if the curtains were going to come as part of the sale!

    2. We are currently in the process of finalising our house sale (the drawn out back and forth bit between solicitors). Overall, so far, selling our house has been fairly pain free. We put it on the market in Feb and it had sold by Easter, so didn’t take long at all really (it felt like forever though!). We did have problems with our agents though. I kept having to chase them as they marketed the house badly, in the end it took me threatening them with moving agents (regardless of cost) to get them to do a proper job (the house sold a week later).
      So I would definitely advise researching who the best agents are and if possible go by recommendations.
      With viewings we chose to be there (or just one of us). This was mainly because we have cats. They like to go out in the rain and then cover everything in mud, or bring in little dead presents. Not really ideal house selling material. On the whole I think we did a good job of it, I think most buyers appreciated that we still loved our house and that we knew the area well so could answer any questions. I think being present for some viewings can be really helpful, but only if you know you sell your house to it’s best advantage. If you aren’t really a people person or you dislike your house, you may want to leave it up to your agent. Being present isn’t always easy though, we had one woman (with no intention of buying) verbally rip the house apart. It was soul destroying.
      It was all worth it though, we wanted a buyer who would love the house as much as we did and we found her, so fingers crossed it will all go through ok.
      Would love some tips on how to prepare for a move though, I am dreading it already!

      1. I had real problems with my agents too, sounds like the exact same experience! The photographs they took really didn’t showcase the flat very well and I had to ask them to ammend their description, it was very over the top and I was worried it’d put some people off. Like you though, I wanted a buyer that would love the flat and I think that I got there in the end. I too would really like tips on preparing for a move…

        1. Ah the amount of times we had to reword the agents description of our house as it was just plain wrong! And full of typos! After 2 weeks of emailing them back I gave up and left them to it ‘double glazed WIDOWS’ and all!

      2. What a nightmare with your agent Alex. So glad it worked out in the end for you.
        A moving post is on my to-list! x

    3. We had a pretty good experience with selling our house last year. These are the things I learned:

      1. Get quotes from at least 3 agents and pick a mixture of local agents and Nationals. We did this and were able to use the quotes to get out chosen agent to reduce the price a bit. We also ended up going with a local agent because they sold homes similar to ours and they seemed much more personally invested. And it paid off for us.

      2. Don’t worry about redecorating to sell your house. As long as it’s not hideous, it will be enough. People want to put their own stamp on a place so they just need to see the potential. I’m speaking from my personal experience. We negotiated the price down on a house we almost bought because we needed to re-do the kitchen even though it was pretty much brand new. It was just hideous! But it worked as a negotiating tactic.

      3. Get a good solicitor. We had one a friend personally recommended because she always answered the phone. Seems like a small thing but they really don’t always do that! I would hate it if a lazy solicitor cost us our sale. This also proved invaluable when our new house fell through and we had to ask our buyers to wait. Both our chosen solicitor and estate agents helped to persuade our buyer to hold on.

      1. Jennifer – such good points especially on the solicitor.
        Our sale nearly fell through due to a downright rude and unresponsive solicitor. I’ll never use that firm again.

    4. My husband is currently in the process of selling two properties at once ( it’s a long story) and both are in a severe state of disrepair. We are having to weigh up the cost of making these properties saleable, against what they will sell for. We are already looking at a cost of £2000 in skips alone to clear one of the houses and the garden. However it never ceases to amaze me what people will actually buy. Even in their current state we have interested parties who have done their research and can see the potential. Whilst I wouldn’t dream of putting them on the open market in the state they are in, I can see that just taking it back to empty rooms will make a world of difference. X

      1. I think if I was in a similar situation I’d be tempted to clear all the rooms but not really do anything else. Sometimes it can be quite carthartic to clear a space. I need to come round for a treasure trove 🙂 x

    5. My last house selling experience was extremely fast, this is largely due to living in commuter belt where the supply is very scare which puts a different spin on things.

      We viewed a house we liked on Monday evening (top tip- if you see a house you like on rightmove outside the estate agents office hours ring and leave a answer message so you are the first person they hear from in the morning), then put an offer in first thing on Tuesday. Due to the competitive market the vendors agreed as long as we used the same agents to speed things along. We agreed as it was really clear that the agents were really hungry and were going to WORK!

      Between Tuesday and Saturday we did as much as we could to prettify and declutter the house, whilst the estate agents worked really hard to sort the particulars and drum up interest, arrange viewings etc. The house officially went on the market at 10am on the Saturday and was sold by 11am. This is simply because the agents had done all the leg work beforehand.

      So I think my main tip is chose your agent carefully, they take a decent whack of your hard-saved money so make sure you select some who are going to earn it!

      1. Wow. Very speedy!
        I am loving your top tip on the voicemail Liz. So many folks rely on email these days, sometimes it really pays to hear a voice.

    6. Agree with all of these tips!
      There is one thing I would add if you are selling a flat or any where with communal/shared areas (in our case an entrance porch, patio and stairwell). Get your neighbours on side!
      We let ours know as soon as we put it on the market and asked them to please not leave bikes/prams/random stuff in the hallways when we held open viewings. The idea being to give a good impression that the building as a whole was looked after. They also kindly let us use their parking spaces for potential buyers and our downstairs neighbour took her teething baby out for the day to avoid people being scared off by the (usually very quiet) child underneath!
      Something clearly worked as we sold in 6 weeks!

      1. What lovely respectful neighbours you had Sarah. So nice of them to help you through the viewing period.

    7. I only have experience of buying but was very critical of the agents when we did. We only had one viewing of our house as we already knew the area and the house was a very good price so we snapped it up quickly. The agent that turned up for the viewing was a young girl who told us it was the first time she had done a viewing. She had no information about the property or the buyer and literally just stood by the front door while we wandered around the house. If it was my own property I would not just be annoyed about the agent’s ability and effort but the security of my property and possessions without there being an adequate presence from the agent.

      I also viewed a property where the couple followed at our heels all of the way around the house while holding their baby. We could not relax or judge the feel of the rooms while being stared at and bombarded with information.

      I definitely learnt a few things for when it comes to selling my home!

      1. Fancy telling you it was her first viewing! I’d at least try to wing it!
        I once told an agent where the boiler was in a house I had gone to view. i know thy get a bad reputation but some of them really don’t have a clue. We were very lucky with ours though.

    8. Thanks for doing this feature Lauren – been most helpful!

      We are currently in the declutter stage (which hasn’t been too painful) and this weekend will involve the massive clean from top to bottom. Hoping to get it on the market within the next 2 weeks.

      Great tip re flowers – I wouldn’t have thought of that! Off to get lots of cheap bunches of roses at Lidl for most rooms!

      Have picked up some scent diffusers in M&S to make the flat smell inviting too.

      Will let you know how we get on! x

      1. No problem Marianne. I could have gone on and on! So good of all the readers to make such great suggestions. Glad you’ve found it useful x

    9. Great ideas here, going a little further, people do need to visualise themselves in a space, so a few mirrors that catch their reflection can help. Also, I think people do make up their mind up very quickly, so try to show them the best rooms first. I found when we sold, that you can negotiate fees down with estate agents, they all want your commission. Solicitors do try to make out that it takes ages for the paperwork, the first house we bought was within a property boom and it was stipulated that we had to complete within four weeks, on speaking to our solicitor, he said he could do it in a week and true to his word, he did, their solicitors were the ones that held it up.

    10. We didn’t have a great experience with agents on selling any of our properties. Most of the time I had to do the viewings as they were “too busy” . Our last house we took our own photographs and made sure they were taken at the right angles and styled. De cluttering is vital we had a small second bedroom that we used as a dressing room but knew this wouldn’t work for everyone. we took out the hanging rails and bought a Small single bed from eBay to dress the room.

    11. Some great tips! We were very lucky with our estate agent when we sold – they were speedy, efficient and really helpful. The solicitors on the other hand…

      I think it depends a lot what your target market is. Ours was very much a first-time buyers property so doing redecorating (just basics like painting, nice wallpaper and painting decking and fence) definitely made a difference to us: the photos looked great and we sold the place within a few days of the open house. Which would be my second recommendation, especially as in our case with dogs and a cat. So much easier to only do one thorough clean and tidy instead of several all over the place. I also personally much prefer having the estate agent doing the viewings. It would have been heartbreaking if people would have moaned about our little house – and I hate looking at places myself if the owner hovers over my shoulder. I like checking cupboards for storage space and discussing what I will change with the husband 🙂

      1. I used to work with someone who loved her lounge feature wall. She was present at one of the viewings and was mortified when she a buyer told her it would be the first thing she was going to get rid of. I’d be absolutely gutted it someone criticised my decor to my face!
        Glad to hear you had a positive estate agent experience x

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