How to sell a house…

According to me 😀

Ok, so I am not going to pretend to be an expert in selling houses. But I am going to try and tell you what we have done – and what we haven’t – to make our house more sellable. Includes some tips from our estate agent too.

Declutter. I know this is the most repeated common sense advice that you will find in every single blog and website and forum on the internet, but we found that it’s true. It makes rooms look bigger. We took the play kitchen, excessive amount of computers my husband owns, his massive desk and a couple of office chairs to storage, everything smaller than that was stored in the loft. Toys, clothes, my guitar and my sewing machine, winter bedding, all in the loft. We used our cupboard under the stairs too, which was filled to the brim thanks to a broken microwave that husband insists he’s getting fixed at some point (and didn’t seem to put anyone off). The only thing that was out of place in the whole thing was my iMac, which is in a box on the corner of my bedroom – we didn’t want to put it in storage because it would make the insurance go up, and it didn’t fit through the hatch. Again, because the bedroom was mostly bare, it doesn’t seem to have put people off. We had agreed that we would put it in storage if the house hadn’t sold in a month though. So my advice is: one box – if you have to -, neatly tucked into a corner of a big enough room is fine, anything more than that, just put it away. Top tip: the car boot is fine for everything that you can’t find a place for. 😀

Décor: neutral colours throughout. The odd feature wall is fine, but don’t go crazy on wallpaper and strong colours. If you already have them, you can give it a go without completely redecorating, but the advice from the estate agent was that neutral colours sell. And not necessarily magnolia. Whites, greys, browns and pastels are all fine. In my house, the kitchen is green (Dulux willow tree), the hallway is brown (Dulux cookie dough), the lounge is grey (Dulux pebble shore and gentle fawn – is this grey or brown?) with a purple feature wall (Dulux mulberry burst), the bedrooms are lilac (Dulux violet white), soft yellow (Dulux orchid white) and a cool  greyish white (Dulux white mist – I used the same colours in the bathrooms too). So all neutral, not too out there colours (and to prove I don’t work for Dulux, I will say that my front door is Farrow and Ball manor house gray 😀 )

Wall art always help. Being creative with furniture does as well: I used a ladder shelf as a side table because I bought it for my bathroom but it didn’t fit – the website had measurements but not which measurement was which, so what I thought was depth was actually width. You live, you learn, you adapt. (Map is from Future mapping co., shelving is from Matalan – I had loads of people asking on Instagram!)

Use loads of natural plants. And some fake ones, if they’re good quality. You can get cheap cut flowers from the supermarket and arrange them yourself – I like buying from M&S because their cheap roses are nice, big ones and last very well, but Asda ones are not bad either. Also, nice light fittings.

Clean, clean, clean. I hired one of those Rug Doctor machines from B&Q – shop around for the shampoo thing that you need to use in it, I bought mine from Argos which was about 30% cheaper than everywhere else – and made a cleaning schedule:

  • daily hoovering (I have indoor cats, so daily was best for us) and downstairs + bathroom mopping – we have tiled kitchen and laminate everywhere else on our ground floor;
  • loo and sink cleaning every time I went in there – viakal or similar on the sink makes all the metal shiny and looking as new;
  • putting the dishes and dish drying rack away when we finished washing up;
  • windows cleaning once a week.

That helped me keep on top of it – even though I still did a major clean and tidy every time we had a viewing booked. Those would normally take a couple of hours.

Now, I am not saying that is the schedule everyone should be following – I know most people wouldn’t have the time and, actually, had we stayed on the market for a bit (or a lot!) longer, I don’t think it was sustainable for me either. I was constantly exhausted. I was a bit panicked and just overdid it. So, my advice really is keep you house as clean as you possibly can. Maybe just do one big clean just before going on the market and try to keep on top of it. Whatever fits your routine, really, but make sure it is clean.

Take pets and children away – if you can. We did view houses with pets in them and it honestly didn’t affect our judgement of the house, but some people might be different. In our case, we specifically chose a estate agent that would do all the viewings for us, so I would just pack the litter trays and put the cats in the car. When we had weekend viewings, husband would take cats, I would take child – or vice-versa. Once the cats and trays were packed in the car, I would spray the house with Febreze pet – when I walked back into the house, the lovely smell would hit me, so I think the viewers would get it too. Which leads me to…

Make the house smell nice! As well as the pet odour eliminator, I have a diffuser in my bedroom – one of those you put water with with essential oils inside and it makes the room smell lovely, and I also sprayed the mattresses, curtains and the sofa with one of those Febreze-type (the cheapo one from Wilko) fabric refresher sprays. I also used method spray and mop for wooden floors and it smells absolute wonderful.

Make your garden look nice. One of the things we noticed about the other houses for sale around us is that not much effort was put into the garden. I designed something fairly simple and easy to execute and husband did most of it himself (I laid the turf, ha). Our soil is mostly clay and rubble left behind by Barratt, so we used pots and planters, a few ornaments, an outdoor rug to hide the patio stones that I tried but didn’t manage to clean very well (don’t recommend Jeyes fluid, if anyone is wondering) and some beanbags.

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Nearly there *and breathe*

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Habemus lawn! 🎉

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The turf only cost about £50 from B&Q and made a massive difference in how it looked. July is definitely not the best time of the year to be laying turf but we bought a sprinkler and we were fairly lucky with the rain, we have already mowed it twice and it needs doing again. Just a word of warning for fellow clay soil owners: keep an eye on the sprinkler because you don’t want to get it clogged up.

The famous curb appeal. Our house is only a terrace with a very very small front garden (more a strip of land, really) so we didn’t have much scope for improving how it looks. I painted the door last year and this year I just washed it with sugar soap and cleaned the metal bits with Mr Sheen furniture spray polish (which is great at keeping dust off shiny furniture, I will tell you!), painted the fence and trimmed the bushes. We also have a small hanging basket at the front, I replanted it to make it look nice. The bins were put around the back by our garden gate. I also bought a new mat. And that is it. Luckily our neighbours have nicely kept houses too and, apart from their bins in front, everything looks quite nice.

So, that was it! I think it worked quite well and I am not sure what I would have done differently. I would love to hear more tips if anyone has them – not that I am planning on buying another house ever any time soon! 😀

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Our selling process (so far)

I have said previously that I had misjudged the market massively and was super scared that we wouldn’t sell. There were two other very similar houses for sale on our estate when ours hit the market in July. Both had been on for ages – one since March, one since May, I think. Both of them had just changed estate agents – neither of which were the same as ours. But we crossed our fingers and hoped that the few differences between our houses would make the difference in our favour: our layout is slightly different and we have a bigger kitchen but slightly smaller lounge than the others, making ours a proper kitchen diner, plus we have two parking spaces right in front of the house. We went for £5k more than both of those, and £5k under the estate agent valuation.

As I said on the estate agent post, the house went live on the 07/07 and straight away we had a viewing booked for the next day – Saturday – and then it all went quiet for a couple of days. We then had a viewing on the Tuesday. Then on the Wednesday we had our first feedback: the first viewer thought our second double bedroom was too small for his son, the second viewers liked it but also viewed one with the small kitchen/big lounge and were going to decide which one they liked best.

The following Saturday we had another viewing, then one on the Friday after that, and another booked for Saturday. I was very very deflated with the lack of viewings to be honest – the estate agent said we would probably get 20-ish (as opposed to the 50+ they were getting the year before!) and I was envisaging this drip drip of one-viewing-a-week for months. Then the estate agent called: Friday viewer wanted a second viewing the next day. We arranged it not to clash with the previously booked Saturday viewer and by the end of that Saturday we had an offer – we said no to the first one but the second one was in the range we had agreed to say yes to.

Now, I was tempted to say no, because this was only 2 weeks + 1 day in, but we had only had 5 viewings in those 2 weeks and I was afraid that, if we said no, they would have walked away and we wouldn’t have another offer, so we accepted it.

It hit us with a mix of relief and panic: we didn’t have solicitors lined up, we hadn’t seen a single house on the other end. (And I have to say I felt a bit sorry for the neighbours too, as they were still on the market at that point – one still is now 🙁 ) The mortgage survey happened shortly after and we got a solicitor that same week as well. All seems to be moving ok at the moment on the sales side – we’ve had the draft contract this week, estate agent has told me that the buyers’ mortgage has been approved and it’s all good to go. They don’t have anything to sell, which makes everything much easier on that side of the chain.

Christmas in the new house is looking likely now!

Searching for an estate agent

On the last post before the break, we were two weeks away from getting the estate agents in to value the house. This is how we chose ours.

We are in an area full of estate agents. Big, small, corporate. The competition is fierce and I think that makes picking one harder. I think the advice I had read was to get three in to value and then choose one. But there were so so many and I ended up asking 5. One of them only rang once and I couldn’t get through when I rang back so that one got the chop early. Four of them visited over a period of a week – the week of the 12/06, a week later than I would have liked. I chose to go with the less chain-type and more local, family business agents in my area. The first one was lovely, local and appeared to be knowledgeable about the market. The second one valued the house at a ridiculously high price – we would never ever sell at that price. The third one gave a valuation similar to the first one but was a walking-talking estate agent stereotype. And the fourth one was again lovely, local and knowledgeable, but valued the house a bit below what we were expecting.

As you can imagine, it was a toss up between the first and the last. I had the first one over again the following week to meet my husband, to see if he agreed with my judgement. He did, so we signed up with them the following week and booked the photographer for the week after – cue mad painting/cleaning/decluttering. The house went on Rightmove on the 07/07. So, as you can see, it was a long process – this was because of estate agent’s and photographer’s availability.

 My top 3 tips for choosing a estate agent are:

Find a estate agent you like. There is nothing worse than dealing with people you dislike or don’t trust. Would you buy from the person you are dealing with? Are they knowledgeable about the type of property and the area you are selling?

Research! And don’t be afraid to ask questions. There are websites where you can find how many weeks a estate agent takes to sell and what percentage of the asking price they achieve. If you can’t find those, you can ask. Ask about their database. Ask on which property websites they list on – Rightmove is the most popular one, so I would say that’s the minimum requirement, but Zoopla is a good to have. Ask what is included in their fee: is EPC extra? Is the photographer extra?

Photos and floorplans matter. Look at other listings by the estate agent on Rightmove: does it have a floorplan? Are the photos nice? Ask the estate agent who takes their photos – professional photographer with a DSLR will nearly always be better than estate agent with an iPhone. Some people won’t even bother viewing a property that doesn’t have a floorplan – plus it helps people decide early if it’s the property for them or not, therefore reducing the amount of time-wasters. You only want potential buyers to view!

If anyone stumbles across this blog and want to leave your top tip for choosing a estate agent, feel free to leave a comment!

Oh dear!

Ok, I’ve let it slide. BUT – I’m back 😀 and I will update it with everything that has happened and everything that is happening.

First off, how I got on with the list I wrote on my last post.

  • Find a self storage place and reserve a spot for next weekend

After much googling and price comparing and quoting, we went with Big Yellow. They had a 50% off the first 8 weeks, so were the cheapest and also one of the closest, meaning I didn’t have to go across town every time I needed to take something in – and I had to go multiple times, as I only have a fiat panda! We crossed our fingers that we wouldn’t need it beyond the 8 weeks and we didn’t (but more on that on following posts, ha!).

What you need to know: when looking for storage, you will most likely need to pay a deposit, insurance and buy a padlock on top of the quoted price. We paid one week’s deposit – not sure that varies according to your storage place, but I would check. I had a quick search for padlocks before going and found that most DIY stores sell similar quality items for similar prices to Big Yellow, so I saved myself a trip to the shops and bought their one. If you have one at home, great, no need to spend money on that! We got the deposit and a couple of days worth of storage refunded when we moved out.

  • Find a window/glass person to replace the smashed pane in the kitchen

Husband arranged that one. It was reasonably pricey and a bit messy but quick. It is great having a decent looking window again.

  • Try to fix my conservatory blinds

Now, this is a funny one. A couple of months ago, we went to a local blinds and curtains shop and asked if they could fix our roof blind. The cat had climbed on it and something had snapped, so it was bulging down – not sure how else to describe it, but it looked like a hammock hanging from the ceiling rather than flat? Anyway, we paid £30 for the privilege of a visit to see what they could do. On the arranged day, two youngsters came in, had a look and nope, can’t fix it. So I asked if they could quote me for a new one. They measured for it but we never got a quote, and husband – who had arranged the whole thing – never chased it up. We decided we were just going to remove it for when we had viewings etc. But not before I had a look myself. It took me 20 minutes and a tapestry needle to fix it myself and it’s now back up and working just fine.

  • Test sugar soap on the white walls to see if we can get away with not painting them

Sugar soap has been the biggest revelation of this whole thing. It’s amazing! Though trial and error I found that fabric dust sheets (or, I suppose, just normal floor cloths) are much better than plastic one – my sore bottom would agree, just don’t do it! – and that the ready made stuff is more practical than the concentrated one that you need to dilute in a bucket. All my walls looked brilliant after being washed and I saved loads of painting.

Top tip for smaller spaces: obviously, if you’re doing a big area, it will be better to have buckets. But for smaller walls, I would recommend a spray ready made bottle of sugar soap, a spray bottle of water to wash it off and two good quality sponges. I started off with normal (brand new!) kitchen ones and after one wall they were good for the bin. I ended up buying decorator’s foam ones from B&Q and they are a bit expensive compared to the kitchen ones but they are worth it.

Everything that needed doing was done, at the expense of not having much time to write by the end of the day – it was exhausting, but very much worth it. If you have a look on my Instagram, you will see a few bits and pieces from the bedrooms, lounge and garden. I was so pleased when I finished that I nearly changed my mind about moving… 😀