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Preparing Your Property for a Sale

Martha Lott

Written by Reviewed by Jayne Dowle

19th Feb 2020 (Last updated on 30th Nov 2023) 10 minute read

Now that you’ve decided to put your property on the market, it’s time to begin preparing your house for the sale. The first step to a successful house sale is to ensure that your property is as attractive to potential buyers as possible. Give yourself enough time to clean, stage and ready your property to make it more welcoming during viewings.

Compare My Move has created this guide to help you prepare your property before the sale. From cleaning and decluttering to organising the paperwork, there’s a lot to do to ensure both you and your home are prepared for the selling process.

  1. 1. Declutter Every Room
  2. 2. Refresh The Walls With a Lick of Paint
  3. 3. Fix Any Defects
  4. 4. Give it a Deep Clean
  5. 5. Tidy Up The Garden
  6. 6. Update the Kitchen
  7. 7. Stage Your Home for Viewings
  8. 8. Get on Top of Your Paperwork
  9. Preparing for a Sale - Frequently Asked Questions
  10. Next Steps of Selling a House

1. Declutter Every Room

Your first step to preparing your house for a sale should be to declutter. You should present a blank canvas for would-be buyers, so go through each room and remove as many personal items as possible. Too much furniture or unnecessary ornaments and personal possessions can make a room feel much smaller, hiding its potential. If you’re still searching for another house to buy, consider renting out a storage space to keep surplus items safe until you move.

Store your everyday items in the cupboards, clear out your coats, file away mail and remove anything that could distract from your home’s best features. Don’t wait until the last minute to start cleaning - you should declutter before the house viewings begin to help show-off your home. Buyers should be able to visualise themselves in your property.

For further help research decluttering action plans online. You could start by heeding Japanese decluttering expert Marie Kondo’s advice to ‘tidy by category’, focusing on specific themes such as books and clothing in turn, discarding items “that no longer spark joy”. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, it’s always good to declutter room by room, breaking down your home into easy to manage spaces.

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2. Refresh The Walls With a Lick of Paint

A quick way to de-personalise your property is to refresh the walls by repainting with neutral colours. Look at your property objectively. Which areas could really benefit from a fresh coat of paint? Is there too much colour or perhaps none at all? Look at your home as a new owner would. It needs to be fresh and inviting with lots of potential to make their own mark

Attend to those little DIY jobs that make all the difference: re-grout grubby tiling, replace creaky door handles and make sure every bulb is working to help shine a light on the property’s advantages. When you’re ready for viewings to begin, think about adding plants to bring life and energy to each room, and don’t forget to make all beds, plump up cushions and fold throws and blankets neatly for a cosy and welcoming feel.

3. Fix Any Defects

You don’t need to give the house a full renovation, but updating and fixing a few things can be vital to selling a house quickly. Focus on the smaller issues that can be quickly repaired. Some things can be easily ignored when you pass them every day. But to a new buyer, they can be glaring. For more advice, you can browse through our guide on adding value to your home.

In 2019, a study conducted by the HomeOwners Alliance found that 68% of British homebuyers believed that “kerb appeal” was an important factor when buying a house. In the survey of over 2,000 homebuyers, it was discovered that the key features they were looking for were well-maintained windows and a roof in good condition. This proves how important cosmetic and external issues are when preparing your house for a sale. Don’t forget to check those windows and to review your roof’s condition before organising a viewing.

If you suspect there are major jobs which need tackling – such as a new roof or rewire - consider having your own property survey to highlight the most obvious defects. Once you’ve agreed on an offer, the buyer will likely have their own survey conducted, so having one to compare with can be vital when negotiating the final sales price. . Don’t forget to compare surveyors to make sure you get the best deal possible. Here at Compare My Move, our surveying partners go through a strict verification process to ensure they can deliver quality services at the high standards you expect.

4. Give it a Deep Clean

Cleaning your house is a vital step when preparing for a sale, take a deep breath and give your home a deep clean. Let in the light by opening the curtains and making sure that the windows are sparkling. Dust on top of shelves and mantles and other surfaces, polish appliances, clean the faucets and of course, don’t forget the toilet!

If you really have decluttered each room, this task will be a lot easier. But pay attention to detail, removing stubborn stains from carpets and making sure showers and sinks smell fresh and clean. If you’ve already moved out or have a busy schedule, you may need to hire a professional cleaner to help out. Whatever it takes, everything should be gleaming when preparing to sell your house.

5. Tidy Up The Garden

A good tip for selling your home is to prepare your garden. Property expert, Phil Spencer, working with the property portal Zoopla, discovered that more than 25% of potential buyers would be “put off” by an overgrown garden when searching for a new home. The external of your property should never be neglected, so prune overgrowing trees and shrubs and weed flowerbeds. Position your outdoor furniture in a welcoming spot, clean up after pets and tidy away children’s bikes and garden toys.

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6. Update the Kitchen

Lloyd’s Bank says the kitchen is the most valuable room in British homes, so don’t neglect it. Many people view the kitchen as the heart of the house and so it’s important to make it stand out. Give everything a thorough clean and degrease and polish the stove and oven thoroughly. It’s quick and inexpensive to revitalise your kitchen without going to the trouble and expense of a full renovation. Give tired cupboards a lift with a fresh coat of paint and replace shabby door knobs and drawer pulls.

It’s a good idea to visit a kitchen showroom and have plans drawn up, with costings, showing the potential of a new kitchen. Then you can show this to viewers to help them imagine how improvements could be made.

7. Stage Your Home for Viewings

It’s time to make your home warm and welcoming for potential buyers. If you’re hiring an estate agent, they’ll ensure that your house is ready for viewings. However, it doesn’t hurt to help out and make it look homely. Use bright colours and house plants to draw the eye to any special features your house contains. Add a few coloured pillows and throws to highlight any furniture that’s still there. If there’s a fireplace, light it for a cosy atmosphere and don’t forget to think about how the rooms smell. If you have pets, there could be some lingering scents.

Research by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) revealed that 83% of buyers’ agents stated that staging a home made it easier for potential buyers to visualise the property as their own. Almost two-thirds of sellers’ agents said that staging a home decreases the amount of time a property was on the market, proving its importance.

Another way to stage your home before a sale is to think about giving each individual room a purpose. If there’s a spare room you’ve been using as a dumping ground, turn it into a walk-in wardrobe or office. Stage the room to represent that purpose and give the buyers a few ideas they can run away with.

For more information on the best time to sell your home, read our detailed guide.

8. Get on Top of Your Paperwork

While you’re waiting to receive an offer, you should hire a conveyancer or conveyancing solicitor to begin the conveyancing process. When searching for a conveyancer, you should ask for a breakdown of the costs involved with selling a house and what you need to prepare for. This will give you a basic understanding of the paperwork you’ll have to provide.

The main documents you’ll need to sell your house include:

  • Property title deeds
  • Energy performance certificate (EPC)
  • Fensa certificate
  • Property details and floorplan
  • Recent utility bills
  • Electrical certificates
  • Building regulation certificates
  • Planning permission certificates
  • Buildings insurance policy
  • Mortgage account number
  • The lease if it’s a leasehold property

Don’t forget to compare conveyancers to help find the best deal for you. Our team at Compare My Move ensures that every partner goes through our stringent verification process so you know you’ll be receiving the highest quality services from the most experienced professionals in your local area.

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Preparing for a Sale - Frequently Asked Questions

Here are 5 questions homeowners need to keep in mind when preparing their properties for a sale:

1. Should you renovate before you sell?

Although it may impress viewers, renovating your house before selling isn’t necessary. It’s very unlikely that you’ll make your money back and so it’s usually not worth the work. Weigh up the cost of the renovations with the current market value to be sure.

Many buyers will have their own ideas for how their ideal home should look. Leave the property as a blank canvas so they can add the renovations they personally prefer. Stick to updating the essentials like guttering, electrics, plumbing, central heating, roofing, anything that won’t take longer than 6 months to complete.

2. Is it better to sell a house empty or with furniture?

You’re not required to leave any furniture when selling a house, but attractive staging can help it sell more quickly. If you do plan to include some furniture - wardrobes, for example - it can increase the asking price slightly, but don’t expect it to rise significantly.

Don’t forget to state from the start what will and will not be included in the sale of the house.

3. Is it worth replacing the windows before selling a house?

If you have the budget for it, it could be worth replacing or upgrading the windows before selling a house. For example, double glazed windows are far more energy-saving, they block out external noise and can add value to your property.

However, if you own a period home, it’s likely to have more value if original features - such as windows - are intact. You could always ask a window replacement company to provide an estimate so you can show viewers the potential outlay.

4. What shouldn’t you do when preparing to sell a house?

Selling a property is different for everyone. However, there are a few things to be wary of that can hopefully help you sell more quickly. When preparing to sell your house, do not:

  • Leave the cleaning until last minute
  • Try it alone - hire professionals to help with tasks you can’t do
  • Leave obvious issues and defects on display
  • Over personalise the property
  • Spend too much time or money on renovations

5. How can I stage my house to sell fast?

Any effort to stage your home will make a big impact on potential buyers. Here’s a useful checklist to help you sell more quickly:

  • Depersonalise by removing family photos and toys - anything that reminds potential buyers that the property is not theirs
  • Use neutral colours to attract a variety of tastes and personalities
  • Boost the curb appeal by pruning the garden, power washing the outside and by adding a few pops of colour with flowers
  • Give the property a deep clean
  • Reflect interior trends with small touches such as carefully-chosen cushions and accessories in up-to-the minute textures and hues
  • Add as much light as possible
  • Use mirrors to create the illusion of more space
  • Don’t leave the property empty, stage your furniture too
  • Highlight any useful storage spaces
  • Add finishing touches like books, candles, fresh flowers and other items

Next Steps of Selling a House

This has been part of our selling a house guide. In our next article, we take a detailed look at the documents you'll need to sell your house. To learn more, read what certificates do I need to sell my house.

Martha Lott

Written by Martha Lott

Having guest authored for many property websites, Martha now researches and writes articles for everything moving house related, from remortgages to conveyancing costs.

Jayne Dowle

Reviewed by Jayne Dowle

Freelance Property Journalist & Copywriter,

Jayne Dowle is an award-winning freelance property journalist with over 30 years of experience.

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