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Get realistic with your house price to attract the bidders

Two key issues which face house sellers when preparing to sell a home is how to chose an estate agent and decide on an asking price. The arrival of the property price register makes both tasks easier.

Up to recently some estate agents were chosen because they said they would get a higher price than their competitors. Now with the property price register prospective vendors can tell immediately if the agents are accurate in their pricing strategy and what price is likely to attract bidders.

By being realistic with asking prices this in turn makes it easier to attract realistic bids and this also reduces the time it takes to sell.

The other major concern for vendors is how to make the house presentable and here too sellers can be much more realistic. Gone are the tiger days when sellers used to spend over €10,000 on 'staging' their houses. In other words they would not alone hire interior designers to design a makeover but they would also hire furniture to replace existing furniture as well as getting a complete make-over. And that was even before lashing out more money on photography and glossy brochures.

Nowadays, people may still seek the advice of interior designers such as Vanessa MacInnes who operates from her shop, known as Industry in Temple Bar, Dublin.

She too recognises the new reality and her advice tallies with that of estate agents that the key piece of advice she offers will cost all sellers very little except on their time.

"Clean, clean and clean," she says. "I know this is an obvious point but it really is so important. The house should be spotless – the bathrooms and kitchen should be sparkling and always make sure to put the loo seats down. Clean all mirrors and glass and really give the house a good dust and hoover. Don't forget to clean the fronts of the kitchen units and clean and tidy out the kitchen cupboards, fridge and oven. Before each viewing give your home a once over and don't think they won't notice that you didn't hoover – they will," Vanessa adds.

Many people like to paint different rooms with different colours but this could be a serious mistake. "Green might be your favourite colour but may not be everybody's cup of tea. First impressions are the most important part of any viewing and if a potential buyer walks into your home and the hall is painted in a vibrant blue, and if they dislike blue – their first impression will not be a good one," she adds.

Instead she recommends using neutral colours such as off-white, soft greys or taupes.

Brian Dempsey, of agents Douglas Newman Good has advised many clients on how to prepare their houses to get the best possible price and he also advises against using pure white.

"Pure white can be very unforgiving as it shows up small marks such as hand prints. Instead I would recommend magnolia which can be richer, more comforting and welcoming," he adds.

Both MacInnes and Dempsey agree that buyers usually do a drive-by viewing and it is important that the outside of the house looks good.

"If the paint is flaking on the exterior then it needs a fresh coat and the front garden should also be tidy," he says.

"Buyers do drive-by's in the evenings and weekends so put lamps on in the front of the house and if you have a porch light put it on also," Vanessa says.

Dempsey has noticed that increasingly sellers rely on their friends to assist with making their house clean and presentable.

"It can become a real community effort. One group of ladies recently decided to give up their bridge night with each of them taking different tasks. One hoovered the rooms, another applied licks of paint in key spots, a third did the garden ... " he says.

He also warns against over-egging the marketing. It can be tempting to get very nice photos or get a graphics artist to dickey up the photos.

"I have an eight second rule. Within eight seconds of entering a house you can tell if the viewer is interested in buying. If the house does not live up to their hopes you can see their jaws drop. While eye candy can work it will only work if the house looks nice. That's why I have even omitted some nice pictures from a brochure," he says.

While Vanessa says shampooing a worn carpet may be sufficient, Hilary Foley of Sherry FitzGerald says if it is really worn or badly stained, replace it.

"Do not choose expensive carpet, but make sure that it looks reasonable."

Vanessa also advises using plenty of light and lamps especially in dull rooms. However Ms Foley adds: "Central pendants with lampshades that show the light bulb are ugly and dated. You should replace them with modern fittings or make sure that you have alternative lighting, such as standard or table lamps."

Sellers need to recognise that they may need to change their lifestyle once they open their homes to viewers. For instance on the morning of a viewing it's best not to take a shower if it will steam up the bathroom.

Or the night before it's best not to cook smelly dishes or smoke in the house as the smells can linger and put buyers off.

Above all they need to allow time to tidy away items they might usually leave on worktops and beds.

Then there's the paperwork.

As soon as they have decided to sell they should contact their solicitor to get the deeds and check that they are in order.

Another aspect of the paperwork is the BER certificate which shows the energy efficiency of the property.

Brian Dempsey recalls the example of a buyer who agreed a price but when they subsequently found that the house had a lower energy rating than expected they argued that they would have to spend more than they had allowed for in insulating the house so they wanted a reduction in the price. So get the BER cert in advance

Vanessa's website is: www.industrydesign.ie

Indo Property