Selling your home? Here are some trade secrets on how to make a house appeal to buyers

Staging secrets revealed! Kya deLongchamps goes into the trenches with estate agent Lorraine Spillane to ask how to get ready for viewing day.

Selling your home? Here are some trade secrets on how to make a house appeal to buyers

Staging secrets revealed! Kya deLongchamps goes into the trenches with estate agent Lorraine Spillane to ask how to get ready for viewing day.

Housebuyers should never compromise on the real bones of a property. Crucial deal-breakers often emerge at survey or conveyance and send house-hunters wearily back to the market with valuable weeks lost.

These must-haves would include a straight, dry, stable walls, no subsidence, a sound roof, perfectly commissioned electrics and sound plumbing, energy efficiency (demonstrated to some extent by the BER rating), the intelligent layout of structural walls, planning permission for any extensions or improvements, legal access and so much more.

All that said, we are reactive, lazy creatures, hungry for the promise of a new, expansive, freshly minted lifestyle right there on show. As a seller, for a quick deal at the best price, it’s up to you to be an impresario of cosmetic style.

Tough love

If the house is not presented to standard, will your agent tell you the truth? Veteran estate agent Lorraine Spillane says this can be sensitive area for agents as well as their clients:

The estate agent should be open and honest with you regarding your home — too brutally honest, and you may not like or agree with what they are saying (as you are emotionally just too involved)

"The agent should be able to communicate the problems without jeopardising his or her position with you. They don’t want a property on their books that isn’t going to move. It is imperative that the owner works with their agent to ensure everything is done to obtain that speedy deal.”


Those very beloved things that reflect your family’s presence, chez-vous form an unwelcome psychological canyon between a viewer and a second-hand house.

Lorraine Spillane explains this unwelcome divide:

It’s amazing the amount of times we take a person to see a property and the buyers focus directly on the owner’s furniture and possessions. A grubby couch, clutter under the stairs

"As much as agents will try to draw them back to the house itself, the size of the rooms and the aspects, some buyers will not be able to see beyond the way the home is presented (even though, when they buy the house it will be most likely empty of all furniture)

So, that excruciatingly individual daily round, taste and history — catalogued in photographs leering off every wall, knickers drying on the line, that charming rendering in oils of you naked and pregnant — will distract and potentially even repel. It’s intimate, it’s banal and a surprising amount of that amalgamation of stuff is best rudely packed up before the viewings.

Take a deep breath, arm yourself with plenty of boxes and edit that domestic debris to effectively de-personalise. The standard box-Jenga of dump/donate/keep is a superb start. If the house is truly over-loaded (it’s never “small” when described to viewers) consider renting a storage unit to carry the ballast until you move.

What’s left should transmit a warm, working, attractive home anyone could love — not just you. Words like “unique”, “interesting” and “original” applied to rooms imply lightly disguised distaste. Quirky is not what we’re after. Save the bold experimental décor for the next house.


A talent not given to all. Don’t expect your buyer to see what the house could be like with clean carpets and new curtains –- at least put together a neutral canvas and crucially, put some furniture in it. Bald rooms are as bad as overstuffed ones.

Lorraine reveals: “When someone comes into your house, you want them to want to stay there. Small touches can make a big difference. Lighting is very important — subtle lamp lighting in dark corners to accentuate a nice painting can bring a corner to life. If the sun is shining, have the patio set up with a table and chairs. Lay the table even if it’s just for two people with good ware and wine glasses. Have the fire lighting if possible"

Small arrangements of flowers in unusual places — superb. Think of how you would get your house ready for some famous celebrity coming to visit!

Buyers also want value for money and that translates as spaciousness — even apparent space. Pale grey, neutral beiges (feted for 2020) and flat, matte-white or off-white appeals to a wide audience. Most people can contentedly “live with it” in a new house. Reserve bold colour for clever accessorising. On properly prepared walls, emulsion paint is the cheapest spend for the highest impact.

Keep thinking of the fact that shortly this will not be your house, Lorraine emphasises:

This is your objective, to sell the house. Detach — when you move you won’t have any control over what is going to be done to the home

Arrange furnishings to create flow between and within rooms, and to designate proper “roles” to each room and division of space. Think about a harmony of colours, and stick to three accessory colours, no more. Rugs, cushions, curtains, and ornaments can present tasteful keynotes in any room.

If your windows are cloaked in dark, heavy curtains consider investing in paler more diffusing material in say voile, set in casual drifts. A plain, pale rug can take some of the groove out of even the most psychedelic carpet pattern.

Clean, clean and clean

It only takes a single daisy waving from the gutter, a mashed tube of depilatory cream on the sink, or an un-flushed toilet to have some cowards glancing at their phones for the next listing. Of course, these are small, incidental problems — they don’t matter, but they can make a hefty impact on the financial enthusiasm of others. Find your rudest friend/neighbour/extended family member and ask them to walk around the house and to give you a cold appraisal. Keep notes and a stiff upper lip.

The great day

Bathrooms and kitchens have an especially intimate air — and we want to get rid of it in favour of showroom shine. Presuming every surface is immaculate (please put that loo seat down) open brand new bars of soap, hang a plump, unused loo-roll and arrange some white fluffy towels in a welcoming cascade on the towel rail or deck them by size on a chair.

A word about room scent — I favour the rapid ventilation method — open the windows and interior doors and properly and fully “air” the entire house with cross-currents from one room to another before introducing any synthetic perfumes. Every knows what Febreze smells like — it signals (quite unfairly) damp to this nose.

Reserve some brand new sparkling tea towels in the kitchen to whip out just for viewings and carefully group one or two culinary ornaments to suggest a lifestyle of sophisticated entertaining.

Bring half-empty bins out the door with you as you leave.

Don’t just clean the cat tray and dog baskets, hide them entirely. Newsflash: some people despise pets — that’s not dislike, but despise. Springing, friendly spaniels could kill your sale.

“Decluttering has untold benefits for you, too,” Lorraine concludes. “Ask yourself, are you going to bring everything with you? If you are, then start boxing all non-essential items to free up space and make the house more open, get rid of everything that you don’t intend to keep before you even put the house on the market. It will make your move easier when you do sell.”

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