HOME TRUTHS

Your questions answered by experts
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The Independent Online
SELLING TIPS

How can I make the interior of my home more attractive to prospective buyers? I don't want to spend too much.

Mrs D Woods

London

It is relatively easy to make a good impression without too much expense. Take a critical look at your home and imagine how it would look to a stranger. There is little point in spending money on improvements if the cost will not be recouped.

Simply washing the walls or touching up paintwork can make a big difference. Try to keep the colours neutral; not everyone will share your taste. Put a new coat of paint on the front door and clear the porch of coats and shoes.

Clutter can be a bit overwhelming. If you have ornaments or trinkets around your home, tidy them away. Buyers may not be able to see through the clutter, and clean surfaces make your rooms appear more spacious.

Vacuuming and dusting makes your home look cared for. It may be worth investing in a professional cleaner or hiring equipment to clean the carpets, curtains and upholstery if they haven't been cleaned for some time.

Make sure that rooms which are a little dark have the lights on before prospective buyers arrive. Turning lights on as they arrive makes the difference more noticeable.

Remember that extensive repairs and obvious repainting may suggest that there are underlying problems with the house. Keep any changes to a minimum, and keep it simple. Flowers are always bright and welcoming, and the smell of coffee will make the house more homely.

SAFE AS HOUSES

As summer comes I want to ensure that my house is secure. Are there some basic steps I should take?

Mrs N Nutt

Barnhurst

Many burglaries occur because doors and windows are left unlocked, so the simplest and cheapest thing you can do is get into the habit of locking up. Most thieves will be deterred by adequate locks and a strong front door.

A mortise-type lock which sets into the full thickness of the door provides the best protection. To increase safety, fit a door viewer so you can see who is at the door before you allow them in.

Two out of three burglars gain access through a window, but they tend to avoid breaking the glass as it attracts attention. Fit a window lock and make sure you use it.

To deter night burglars, consider installing outside lighting, especially the type which switches on whenever it detects movement.

If you feel particularly vulnerable it may be worth investing in a burglar alarm. The sight of the alarm on the outside of your house may be enough to frighten off an amateur burglar. Before buying an alarm, seek professional advice from your police station or insurance company.

If you are off on holiday, cancel any milk and newspaper deliveries. Fit a timer to a light switch so that it looks as if the house is occupied at night. If you have a local neighbourhood watch scheme, join it. The best deterrent can be a friendly neighbour who will check on your property when you are away.

Answers were supplied by a panel of experts at Woolwich Property Services and Ekins, the group's surveying services subsidiary. The panel is headed by Alan Oliver, managing director of Woolwich Property Services, and will answer published queries on buying and selling, valuations, surveys and market factors such as price trends.

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