Selling the French dream, preparing a property for sale
- Tim Clark
We’ve all seen those TV programmes where an irritating American woman or a chirpy Cockney tells us how to style a house in order to sell it. The problem is that while a lot of us watch these shows, most of us ignore everything we’re told.
There’s an increase in buying enquiries on most price levels at the moment. Personally, I’ve noticed that the houses that move fastest and for closest to their asking price are the ones that are well presented. With so much on the market you would think that this seems obvious ... but in case it’s not, here are a few helpful tips:
Get rid of it. All of it including family photos, “interesting” artwork and collections of anything. Paint the walls a cream or neutral shade. In the kitchen put everything away you possibly can – toasters, kettles, knife blocks – in drawers and cupboards and work towards a house of simple, clean spaces.
Make them. Seriously, this is not a joke. If you have a teenage son make sure he is not still lying in his pit in a darkened room when the agent comes round with a client (this has happened to a colleague). All general tidying up is a bonus; a lovely view out of the kitchen window is usually spoilt by a huge pile of unwashed dishes.
I love dogs, however a lot of potential buyers do not and by and large, your house smells of dog. If you can, keep your canine and his doggy smell away from the house when people are visiting. In an ideal world, dogs that bark incessantly, deposit hair on people’s trousers or make amorous moves towards your house hunter’s left leg should be not seen or heard.
Mow the lawn, obviously, (and remove traces of aforementioned dogs) and if you can, make sure boundaries are clearly delineated. The majority of clients, until they get into the French swing of things, want to know exactly where their land stops so they can put up a fence (a job they never get round to).
We know it gets cold here in the winter and while I’m not encouraging sellers to lie, it’s better to emphasise the beautiful spring and stunning summer rather than harp on about the severity of the wintry weather (and how “This house is freezing in the winter” – a genuine client quote). Also while your intricate system of gas tanks and wood burners linked to boilers with switches to wind turbines and geothermal pipe work may be of immense interest to you, it probably won’t be to a buyer.
A dreadful but crucial expression. Most property-seeking clients have made up their mind about a house before they have even walked through the front door. So the front of your house should, if possible, be a representation of the “French dream”. Flower boxes and hanging baskets are good; large piles of sand and gravel less so. Numerous cars blocking the drive when a client arrives can be a huge turn off, too. If you’re near a road at least put up a fence (or ideally a large hedge) because if a buyer really likes your house, flaws will be forgiven, so if the road can’t be seen he or she can at least pretend it doesn’t exist.
Lastly, when a prospective buyer asks why you’re selling don’t reply (as one of my clients did), “I hate France and the French … I am so depressed I want to go back to the UK.” This will not seal a deal.