General tips for selling

Before your home goes on the market, take the time to assess your property objectively, looking at it first from outside, then moving from room to room making notes on which areas could be improved. It's a good idea to ask a trusted friend or

family member for their opinions too, as when you've been living in the space for a long time you can often overlook problem areas.

Whatever the size and value of your property, there are some basic rules to follow when selling, which will help to maximise its sale potential.

First impressions - before a buyer has even stepped inside they have already formed an impression.

  • A well-kept garden, pathway and fence and a freshly painted front door are immediately appealing whereas a scruffy outdoor space with a litterbin outside the front door will turn many prospective buyers away.
  • De-clutter - never underestimate the appeal of a tidy property. Buyers can quickly be turned off properties simply because they are disorganised. Remember when you're selling a home you're also selling a lifestyle.
  • If you've accumulated too much junk over the years, use selling as a good excuse to finally get rid of it. If you're not sure where to start, have a look at Dawna Walter's guide to de-cluttering.
  • Clean - Dust and clean thoroughly from the top to the bottom of the house, from cobwebs on the ceiling to crumbs and stains on carpets and rugs. Remember to wash down paintwork and clean windows. If you're short on time, call in a professional cleaning service.
  • Natural Colours - research shows that despite recent trends in interior decorating, most buyers prefer natural, earthy colours rather than bright, bold shades. From the wide range of paint colours available, magnolia is still the top selling colour.
  • Painting walls a pale plain shade maximises the feeling of light and space and also enables buyers to imagine their possessions in the property.
  • To prevent rooms looking too bland, use strong colours for accent walls or cushions and accessories.
  • De-personalise - remove personal items, such as family photographs and children's drawings, which may distract potential buyers. Buyers should be looking at your property and not your possessions so hide these items until the property is sold.
  • Maintenance - it pays to keep on top of minor repairs throughout the year rather than waiting until a job is beyond repair and in need of a complete overhaul. In the long run, regular maintenance saves money. However, if you discover that a major job needs doing when the time comes to sell, it is usually worth paying to put it right as it could otherwise have a disproportionate effect on the value of the property.
  • Finish off small DIY jobs such as touching up chipped woodwork and replacing washers on dripping taps.
  • Lighting - the right lighting can significantly improve the mood of a room. Choose a variety of different lights to suit the particular space, from downlights and lamps in the living room to task lighting in the kitchen. A room looks much cosier with a few table lamps rather than bright general lighting.
  • Scent - it may have become something of a cliché to bake bread or grind coffee beans just before the arrival of a potential buyer but scent undoubtedly plays an important role in creating the right impression.
  • Most buyers simply like the smell of a freshly cleaned and aired room. Open the windows every day to bring fresh air into the house. Choose cleaning products with a 'natural' rather than a harsh chemical smell.
  • Avoid cooking foods such as fish or curry before a viewing as the smell will linger.
  • If you have pets then it's a good idea to take them out during viewings or to ask friends and family if they can look after them temporarily.
  • Fresh flowers and a bowl of fruit will brighten up a room and provide a pleasant scent. However, make sure you replace them regularly as rotten fruit and wilting flowers are not attractive!
  • Organise rooms so they each have a specific purpose - this will help make the property more appealing and let buyers see the property at its full potential.
  • Before investing a large amount of money doing up a property to sell, find out its maximum potential value. It's pointless spending £20,000 improving your home if you'll only add £10,000 to its sale price. Look in local property papers and estate agents to find out the asking price for similar properties on your street.

Market the property with your 'ideal buyer' in mind. If you're selling a flat in the city, your ideal buyer is likely to be a high flying professional with little time on their hands. The buyer will be looking for all mod cons and a property that needs little maintenance. Whereas a four bed detached home in the country will probably appeal to a family who prefer traditional fixtures and fittings.

It's worth remembering that the best time for selling properties is in the spring and autumn and that the worst time, because the market slows down considerably, is during late summer and over Christmas/New Year. If you sell your property while the market is at its most buoyant you're much more likely to get your asking price.

Try and make viewers feel comfortable. Offer them a coffee and ask them if they need any further information about bills or local amenities.

If you want your property to sell for the maximum amount, it's essential that you spend time ensuring your property looks its best. This needn't cost a fortune - simply cleaning and sprucing up the most tired parts of a house can often make a big difference. If you're lucky, investing £500 could add £5000 to the resale value of your home.

We've put together a room by room guide on how to maximise your property's saleability. Start by looking at our general tips for selling, then our advice on how to make each room look attractive.

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