Paint, clean and retouch your home's selling price

A few simple steps can earn you an extra few thousand, writes Jasmine Birtles
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The Independent Online

That price fresh flowers, a few licks of paint and a clean kitchen table? Thousands of pounds on what you might get for your property, actually, and a vital competitive edge during one of the busiest periods for homebuyers.

That price fresh flowers, a few licks of paint and a clean kitchen table? Thousands of pounds on what you might get for your property, actually, and a vital competitive edge during one of the busiest periods for homebuyers.

Early spring is a time of frenetic activity in the UK housing market, says David Holling- worth, mortgage specialist at broker London & Country, as people "shake off property market winter blues and look to move or buy in time for the summer".

If you are looking to sell, it is worth "tarting up" your home: property advisers say there are a number of quick and cheap steps that can add thousands to your selling price. Some appear simple but it's startling how many homeowners forget to address the basics.

Check the likely first impressions. A well-kept garden, pathway and fence and a freshly painted front door make a good impression, whereas a scruffy outdoor space can turn many prospective purchasers away.

"De-clutter". Buyers are quickly turned off properties simply because they are messy inside. A basic tidy-up of bedrooms, hallways and living rooms can create the impression of more space.

Dust and clean your house from top to bottom. If you're short on time, call in a professional cleaning service. Re-grout tiles in the kitchen and bathroom to make them look clean and new. De-scale around showers and taps.

Repaint rooms in light colours. Research shows that most buyers prefer these to bright, bold shades. "It's a good idea to try for classic looks," says Jonathan Turpin of property website Fish4Homes. "Artex was all the fashion 10 years ago, but it's a big turn-off these days."

"Kitchens and bathrooms are real sellers," says Ann Maurice of Channel 5's House Doctor programme. "It is amazing what you can do with a coat of paint and maybe some new flooring. If you spend 1 per cent of your asking price, and spend it well, you will get much more back."

Remove personal items such as family photographs and children's drawings, which may distract potential buyers.

Finish off small DIY jobs such as touching up chipped woodwork and replacing washers on dripping taps.

Choose a variety of different lights to suit particular spaces. A room looks much cosier with a few table lamps rather than bright general lighting.

Fresh flowers and a bowl of fruit will cheer up a room and provide a pleasant scent. But ensure you replace them regularly.

While these changes are worth an investment of your time and money, the same cannot be said with any certainty for major improvements. Find out your property's maximum potential value before you even think about big changes: it's pointless spending £10,000 on your home if you will only add £5,000 to its sale price.

Research from the Halifax shows that central heating or a garage add immediate value that is equal to or more than their cost. But a fitted kitchen, additional bedrooms, period restoration or an extra bathroom may leave you out of pocket. "You can actually overimprove a home," says Halifax spokes- man Mark Hemingway. "An end-of-terrace house will only ever be an end-of-terrace house. Putting in a Jacuzzi might actually make it less marketable."

Watch out, then, for these "improvements" that could reduce the value of your property.

Stonecladding or pebbledash. Your home could drop by at least £5,000 if you slap on either of these decorative effects.

Modern uPVC windows in an old or period property can take off more than £10,000.

Gnomes in the garden - an indulgence that could stop a sale.

A badly built extension or porch can chip off at least £2,000.

A half-built DIY kitchen or bathroom can render a house nearly unsaleable unless you cut the selling price by £10,000.

As a rule, those improvements that create space will bring the most value. Laura Andrews, a London-based property developer, "dresses" homes to help their sale.

"A rental property in Earl's Court [west London] badly needed to be sold but it had been rented out for a while and didn't look good," she says.

"I replaced the tiling and the kitchen worktops because they were tatty and 1980s-looking; regrouted the kitchen and bathroom; replaced the bathroom sink and toilet seat; gave the whole place a flick of paint; dry-cleaned the curtains, and replaced the carpets."

And the result?

After about £7,000 had been spent, the property's asking price rose by £20,000. This was accepted and the sale went through within a few weeks.

In a similar job for another client, £4,000 was spent on improvements to increase the value by between £10,000 to £15,000, she adds.

Ms Andrews recommends putting vases of fresh flowers around a home, a professional clean and hanging attractive pictures on the walls.

A Makeover to Entice Buyers

First impressions count for quite a lot, according to Emma Rees. And that has meant tarting up the outside of her flat in Tooting, south London, to make sure that those seeking a home actually want to go inside.

The first-floor one-bedroom flat, part of a converted house, was bought five years ago for £64,000 and is now valued at £180,000. It is soon to come on the market because Ms Rees wants to move to Highbury to be closer to friends in north London.

"It is a lovely place once you get inside, but I first had to get prospective buyers to want to set foot in here," says Ms Rees, who works in investor relations at Barclays Bank.

The driveway in particular "was a bit grotty", and the front of the building needed to be spruced up.

So she repainted the outside and repaved the entrance. Other parts of the property also received a makeover.

"The communal areas - the hall, for example - were a bit shabby, and other painting needed to be done."

As for the interior of the flat, Ms Rees has carried out improvements here too. Besides having new windows fitted, she has redecorated to freshen up the rooms.

However, she almost forgot to apply her pre-sale makeover to one of the most important parts of the flat: her own hallway.

"Of course, it's the only room I don't really live in, and I had done every other room up except that one.

"There are things you live with that you can never see until an estate agent walks in."

Fortunately, she is not keen on clutter and is preparing to make sure the flat is spick and span for prospective buyers.

"It's important that washing-up is done and cleared away, that the flat is tidy, and tables and kitchen are clear," she says. "Small things matter."

Sam Dunn