Preparing your home for sale

Moving home is one of the most stressful things you can ever do, and many people do it each year. I decided to do it in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, and moved house a week before Christmas 2020!

The whole experience can be stressful, but if you prepare well there are ways to make the process more manageable by being organised and having a practical approach.

The first tip I’ll give is an emotional rather than practical one, and that is to try and keep the process business-like, removing as much of your emotional connection as possible. Once I had made the decision to move, I tried to view my house as someone else’s – I also tried to keep in mind that the house I was moving to was ‘only a house’ until we had completed on it, and actually moved in. This helps to ensure you are dealing with the transaction on a business level, rather than getting emotionally involved. This is important so that you don’t feel attached to your home, which may then cloud your decision-making. If you’ve decided to sell, for whatever reason, it’s best to think of the house as a product that you are selling that you want to get the best price for!

So, when preparing your home for sale, there are several key areas to tackle:


Depending on your general attitude to ‘stuff’ this can be a huge beast to tackle! I try and keep on top of clutter day to day by having a box ready to throw things in for charity as and when I come across them. However, putting your house on the market requires more than tinkering around the edges. One good tip is to go round your house and take photos of each room from different angles; it’s surprising how a room that we look at every day can look totally different in a photo – and you can more easily see the problem areas, and have an idea of what you might need to get rid of. And don’t forget any less-used areas such as lofts and garages, garden sheds! Before you make a start, make sure you have an ‘exit plan’ of how you will be getting rid of stuff – for example, book in at the local tip (dump), make sure there is a charity shop willing to accept your donations (both of these were tricky during lockdown), and identify friends and family who may be interested (e.g. in furniture or books etc). I was fortunate enough to know someone who would be moving home, so there was a fair amount of stuff put to one side for her! You could also ask a kind friend to help you with this – getting rid of clutter can be an emotional minefield, and it can be difficult to let go of items. Someone who can kindly but firmly prise that childhood sports trophy out of your hands will be hugely beneficial (they really will!).

Photo by Humairah L. on Unsplash

Prioritise what you have identified as needing to be decluttered into the big stuff that will make a difference (e.g. getting rid of some old exercise equipment that is taking up space), and the stuff that is good to do but won’t make a huge difference (emptying drawers). And then make a start on getting rid of the priority items! If you do it over several days, make sure you are moving stuff on every couple of days or so – that way you can really see the benefit of what you are clearing as you go through the process, which should help keep you motivated.

If you need a bit more motivation, I can highly recommend my friend Laura’s YouTube channel How To Get Your Shit Together, where there are so many really helpful videos about decluttering; it’s an absolute goldmine.

One of the key things that people want from a new home is somewhere to store their ‘stuff’ – and if yours is overflowing, they will think there isn’t enough room.

Repairs and cleaning

Once you have cleared your clutter, you can see the basis of your house. It’s a good idea to then do a room-by-room ‘snagging list’ which is a list of all the maintenance tasks that need to be done to bring your house up to scratch. For example, I had a dent in a wall where a door handle had gone into it, and also some loose plaster where I had a radiator fitted. Both of these were tackled with some filler, then repainted. There was also some paintwork which needed to be refreshed, and the outside paintwork needed a good clean. Before you start, go round each room and look at it with a critical eye, trying to see it as a potential buyer would – take more photos if needed. What are the things that you would spot, if this wasn’t your home? Is there peeling paintwork? Are there chips in the woodwork? Remember the garden too, or any outside areas you have – does anything need to be fixed? You may need to get a professional in, and you need to weigh up the cost of doing this against whether you would get the benefit of it in the house price.  For example, if your house needs a fair bit of modernisation (new kitchen or bathroom for example), then the estate agent may market it as ‘in need of modernisation’’ and price it accordingly. This can help to ensure that you don’t get potential buyers who will be disappointed at the scale of work needed.  On the other hand if they are relatively minor (repainting your kitchen from the blue colour that you love to a more neutral cream), then you can do them yourself. You need to weigh up at the end of the day which changes will make it easier to sell your house. I have seen so many houses where clearly the owners have not bothered to even tidy up before having the photos done, and whilst the house may be lovely, and perfect for someone, if they can’t see past that untidiness then it will take longer to sell. On the other hand, don’t (as my ex-husband once wanted to do) plan to rip up your garden and re-lay the path with stepping stones because it looks nicer, if what you already have is perfectly serviceable. There are many ways you can update your house at a very low cost, even the kitchen and bathroom, if you put in the effort. Have a look on YouTube at ‘kitchen or bathroom renovations’ either ‘low cost’ or ‘rental properties’ for ideas. There are absolutely tons of them on there, all you need is some imagination. Pinterest is also a great source of information.

Photo by Precious Plastic Melbourne on Unsplash

Then you need to go round and clean your house from top to bottom. Even if you already have a good cleaning routine, you need to up your game! Look up; are there any stray cobwebs? Do your skirting boards need a good clean? When was the last time you cleaned your windows? All of these things will make a difference, and you’d be surprised what buyers notice! A beautiful house can be ruined if it looks dirty, and the time you put in will be well worth it.

Kerb appeal

Photo by James Feaver on Unsplash

How your house looks when buyers arrive is really important – it’s said that buyers make a decision within a few minutes of arriving and walking through the door whether they will buy. Tidy up the front of the house – get rid of any weeds, sand down and re-paint any peeling paintwork on any fences or gates; depending on the time of year some seasonal pots or hanging baskets will help – cut your grass if you have a lawn. Clean your windows, take down any stickers that your kids may have stuck on. Make space in your hall so that buyers aren’t fighting through a pile of coats or shoes to even get into the property. Make sure there are no unpleasant smells – I wouldn’t recommend spraying air freshener everywhere as it can put people off and also be very cloying on your lungs, but some pleasant scented candles, or some strategically placed essential oils can help. Having fresh air circulating is really important – make sure your windows are open for a few minutes at least every day to get fresh air in. If you have any pets, there may be pet smells that you need to deal with – a (kind) friend will be able to tell you if your house smells even slightly ‘pet-like’, as you may be used to it. If you have carpets it would be worth looking into getting them cleaned – you can hire carpet cleaners and do this yourself to keep the cost down. Make sure pet food isn’t sitting around uneaten and causing a smell, and wash pet blankets and beds. Not everyone will love your pets as much as you do! 🐶🐱

Finishing touches

Before you get the estate agent photos done, it’s time for the finishing touches. Go through your house room by room and de-personalise it; remove any photos of the family, any knick knacks that might have been made by the kids at school, any stray leaflets or letters from school that are stuck on the fridge door. This can be a really difficult thing for people to do, because they are still seeing the house as their home, and quite rightly in your home you want to have personal items that bring you pleasure. What you need to remember is, not to think of it as your home when it is on the market. View it (if you can!) without emotion because if you still think of it as your home, it will be difficult for other people to imagine themselves living there – and they can’t easily do that if your house has photos of your family everywhere. Finally, if you don’t already have them, some nice plump cushions on the sofa, some throws draped over the end of the beds, and lovely fluffy towels in the bathroom (along with fresh soap and toothbrushes tidied away!) are really good finishing touches. I even bought shampoo, conditioner and shower gel in a complementary colour to my bathroom tiles when I was selling my house (it worked 😉)!

Photo by Polly Alexandra on Unsplash

At this point, you’re ready to get your estate agent in for photos, and to write a complimentary, factual description of your house ready to present it for sale. Hopefully by now, you are seeing your house presented in a way that will appeal to buyers, and will enable you to achieve the best possible sale price that will help you move on to your next home.

You will need to keep it tidy once it’s on the market, for when you have viewings – but decluttering will help you keep on top of this enormously. This all seems like a lot of work, and at times you will wonder whether it’s all worth it. Remember your end goal – you want to be able to move on to your next home, and for the house that you’ve lived in to be presented beautifully to enable you to achieve the best possible price. Be positive; remember the good times you’ve had, appreciate what your house has done for you, and prepare to move on! 🏡

I’ve put together a checklist of the key areas for preparing your home for sale –  it can be downloaded free here.

Good luck with selling! Let me know below if you found these tips helpful, and please add any of your own!

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