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Imagine your mother-in-law is coming round...

Updated: Jan 19, 2021

With the rise in popularity of online estate agents, more and more home owners are conducting their own house viewings. It can be a bit of awkward but, if you do

it right, it can also be rewarding, after all nobody knows your house like you do. So, think of all the happy times, remind yourself why you fell in love with your house in the first place and to prepare, just imagine your mother-in-law is paying you a visit...

What to do beforehand:

Decide what to do with pets in advance- some buyers will be scared of dogs, allergic to cats, etc. so it is a good idea to make them disappear during viewings. Just the sight of a food bowl may put a buyer off your house as they will be busy wondering at what point they're going to come across their nemesis (this really does happen). So, where pets are concerned, be discreet. Ask older kids/friends/a dog-walker to take the dog(s) for a walk and find a temporary home for any house cats/rodents/reptiles. Most importantly, make sure that any pet-related odours are eliminated (see the point below about ventilation).

Get the kids on board in advance - ask younger kids to pick their 5 favourite toys and display these in their room. Box everything else up and label the box 'TOYS: open first!'. That way they will keep their rooms tidy and also when you get to the new house their toys will be easily accessible which will buy you time to unpack the rest. Try a reward system with older kids, or simply monetise their involvement: give them half when they 'stage' their room and half when the house sells, or pick a family goal that they can all work towards.

Close the garage door - and make sure the garage is tidy. There's a strong chance a buyer will want to see inside the garage so spend some time tidying and organising it. As with the house, you want buyers to see the great storage space you have, not that it's full of all your clutter. You're going to need to get rid of half of the contents anyway when you move so you might as well do it now.

Ventilate - this is even more important at this time of year. We all get used to the smells of our own house but you need to remember that we're not all the same so whilst you may love smoked haddock, curries, or wax melts, your potential buyers may not. Constantly having the heating on will accentuate the odours that are peculiar to your home so make sure to crack open some windows and let some fresh air circulate in the days/hours before a viewing (and don't cook anything too odorous the night before).

Check the temperature - you may feel the cold and need the heating on full all day long, or you may be more frugal with the heating and just put an extra jumper on, either way, please bear in mind that the house needs to be a comfortable temperature for viewings. Most buyers will not take their coats off so try walking through the house with your coat on for 10-15 minutes and see if you get too hot.

On the subject of coats, I mentioned in an earlier blog post that asking someone if they want to take their coat off and getting them to hang it on the hooks near the door (that you have previously cleared for this purpose) can be a powerful thing: they will start to imagine themselves living in your home.

If buyers feel too hot or too cold they will feel uncomfortable, the viewing will be shorter, and they will not see everything you want them to see because they are busy planning their exit.

Have something cooking in the oven - it's a cliche, but I think it's worth a shot! Have something slow cooking in the oven that you don't need to keep an eye on, maybe a bolognese or a stew (although with the recent increase in plant-based food fans, it might be an idea to cook something less meat-based). Bread is always a safe alternative - you don't have to be a master baker, it just needs to smell nice.

Open all the curtains and blinds - a buyer will not really be bothered how much of a pretty blind you can see, or how well you've swagged your curtains, but they will be bothered by the lack of light these things might cause. Open all curtains and blinds as fully as possible, even at night - buyers will be interested in the size of the windows and the outlook.

Turn on all the lights/lamps - even during the day. You are selling space, so illuminate it as well as you can so that buyers can see that space. A bright home looks bigger. Seeing a house with the lights on from the outside will make it look welcoming and full of life.

Hide wheelie bins/kitchen bins/waste baskets - we all have them and we all use them but nobody needs to see them out on display. You don't want anyone associating your house with any kind of rubbish.

Make the beds - unmade or badly made beds are one of my pet peeves. Making all the beds properly will make a huge difference. Plump all the pillows up - if you don't have enough pillows or the ones you have a very flat then borrow some or buy some new ones; remove any branded duvet covers/curtains (football clubs, cartoon characters etc.) and replace with something neutral; and add cushions and throws (if you don't know how to arrange these then look on Pinterest/Instagram/YouTube for inspiration).

Top tip: the quickest and easiest way to iron a duvet cover is when it's on the bed. You're welcome.

Put all the toilet seats down - nobody wants the focal point of a bathroom to be the toilet.

What to do during the house viewing:

Ask the buyers if they want a drink - most of them won't take you up on it but it's a friendly thing to do and will encourage them to stay longer as they will feel more welcome.

Give buyers space and privacy - buyers want to be able to comment on and discuss things they see between themselves and if you're leading them round this can be a bit difficult. To avoid awkwardness, show the buyers the best room(s) downstairs, engage with them (maybe ask them about their position) and give them some general info about the house (comment on the positives/original features/massive selling points/what you have loved about the house/the versatility of the living space) and then let them get on with it. If you give them space they will spend more time looking and will look at things in more detail. Be accessible so that they can come and find you and ask questions but be far away enough so that you can't overhear what they are saying.

Before they leave, ask buyers if they have any questions - they may have thought of something to ask as they've looked around but have forgotten. By asking the question you may jog their memory and you're showing you're interested in them and their opinions.

So, there you have it. It's always a bit weird having total strangers looking round your house and commenting on it, but if you've done all the right things in preparation then those comments should mostly be positive. That warm fuzzy feeling that buyers get when they find 'the one' is down to how they feel when they step through the door, and a lot of that feeling can actually be manufactured by following the steps above. So, go forth and sell your house!

(I must add a caveat here that I have assumed that prior to reaching the point of house viewings you have decluttered, cleaned, and staged your house as per my previous advice, only then will the above have any effect.)

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