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How to get your home ready for viewings

Experienced estate agents reveal how you can make sure your home sells in record time, with these 11 top tops.

Key points:

  • Clean up, declutter and keep everything as neutral as possible to help buyers imagine themselves living in hour home 

  • Remember, outside space is as important as the interior, especially because it can be the difference between kerb appeal and leaving a buyer cold

  • With gardens and home offices top of buyers’ priority lists, be sure to make yours shine on the day. And, if you don’t have a dedicated office, show how you work from home

To get the best possible price for your home, you'll want to show it off to its best advantage. So how can you give it the edge when it comes to viewings?

Three experienced estate agents reveal their top tips for a winning sale.

1. Make sure the garden is looking good

If you’re selling a home with a garden, green lawns and nicely kept gardens full of flowers will make buyers want to stop for longer and imagine themselves using the space.

Go to the garden centre and invest in some pots and blooms, use fertiliser to make the lawn look healthier and sprinkle compost over the flower beds.

Garden furniture and clever planting can break up a large garden and indicate to buyers how they might use it at different times of the day.

Richard Page, marketing director of Dexters in London, suggests making the garden as perfect as possible so it doesn’t let the inside of your home down.

“You don’t want buyers to see weeds in your garden. You don’t want buyers to even think there might be weeds in the garden,” he says.

2. Give your exterior a facelift

Remember that homehunters will be judging your property even as they walk up your street. So it helps to make sure your home looks its best from the kerbside.

“Bad first impressions can lose you a buyer,” explains James Forrester, managing director of Barrows and Forrester in Birmingham. 

“Make sure you remove any rubbish around the entrance because as soon as people walk up to it, they are already judging the area.”

Chris Husson-Martin, associate director of Hamptons International in Salisbury, says: “A freshly mown lawn at the back looks great, but don’t forget the front garden. If it’s unkempt people will think you don’t look after the house. It can put them off before they’ve even stepped inside.”

Forrester adds, “If you’re selling an apartment, particularly in an older block of flats, then get in touch with the management company about tidying the outside and communal areas.”

“If you have a house and driveway, get it jet washed. And scrub off any moss or dirt on the external brickwork.”

3. Do your repairs

No home is perfect. Try and look dispassionately at your home to identify what needs doing.

If there are issues that need sorting out, get them crossed off your list ASAP. 

Small things like bad wear and tear, broken windows, peeling paintwork and other cosmetic niggles can be fixed relatively quickly and easily. 

“As soon as a buyer sees a crack in the plaster they will think about subsidence and structural issues,” says Husson-Martin.

“But with a lot of houses, particularly modern houses, the structure will be settling and drying out and a small crack doesn’t indicate a structural problem.

"If you fill that crack in properly with filler and redecorate, then the problem's solved.”

If there are any major issues with your home (and your budget can stretch to fixing them) then it’s well worth getting them sorted in advance of viewing day.

Home hunters will pick up on the fact that a home needs TLC even if they are unsure what exactly needs doing. This might influence how many offers arrive.

“It might sound counter intuitive but if there are big problems with your property, you might need to spend a bit of money to get your asking price,” says Forrester.

“It’s best to be honest and upfront about any work that needs to be done if you haven’t fixed major problems, but my advice would be to fix anything major before you sell.”

Structural problems, subsidence, damp and other issues will be exposed by a home buyers’ survey once you have accepted an offer. 

A bad set of survey results is sometimes an opportunity for buyers to negotiate the price down to reflect the cost of repair work.

“If someone comes in and smells damp then it immediately puts them in the wrong frame of mind, certainly not a buying frame of mind,” says Page.

“Get it sorted pronto, and well before you start getting viewers in.”

If you’re not sure what sort of problems might crop up, then investing in your own structural survey before selling could give you valuable insight.

Doing this could also save you from the headache of buyers dropping out of the sale or asking to push the price down.

4. Do a deep clean

We know everyone knows this already, but cleanliness really is important when it comes to first impressions. 

If you want to clean up financially by achieving your asking price, then don your marigolds to get your home looking sparkling.

Remove distracting mess, bleach the bathroom, shine the windows, wipe down the skirting boards and make sure that even the insides of the cupboards are well kept. 

Look forensically at your home and try to see the ingrained grime you might have stopped noticing. If it’s really bad and won’t wipe off, consider a new lick of paint.  

“No-one wants to come in and see dishes in the sink, beds unmade and clothes strewn everywhere,” says Forrester.

“People are looking to see how they would live in your home. If it’s too messy and cluttered, they can’t see it. 

“Likewise, if it’s too clean and empty, they can’t see it.

"Find that nice lived-in-but-loved balance.”

5. Declutter as much as possible 

It pays to make your home appear as spacious as possible by clearing out unnecessary stuff.

This might mean investing in a temporary storage unit for any big pieces of furniture. Definitely move bicycles that might make the hallway difficult to navigate.

But the smaller stuff is important too. And, if you box out and store things like your extra books, or winter clothes and sports equipment, it’ll make it easier come moving day.

“You want your rooms to look as big as they possibly can,” says Husson-Martin. “So get rid of as much clutter as possible. Clear it all out.”

You should also utilise existing storage to the max as home hunters may open cupboard doors to see how you manage the space. 

“Things should be stored where you might expect to find them and if they won’t fit, then move as much furniture and clutter as possible out temporarily,” says Forrester.

6. Show where you work from home

More of us are working from home more these days. And while the kitchen table might have been okay during lockdown, a home office is a must-have for homehunters in 2023. 

Even if you're selling an open-plan flat with no obvious office space, create a work area that will help prospective buyers imagine themselves doing their best work in the space.

“Put a laptop in position somewhere,” says Forrester. “But make sure there’s a plug socket because people will notice if there isn’t.”

Page says: “The two things buyers want these days are space to work from home and a garden, so a dedicated office space is a must. 

“It could even be a hallway. Shut all the hall doors, have a drop leaf table and away you go. Just show it can be done.”

7. Update the decor 

Potential buyers will be looking at your house imagining themselves living there. So that means the decor needs to speak to them in the right way.

Before you sell, give everything a lick of paint. Choose a neutral palette to lighten and brighten the walls, making everything look crisp and clean. 

Play to your property’s strengths, choosing appropriate colours and styles. Brighten up dark corners or hallways with lighter shades.

If you have an open-plan home, create zoned areas to show how each space functions, such as a dining area, desk space or a kid’s play area. 

Leave plenty of room for flow as buyers look around and imagine their own furniture in position. 

“You want a buyer’s first impression to be that it is clean, light and makes them want to stay,” says Page. “Try and get your property up to show home standards.”

8. Stage your home for maximum impact

Dress your home up with a few extra details. A few soft throws, snazzy cushions, plants and the odd piece of statement furniture can really help to deliver wow factor come viewing day.

Look at Instagram and Pinterest for visual inspiration.

A mixture of comfort, practicality and classic style will win every time.

A mid-century modern sideboard, a sumptuous sofa and a few well-placed touches can really show off the space and demonstrate how others might live in it.

“People do see through home dressing to an extent but if you get the balance right it can help,” says Page. 

“If it’s a sunny day then put a couple of chairs out on the terrace so buyers can imagine themselves having coffee there in the mornings.”

It can be hard to make a home look on-trend if it’s filled with toys and the other detritus of family life. But Forrester says you can still make it look its best. 

“Keep the toys that look good out, but tidy the rest away. Make it look liveable but beautiful,” he says.

A perk of staging your home for sale is that you get to take all the fantastic furniture with you when you leave.

9. Sniff out potential problems

There’s no polite way of saying this, but if your house smells funny you probably have no idea because you’re used to it. 

If you have pets, the carpets have seen better days or those cooking smells hang around, you’d better improve the olfactory impact of walking through your door.

“You’ll be used to the smell but anyone entering the property won’t be,” says Forrester.

“My top tip is to get your carpets cleaned professionally. The difference in how a carpet looks as well as how it smells really makes it worth the £60 or so it’ll cost.”

Baking bread and brewing coffee might once have been the tricks of the trade for selling homes, but Page says buyers are wise to this and they’re best avoided. 

“Open all the windows before a viewing,” says Husson-Martin.

“I work out in the country and a lot of people have dogs or horses.

"If you’re not a horsey person then the smell of horse can actually be quite off-putting. Letting fresh air in and lighting a candle can really make a difference."

10. Ship your pets out

No matter how delightful you find your cat, dog or rare reptile, not everyone is a pet lover. 

Some buyers might be allergic to or terrified of your four-legged friend. And Rover might take issue with strangers tramping through his house and behave territorially.

It’s best for everyone if you give your pet a break elsewhere while you get on with selling your home.  

“Always get them out of the house before viewings. You never know if your buyers like pets or not and it’s not worth the risk,” says Forrester.

11. Get the lighting right

Make sure you show your property in the best light. 

Do this by ensuring the windows are clean, light fittings are all functioning and the right wattage of bulbs are in place in all the rooms. 

You might even go so far as to only schedule viewings for the times of the day that best show your home off. 

“Light is really, really important. We sell a lot of character properties including thatched cottages and they can have very small windows,” says Husson-Martin.

“Make your house as light as you possibly can. If you’ve got a north-facing living room, don’t do any viewings when it’s really gloomy.”

Turning all the artificial lights on doesn’t always help, either.

“People have got wise to the fact that estate agents go into houses and turn all the lights on. Sometimes they ask us to turn them off,” he adds. 

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