Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Guest Blogger: Sarah Beeny, founder of Tepilo.com asks if now is the right time to be putting your home on the market?

Traditionally there are busier and quieter times of the year for house selling. These are based on what much of the population is doing. December is quieter as everyone builds up to Christmas but the market tends to pick up in the New Year - equally August tends to be quiet. However in these more uncertain times, I personally recommend that you don't wait, as despite what you endlessly read, the truth is nobody has any idea what is actually going to happen in the market. If now is a good time in your life to sell, sell now, as you never know, the market may have moved down if you wait.

There are many random statistics about how many seconds it takes us to make up our minds about a person or place, but the underlying truth is that buyers decide whether they like a property very quickly indeed. So, without doubt, the first impressions of a house are very important. I believe that the way a house looks from the front is one of the most valuable selling tools around. What you don't want to do is to put off buyers before they actually reach the front door.

Fifty years ago, city society was very different from today; people took pride in washing their steps, polishing their brass letterboxes, even scrubbing their bit of pavement. Nowadays, though, it tends to only be the inside of our homes that we lavish ‘tlc' on, abandoning the space beyond the front door as if it didn't exist. Even if it's not littered with bits of car engine, crisp packets or drink cans, it generally doesn't match up to the sparkling interiors within.

It need not take a great deal of money to make the front look cared for. Just picking the litter up is a start. Follow that with a lick of paint and bit of weeding and planting. If you have a communal front door, whether you're trying to sell or not, my theory is that it is often easier to scrub the common parts yourself than to argue with whoever's turn it is.

Of course, you can give a house a complete façade lift, changing the front door and windows, replacing dilapidated drainpipes and gutters, or even adding cladding. It's pricey, but it can often add substantial value to a plain or uninteresting property in a sought-after location. But whatever you do, remember the outside of a property remains a reflection of the inside. If you're selling, make sure it looks smart. The front of a house is a statement to the world about how you live.

Here are my top things to do to your home before putting it on the market


* Clean the windows - inside and out.

* Clean the whole house - if you smoke, stop smoking inside and clean all ashtrays - if you have pets, wash their beds. Pet and cigarette odour are the two smells that come up most often in ‘put off' smells list.

* Look at your kitchen and bathroom from an outsider's point of view - if they are really manky, do something about it - often it only requires bleaching the grout and cutting out and re siliconing - get in behind the basin and loo and get scrubbing there, too.

* Deal with outside - start on the street - what do you see - potential viewers will stand and pause just there too and it's their first impression.

* Don't argue with neighbours about who is going to do what - check if they don't mind and get on and clean it up yourself.

* De-clutter - as if you haven't heard it before, but use this as the perfect moment to move the piles of stuff you don't use to a charity shop - if you do a good clear out in one go, you will be better about getting what you don't need to a suitable recycling unit or charity shop where someone might actually use your silly unwanted nonsense. You are then able to clear surfaces - this will give a much greater sense of space and almost more importantly, less of the feeling that the house is rather hard work to live in.

* Outside space - however small, in fact even more importantly if it's small - outside space is a real luxury and one that should be cherished, especially in an urban setting.

* Give it a clean - get a few cheapie pot plants and look out for an inexpensive table and chairs to show you can use the space.

* Small rooms - like small gardens it's rather more important to dress small rooms well, otherwise people may not be able to really envisage how the room could work.

* Try to avoid putting things just inside the door of a room - you ideally want to be able to get inside a room before you trip over something.

Tepilo.com enables buyers to sell or let their home with no charges or commission.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Guest Blogger: Alison Cork, home expert, writer and broadcaster, on her Christmas at home.

Categorically, Christmas has to be my favourite time of year. On the one hand , I genuinely do find it a time for reflection and almost meditation. But on another level, it’s all about noise and happy activity.

I’m a sucker for ritual, and regardless of faith, I think Christmas presents a fabulous opportunity to be with family, take time out, and indulge in some time honoured traditions.

When it comes to decorations, I always choose a theme – this year, in the sitting room at least, it’s Decadence! I am going for the rich pinks, purples and turquoises of the orient, and as far as the tree is concerned, the more decoration the better. Minimalism is OUT.

I am particularly fond of peacocks, and have seen some stunning and really inexpensive peacock inspired decorations at Wilkinson, Matalan, House of Fraser, Angel At My Table and others. One thing I saw at Fortnum and Mason was a bejewelled peacock tree topper – cheap it was not, but I am lusting after it something rotten. Retailers really seem to have pushed the boat out this year –take a look at Tesco and Sainsburys too.

In the dining room I’m going for a White Ice theme, and will be hanging a myriad of white baubles from the central chandelier. Over the mirrors I’m going for the silver eucalyptus wreaths from B&Q! A completely white and silver table with my silvered fruit centre piece and walnut place name holders will finish it off nicely.

At which point my mind turns to food. I think this year it’s going to be very trad, with a turkey and trimmings. Boxing Day will be beef and Christmas Eve some sort of salmon and prawn dish. I have a fantastic recipe for trifle, and on the drinks front, its Gluwein (mulled wine) and Lidl champagne for me – it beat all the other supermarkets on taste (according to Which magazine) and costs half the price. For festive cakes and chocolates, you can’t beat the selection at Aldi and Lidl.

In terms of traditions, we have a bit of a hotchpotch. My mother is German, so we always have a special dinner on Christmas Eve, and indeed, as a child that was when we opened our presents. We also celebrate Hannukah, which begins on the 21st December this year. Then there are presents on Christmas Day. So basically, we start on Dec 21st and keep going until New Year – it’s never quiet in our house!

Finally, my preparations would not be complete without involving Henry, our six foot bronze stag who lives in the front garden. Henry gets his own tree and looks for all the world as if he is just stepping out of the Scottish woodland. Passers by love it and so do we. Christmas really is my favourite time of year.

Find some more great Christmas tips and tricks from Alison on AlisonCork.com. Find home and garden bargains at HomesandBargains.co.uk and recommended and vetted tradespeople at ProblemSolved.co.uk