Anna Hart's top tips for selling your home

Published : 8th April 2014


If you are looking to get your house in top shape for a top sale, then you will need to please both buyers and surveyors, writes home staging expert Anna Hart.

Obvious maintenance issues are a total turn-off for most buyers - you know, the jobs that you’ve been putting off for months and have learned to live with.

Things you have happily ignored for ages will stick out like a sore thumb to buyers seeing the house for the first time, so if you want to sell relatively quickly and for a decent price, I recommend you address any broken or substandard items before you put the house on the market.

Here’s my list of the top five maintenance jobs to keep buyers happy:

  1. Get rid of any signs of previous water damage, damp or mould – use ‘stain stop’ paint before re-painting the entire wall or ceiling so the stain doesn’t just show through the new paint

  2. Remove and replace any mouldy silicone or grout in kitchens and bathrooms – new silicone seals freshen up bathrooms immediately

  3. Fill and re-paint any cracks, gaps, dents and chips in walls, ceilings and woodwork – use decorator’s caulk to fill gaps between skirting or sockets and walls

  4. Pay attention to the exterior – fix and re-stain fences, re-paint wooden doors and window frames, and check your render is up to scratch

  5. Sort out any noises – dripping taps, squeaky doors or floors

These things will help you get a decent offer from a buyer, but it’s another thing altogether to secure a completed sale at that same price.

Buyers range in their level of home construction and maintenance experience from super-savvy builders or investors to naïve first-timers, but one thing many buyers have in common is that they’re likely to commission a survey once their offer has been accepted.

This means that not only do you have to present your house in such a way as to attract and please your buyer, you also have to meet the approval of their surveyor if you want to get to completion without a hefty renegotiation.

This means thinking ahead; working out what a surveyor is likely to put on their “probably needs expensive attention” list and assessing what you can do to mitigate this. Remember that every potential problem brought up by a survey is essentially a reason for the buyer to lower their offer, and you don’t want that.

It will almost always be cheaper for you to get the work done yourself than it will be to accept a price reduction.

The best way to make sure you’re aware of every item that might need action is to commission a survey yourself, but if you don’t want to spend that kind of money – around £400 for a homebuyer’s survey – here is my list of the typical items that surveys often bring up.

  1. Damp & timber problems - many companies will prepare a damp and timber condition report for a small fee, along with a quote for rectifying any issues. Check for the most obvious cause of damp – such as leaky or broken guttering – and get it fixed. Remember what seems like damp could actually be condensation, so air your house well.

  2. Roof - without getting to the top of a very long ladder, it’s difficult for us to see whether we’ve got any roof problems other than the obvious missing bits, so ask a roofer to check over the roof and fix any immediate issues. Many roofers will carry out a set of basic tile and flashing repairs for under £200. Flat roofs always cause issues due to their limited life span, so get yours checked and consider re-roofing if it is past its best.

  3. Boiler – it is common for buyers to ask for the boiler to be serviced before they exchange contracts, so do this in advance to avoid delays later. Servicing starts at about £70 depending on the type, make and model and will clearly cost more if there’s something that needs fixing.

  4. Electrics – it is very important for your electrics to be properly certified. Solicitors will ask if you have made any electrical changes since the introduction of new regulations in 2005. If you have, they must be certified by a qualified electrician. Cost will vary depending on whether any remedial work is required to bring things up to standard, but don’t leave this as a potentially large surprise bill.

  5. Windows & doors – replace any blown panes (those with condensation or ‘mist’ between the two panes in a double-glazed unit) because buyers and surveyors alike will pick up on these. Make sure the frames are in good condition and check all hinges, handles and locks work properly.

If your investigative work brings up a vast number of problems you may not want to invest in fixing them all yourself, but at least you’ll be aware of the issues and if you do end up renegotiating or being asked to address some items, it won’t be a big surprise.