Selling your home? Not having much success? It could just be the state of the market, or the lingering bad luck from when you broke that mirror six and a half years ago.Or actually, come to think of it, it could be the broken light fixtures, weed-choked garden and residual smell of fish from the bouillabaisse you served at last week's dinner party.
Take heed, home sellers - first impressions really do count!
Stand outside your home and compare it to your neighbours' properties. If you do this and it makes you feel slightly mortified, it's likely that you've already failed to impress your potential buyers.
• When was the last time I mowed the lawn?
• Have I ever cleaned those gutters out?
• Could those window frames use some fresh paint?
• Were those paving slabs always that uneven?
• Don't those children's toys have somewhere to be?
• Can people see my house number behind that embarrassingly overgrown shrub?
• Does a surplus of weeds say that I embrace all forms of nature, or that I'm a lazy homeowner who probably hasn't maintained the rest of the property very well either?
If the thought of putting all this to rights makes you exhausted, consider hiring a handyman or landscaping service. They should be able to take care of it fairly quickly and inexpensively.
Those gorgeous photographs of your daughter, husband, wife, nephew, best friend, cat and so forth that line the hallway and stairwell? Take them down. All of them. The ones in the bedroom too, and the living room, and everywhere else in the house. Don’t forget the cute finger painting your three-year-old made you for your birthday last year that's still stuck on the fridge.
Your buyers don't want to see the lovely life you've made for yourself in your beautiful home. They want to imagine the lovely life they could make for themselves in their beautiful potential new home. Don't allow anything to clutter that vision.
Speaking of clutter…
Get rid of it. If you've accumulated a lot of bits and pieces over the years (and you definitely have), now's the time to either a) throw them out, b) give them to charity or c) find proper, neat places for them in a closet or cupboard. You might even consider having a garage sale to purge your house of all that unnecessary 'stuff'. Do whatever you need to so that your buyers never have to lock eyes on it.
Pay specific attention to:
• Books, CDs and DVDs
• Ornaments and knick-knacks
• Kitchen tools and appliances that currently live on the counters
• Potted plants
• Posters on your children's bedroom walls
Another idea many sellers have embraced is renting storage space to temporarily keep any extra furniture that could be making their house feel crowded. Be radical - remove half the furniture in your living room and see how spacious, sleek and light it looks and feels without it. As a general guide, there should be enough space for people to move around the room unhindered, and enough furniture to convey the room's purpose.
Clean! Clean as though your life depended on it! We're not talking about a quick once-over. Serious attention to detail is necessary here.
• Dust the skirting boards (if you don't know what a skirting board is, yours probably really need dusting)
• Clean the windows (inside and out!) and then polish them with newspaper for extra shine
• Dust light fixtures and furniture
• Vacuum like there's no tomorrow
• Get rid of cobwebs
• Polish taps and mirrors
• Clean out the refrigerator and deodorise it by a) placing an open box of baking soda inside it to soak up odours and b) wiping down the inside surfaces with vanilla extract
• Bleach tile grout
• Scrub the oven clean - it may sound excessive, but prospective buyers are notoriously nosy and judgmental
Control your pets...
No buyer wants to be greeted at the door by your charming King Charles Spaniel. Or any other breed of dog, cat, rabbit, guinea pig and so on. If possible, remove pets altogether when you're showing your property. Ask a friend or family member to take them off your hands for a while, or better yet, take Cujo for a walk yourself. This brings us to our next point.
Presumably your estate agent knows what she's doing and has sold some houses before. Why not leave them to get on with it?
No offence, but prospective buyers don't really want you hovering over them while they're trying to nose around in your wardrobe and pass judgment on your crockery. It's a bit off-putting. If they feel awkward, they're much less likely to linger in your home and get the full impact of how great it is and how they'd very much like to buy it.
Repair, restore and revamp...
The devil is in the details, and the sale of your home could be hampered by simple little things that you've stopped paying attention to. Try to look at your home from the perspective of your buyer, and think about the details that would impress or dismay you if you were in their position. Then take care of those details immediately.
• Replace broken light bulbs
• Fix leaky taps
• Fix doors and drawers that don't open or close properly
• Repair cracks in the walls
• Touch up paint and repaint altogether where necessary (in a neutral colour)
• Hang up fresh towels in the bathroom
• Get a new shower curtain and bathmat (again, choose neutral shades)
• Get rid of that busy wallpaper that you loved five years ago. Remove it and then paint the walls - don't simply paint over it, as it will be obvious to your buyer and make the wallpaper difficult to remove
• Eradicate odours - particularly those from cigarette smoke, mildew and pets. Open the windows and air out your house. Simply masking bad smells with a perfumed air freshener won't do the trick
• Replace cushion covers, bedspreads and curtains that are worn or have garish colours and patterns
Let there be light...
Lots of natural light usually tops the list of things people are looking for in a home. This is great news if you own a home on a barren cliff top with ceiling-to-floor glass facing the afternoon sun, but that's not always on the cards, is it?
Fortunately, there are other ways to maximise the light in your house - natural or otherwise - and give the impression of having plenty of bright, airy space.
• Replace dim light bulbs with higher wattage
• Don't just pull open those heavy, dark curtains - pull them down altogether
• In areas of your house that are particularly dark, install some extra light fixtures
• Repaint darker rooms with light-coloured and light-reflecting paint
• Prune any trees or vines that are casting shadows inside the house