The well-known saying, “you only get one chance to make a first impression”, is never truer than when a property is placed on the market for sale. Viewing a property is all about visualisation: your buyer will try to picture themselves, or a tenant or future buyer, living in the property. And they will answer this question very quickly, often within minutes of walking through the front door.
However, there are many factors that can prevent this from happening, especially in the challenging market conditions that we are currently experiencing and with the rise of internet property portals, such as Rightmove and Zoopla, as the main property search tool. Although the internet has many benefits, it removes much of the dialogue between the prospective buyer and the agent, with the agent unable to convince the prospective buyer that the property is worth a viewing. So, your property has to shine from its pictures and description alone, in a sea of fierce competition. Achieving this can seem like a daunting task, and many estate agents do not like to even broach this subject area. So we have created this guide on the areas that you may want to consider to ensure your property is a cut above the competition.
- Identify your target market
The first step to selling your property quickly and painlessly is to consider your target market. Who do you think might buy your property? Then try to tailor your space to appeal to the main group without alienating other groups that might also be interested. So if you feel a professional couple would be ideal, then turn the second bedroom / office back into a bedroom and make a space for a workstation elsewhere in the house. This will ensure that the house would still appeal to a young couple with a small child. Spring (February/March) and Autumn (September) are the key times to sell your property when traditionally demand outstrips supply and therefore prices are usually at their most buoyant.
- Make a strong first impression
Most buyers form their first impressions of a house within seconds of walking through the door. You want them to approach your door feeling impressed and excited with what they have already seen and keen to see more. So spend time tidying up the outside of the house – plant flowers (yellow is good – it evokes a buying emotion), trim bushes, weed beds, repaint the front door and make sure your door furniture is looking really great. Move your bins out of sight and make sure visitors can clearly see your house number or name. If parking is sometimes a problem, leave a space free for them to park in and move your car up the road!
- Define each room
Buyers need to be able to picture themselves living in the house so it’s essential that each room
shows its true purpose. If your dining room is full of work papers or exercise equipment for example,
return it to its original purpose. You don’t want your buyers scratching their heads, wondering what each room would be used for. If your property is empty, pull pieces from your own home, or rent key pieces in (why do you think the big property developers spend so much money on show homes?). And don’t forget to utilise your outside space. Gardens or any type of outdoor space can be another great selling point – but an overgrown jungle could make your buyer run a mile. Not only will the space look smaller and ‘forgotten about’, but if paying out for a gardener isn’t in your viewer’s plan or budget, it could completely put them off the property. The garden is now seen as an additional room, so be sure to make your garden feel like a great space for entertaining and relaxing.
- Freshen your property up and finish any “unfinished business”
A fresh coat of neutral paint, new tiling or lino, and some new kitchen doors can do wonders to smarten up a tired-looking property. If you can’t stretch to re-tiling in the bathroom, re-grouting should make it look like new. The same effect can be achieved by installing matching chrome fittings; replacing broken light bulbs; re-painting the front door; ironing sheets in the bedroom; taking down any heavy dark drapes; installing up-lighters in the living room for subtle lighting; and strategically placing flowers throughout. If you have a dripping tap or a cracked tile, these will send the wrong message to potential buyers. They will think that your house has been neglected, so get all your problems, or “red flags” fixed before putting the house on the market.
- De-clutter and de-personalise
Clutter doesn’t sell homes: it makes them seem smaller and disorganised. So take time to remove as much as possible without leaving the rooms bear. Potential buyers need to imagine themselves living in your house, so remove ornaments and photos – especially posters in the children’s bedrooms. Put things you don’t really use on a daily basis in the attic or storage. Large pieces of furniture should also go into storage; this will make rooms feel much bigger. You want to leave just enough to showcase the room’s purpose, with plenty of room to move around. Focus on the hallway – clear away coats/clutter. In the bathroom, hide all your products; and in the kitchen – clear the bench surfaces of appliances, jars, tins, etc, and replace any ragged tea towels or smelly bins. Finally, people love to snoop when they are viewing a property, so watch out for over-stuffed wardrobes. Thin yours out to sell the idea that you have plenty of storage space.
- Make it spotless
If you’d rather not re-decorate, it is still essential that the property be spotless. Getting industrial cleaners in to really make the place sparkle will be money well-spent; have the carpets, sofa covers, oven and windows cleaned while you’re at it. Pay special attention to the kitchen and bathrooms, which need to be inviting and hygienic; buy fresh white towels and a strategically placed plant or two.
- Go outside and open your front door. Stand there. Do you want to go inside? Does the house welcome you?
- Linger in the doorway of every single room and imagine how your house will look when a buyer first sees it.
- Examine carefully how furniture is arranged and move pieces around until it makes sense.
- Make sure window coverings hang level.
- Tune in to the room’s statement and its emotional pull. Does it have impact and warmth?
- Does it look like nobody lives in this house? You’re almost finished.
- Prepare for your viewings
Everyone knows that first impressions count, and you’ll want the house to appeal to as many people as possible; the more people there are who like the property, the higher the selling price should be. So sweep up, and make sure the front garden and hall to your house are tidy and inviting. Leave the pets with a neighbour, and thoroughly clean up any cat hair in particular, as many people are allergic to animal hair. Turn on the lights and the heating; air out the house; and don’t smoke or cook a curry before viewings! If you’ve got parking, leave the space free for the buyer – this will add to the whole experience. Ideally, your agent will accompany all viewings, and a good agent should go through this checklist by arriving early at the property anyway.
- Showing the property
You’ll probably be paying an agent to do this; they should know their job, so I always recommend that property owners go out during viewings. If you must show your property yourself, then decide beforehand what order you will show the rooms, and guide viewers around the property once, showing the best rooms first or last. Don’t overload them with detail, such as the size of your boiler or the trouble with the neighbour’s cat. Be business-like during the first viewing; if someone is interested, you can always get to know them a little more on the second viewing. Never point out problems or issues, but do feel free to highlight the odd positive point, like a south-facing garden, or very convenient parking. Finally, invite viewers to take another tour round the property on their own… but don’t go off and make a phone call – be somewhere nearby, on hand to answer queries.
- See the deal through to completion
This is where the hard work starts, and the longer it takes to reach exchange of contracts, the higher the chances of the deal falling out of bed or of the buyer gazundering (i.e. dropping their price). So keep in weekly contact with your solicitor and agent to ensure that channels of communication stay open. Do not let your agent try and remove themselves from the process by saying responsibility for this lies with your solicitor. You need to be kept informed on how your buyer is feeling about the progress of the transaction: you need to know whether they are still highly motivated, or off looking at other things to keep their options open. As you can see from the above, attracting a buyer in the current climate involves some hard work. So once you have them, don’t let them get away.