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Online house selling: How to flog your home fast to a virtual buyer

The key to a speedy sale is to ensure your house stands out from all others online

Estate agents say buyers increasingly want houses that are finished and ready to walk into. Photograph: iStock/Getty

Selling a home can be overwhelming at the best of times, from choosing an agent to making sure it looks its best for potential viewers. There are a lot of decisions to be made, and restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic have made the process even more challenging, with people doing all their research and conducting viewings online.

Here are some steps you can take to maximise the value of your home when selling to a virtual audience.

Make your home stand out
The key to a speedy sale is to ensure your house stands out from all the other houses online. This means making sure it is presented well. Have good photographs taken but, most importantly, have a video walk-through of your home.

Videos are the next best thing to visiting a house. Open viewings with 20 or 30 parties visiting a property are no longer possible, so a video is the best way to allow people to explore the house in detail without having to visit. A well-produced video  really helps potential buyers get a feel for the property.

Since the pandemic, many estate agents offer video walk-throughs of properties as part of their service. Some use standard video while others use MatterPort technology, which provides interactive 3D models of properties. As with anything, the usefulness of either method depends on the skill of the person taking the video.

Presentation
Before exposing it to its close-up, your home needs to looks its very best and present in a way that will appeal to purchasers. This is usually an ideal time to declutter and have a good clear-out.

Getting rid of any surplus furniture will make a big difference in how your home looks when someone views it for the first time. Clutter makes a room feel smaller, and makes it harder for a buyer to imagine living there. If you have items that are taking up space but which you don’t want to get rid of, consider hiring a storage unit for a few months.

Think about first impressions. What’s the first thing a potential buyer will see when they walk into your home? If it’s a view or a lovely focal point like a painting or piece of furniture, make sure that these are allowed to stand out.

Maximise the amount of natural daylight in rooms by pulling curtains clear from windows, rolling up blinds and removing any items on windows sills that might block light such as plants, vases or ornaments.

Be careful not to go too far when decluttering. You want to keep surfaces and kitchen counters clear and remove anything that doesn’t have a purpose. But don’t go so far that the house looks soulless. Maintaining a sense of comfort and warmth is important. Purchasers should feel a family has lived in the house and have had a happy life there when viewing.

Walk-in condition
A marked trend in recent times is a move away from the fixer-upper home as more and more purchasers seek out properties where they don’t have to do too much upgrade work. Pre-Covid-19, people were looking for a house they could do up, renovate or add value to over time. But over the last year this has changed significantly.

Estate agents say buyers increasingly want houses that are finished and ready to walk into. Various reasons include more buyers who can only afford mortgages that will cover the purchase of the property and not much else; similarly, buyers don’t want to run the risk of renting while embarking on a refurb only to have the project delayed and overrun by further unexpected lockdowns.

As a seller you want your home to appear as low maintenance as possible. It’s a good idea to finish any small or incomplete DIY projects and fix things like holes in walls, broken door knobs etc.

Don’t underestimate the power of giving bathrooms and kitchens a good clean even if your home is being viewed virtually. Clean everything until it sparkles. Get rid of limescale, clean and repair tile grout, and hang up fresh towels. Hygiene has become increasingly important to everyone, so make sure your home is spick and span.

Help with the vision thing
Not a lot of people can see past what is there when viewing houses. If a room is presented as a store room they will find it hard to imagine it as a bedroom, for example.

If you’re marketing a room as a bedroom always try to show a bed in the room. This doesn’t have to break the bank. Borrow a bed or fold-out couch from a friend or family member. Another simple idea is to use a raised blow-up mattress with bedding to dress a room as a bedroom.

Make decisions about how you dress individual rooms based on your target market. If you live in an area where young families are buying, dress your rooms to appeal to them. Changing a dining room into a playroom, for example, will be a much more appealing feature to a young family, and will help them to visualise living there.

Denise O’Connor is an architect and design consultant, @optimisedesign

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