Competition among householders to sell their home looks set to be even hotter than normal. Already the most popular season for property sales as long evenings and warm weather encourage more viewings, the summer rush has got off to a much faster start than normal this summer because of the looming threat of home information packs (HIPs). Originally due for introduction on 1 June, but now delayed by the Government, the thought of having to compile these sellers' packs, at a cost of £300 to £400, convinced many sellers to put their homes up for sale earlier than planned. As a result, the market has been flooded.
According to Jeremy Leaf of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics), which does monthly research on the market, new instructions to sell properties in May increased "at the fastest pace in the survey's history".
Last week, members of Rics reported that many sellers had listed their homes early to avoid the upfront cost of assembling the sellers' packs.
Making your home stand out against this backdrop will not be easy; even in a normal year, says the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA), there are 20 per cent more homes on the market in August compared with February.
That said, 2007 is still shaping up to be a good year for vendors, says Lucian Cook, head of residential research at Savills estate agents. "Interest rates have had some effect and sellers are no longer putting a 'whim price' on their property. But there is still limited housing stock, a high number of prospective buyers and prices are still strong. In short, it is still a sellers' market."
However, most vendors will also be buyers and, as research published last week by Abbey shows, the purchasing costs on the next property can strain the resources of people who would like to invest in making their homes more saleable.
The bank found that after spending a typical £16,000 on essentials such as stamp duty, legal fees, estate agents and removal costs, the average homebuyer shells out a further £6,289 on getting their new property into shape during the first year. This figure includes £1,522 for building extensions, clean-ups or conversions, £763 on new doors and £386 on carpets.
But Paul Fincham at the Halifax says the costs of sprucing up your existing home needn't bust your budget. "With a few cheap or even free amendments, you can really improve saleability. The only real costs will be in time and effort." Here are our top tips for selling your home.
This is a recently coined phrase that describes how your home comes across to anyone who has not yet been inside - passers-by, for example, or people looking at the photographs in estate agent windows or on their websites.
If your kerb appeal is not up to scratch, you will minimise potential viewings. So before you put up the "for sale" sign, carry out those neglected odd jobs such as mending loose tiles and broken guttering, and seeing to blocked drains.
Windows should be clean on both sides and, if you don't have a garden, some colourful flower pots can also attract the eye.
Take rooms back to their roots
No prospective buyer wants to rely on their imagination too much, so try to present each room in its original form. If what you use as a play area or office was actually built to be a dining room, clear out the contents and replace them with just a dining table and chairs.
Similarly, make sure all bedrooms have beds (fully made) and ensure everything is only relevant to a bedroom. This means removing the computer, dartboard and exercise bike.
Banish children during viewings
Selling your home is a serious business arrangement so it's important to give potential buyers your full attention - and this can be difficult with children around, says Dean Sanderson at estate agent Sanderson James. "If the kids are playing video games or someone is cooking, visitors can feel as though they are interrupting. It may also prevent them from asking important questions."
Buyers are coming to see your property, not a snapshot of your family life. So they won't want to be greeted by laundry hanging from the radiators, picture collages of your university days on the walls, or a patchwork of reminder notes attached to magnets on the fridge.
You may love homely cooking smells or the scent of your wet dog, but buyers' nostrils tend to be more sensitive. Neutralise all smells by opening windows and using a mild air freshener.
Tidying up is the simplest way to make your home more attractive, and what you can't throw out should be packed up and placed with a storage firm, says Mr Fincham. "You will have to stump up the cost but if it helps to sell your home sooner, it's worth it - especially seeing as though everything will have to be boxed up eventually anyway."
Don't hide junk in cupboards
There is little point piling up junk in built-in cupboards as buyers may well want to have a look at your storage space. Consider asking a family member or friend to kindly find a home for your surplus stock on a temporary basis.
Seasonal snippets for sellers on the housing market
* The average home price is £196,893, according to the Halifax.
* Annual residential house price inflation currently running at 10.6 per cent (Halifax).
* In May, average house prices rose by 0.5 per cent, down from 0.9 per cent in April, according to Nationwide building society.
* April's gross mortgage lending of £17.3bn was 12 per cent higher than the same month last year, according to the British Bankers' Association (BBA).
* There were 170,000 mortgages approved (for all purposes) in April, just 1 per cent more than in April 2006, with an aggregate value of £19.1bn (BBA).
Six to view
Victoria Mill, Stockport. One bed, one reception room, mill conversion; within a conservation area.
Bryant at Western Harbour, Edinburgh. Three-bed, one reception room, patio or balcony, secure underground parking.
Paper Mill Yard, Norwich. Two bed, two bathrooms, secure parking, balcony - brand new development.
The Saddlery, Compton House, Dorset. Two reception rooms, master bedroom with en suite, two further beds and box room, gardens.
The Old Vicarage, Cornwall. Five beds, two reception, conservatory, garage, three acres of gardens and grounds.
The Panoramic, Hampstead, London. A new development of 36 high-specification apartments.
Further reading: 'Sell Your Own Home' by Anthea Masey (Lawpack, £14.99) contains tips on how to arrange viewings, clinch a deal and avoid using estate agentsReuse content