• The free ways to increase a house’s appeal to home buyers
  • Inexpensive makeovers that bring property-selling results
  • Home-selling myths busted and essential preparations

For people selling their home, spring has already sprung. Property portal Rightmove reported a 9% increase on visits to the site in January compared to the same period last year. 

But the site also reports that sales-agreed numbers in the last quarter of 2017 were 5.5% down on the same period a year ago. And when buyers are choosy, your property needs to stand out from the crowd. Kerb appeal, the attractiveness of a home seen from the street, will get them through the door, while the right look inside will keep them keen.

Property and interiors writer Sarah Warwick (@SMWarwick) talks to expert Rachel Johnston (@StacksNorthants) of professional home finders Stacks Property Search (@StacksProperty) to get the low-down on what house sellers should and shouldn’t do.

How do you get home buyers interested?

A great first impression doesn’t mean a high spend, and many changes take only your time. If you are DIYing, check you have extended accidental cover on your home insurance. Not confident? Call in a professional for cost-effective results.

‘The key to making the best of your property is to enhance its light and space,’ says Rachel. ‘The shortest and most economical route to achieving that aim is having everything spankingly clean and tidy – something looking well maintained will reassure buyers they’re not going to get nasty surprises.’

What cost-free changes will help your home sell?

Before your estate agent takes photos, grab your own snap from the outside.

‘View it critically – are the curtains sagging or skewwhiff?’ asks Rachel. ‘Rehang or safety pin if absolutely necessary.’

Clean glass is also essential, as is keeping the garden tidy.

‘Wash windows, inside and out, and the sills,’ urges Rachel. ‘Cut the grass and throw away broken plant pots. Trim back hedges from paths and any greenery that obscures windows. Tidy the bin area. If it's in plain sight, think of ways you can relocate or disguise it.’

Get the interior ready, too.

‘The more surfaces and corners you can see the better, so tidy, arrange and declutter accordingly – but only if they are then cleaned,’ advises Rachel. 

‘Bear in mind people can and do open cupboards. If you have things that don't have a place of their own, remove as much as possible. If there's nowhere else, your car is helpful temporary storage.’

Somebody in bright red wellies using a pressure washer on her patio

How do you increase kerb appeal on a budget?

Here are Rachel’s low-cost tips to give your house that something extra.

  • Jet wash the patio, the furniture and the front path
  • Cost: around £50 for a day’s hire
  • Fix anything obviously leaning, falling off or temporary – especially panes of glass
  • Cost: around £115 to replace a double-glazed unit in a uPVC window
  • Touch up paintwork – areas around doors and light switches will benefit the most
  • Cost: around £12
  • If your taste is particularly colourful, consider toning things down
  • Cost: around £180, based on the cost of painting over strong colours in a three-bed house
  • Cover tatty beds and sofas with throws, but make sure they are ‘dressed’, not tossed over 
  • Cost: around £100
  • Tea towels, fluffy bath towels, a new bath mat, and a front door mat can all make the interior look rejuvenated 
  • Cost: around £10-30 each
  • Pots planted with in-season colour can make a space look desirable

Cost: around £40

You might also need to pay out around £100 to take the emphasis off less favourable features outside.

‘If you are overlooked or are looking at something unsightly, can a bit of trellis help?’ asks Rachel. ‘Hang a couple of solar lanterns and put a table and chair in front of it to make it look deliberate if planting is not an option.’

Somebody putting up a shower rail

What’s the truth about home-selling tactics?

When a viewing’s scheduled, there’s a to-do list.

‘Empty all the bins, and remember not to eat anything that leaves a smelly residue (curry and fish spring to mind) the night before,’ advises Rachel. 

‘You can leave lights on, but savvy buyers will turn them off to see how much natural light there is. Make sure curtains are as open as possible, and tricks such as positioning mirrors to reflect light can be helpful.’

Should you bake bread and brew coffee?

‘Lack of smell is more of a priority,’ she cautions. ‘And do not dress a table for a dinner party – that's just odd!

‘Prior to arrival, put the heating on if it's chilly, and leave windows open for airing,’ she adds. ‘Go out, and take pets with you. Never prevent access to a part of the house – if you have lodgers or lazy teens, get them out – and move cars from the driveway.’

The process of buying a house is stressful, but presenting yours well can reassure potential buyers that it’s a sound investment. A smart exterior and a neutral light-filled interior will have viewers picturing themselves at home – and that’s the kind of feeling that leads to offers.