Top 10 tips for staging your home for the New Year

Christmas is coming and before we know it, it’ll be 2014. Here’s what you need to know to make sure your house isn’t still for sale in 2015, by home staging expert Sam Ashdown.

Selling a house during the Christmas period can be tricky. Shiny decorations and nosy relatives will put off even the hardiest of viewers. But once you’ve taken down the tinsel, and sent Great Aunt Hilda packing, what can you do to make sure your home has the ‘wow’ factor for the early spring buyers?

Here are some practical tips to help you ‘spring’ into your new home:

1. Heat it up

The thought of viewing an unheated house is uninviting and won’t create the right first impression on a viewing. If you know you’re going to arrive at the same time as your viewers, set the heating timer to come on a few hours prior to the viewing. Not only will the house be toasty warm, it’ll prevent any noises of boilers kicking in. Before they arrive, maybe pop the fire on low too if you have one, it makes a living room so warming and homely.

path_clear_snow2. Clear the path

If we have snow – and the forecasters say we will – ensure your front path is shovelled to make it clear, and gritted to prevent slip ups. Trawling through the snow to the front door isn’t massively inviting.

3. Let there be light

Create a warm, welcoming atmosphere even before your viewers step through your front door, by switching on all the lights, just like you see in showhomes. If the viewing is arranged for after the sun has set, leave the overhead lights off, and instead light all the lamps, for a cosier look. Don’t shut any curtains as it will make rooms seem closed in. Take advantage of timers too – if people go past your home and see for the sale sign, your home will seem more interesting with lights on.

4. Lighten up

Winter often encourages us to seek out deeper, richer colours in fabrics and bedding. To change the mood for Spring, change bedding and soft furnishings, like cushions and throws. Spring colours are soft pastels, like duck-egg blue, pale lemon and soft greens. Sprinkle some of these around for a fresh Spring-like feel.

5. Don’t forget the garden

If your garden is looking a bit worse for wear after Winter, it’s time to spruce it up – a well-presented garden can add thousands to the perceived value of a house. And there aren’t many buyers out there who will be keen to get stuck into an overgrown garden straight after moving in. Take out any garden toys left over from last summer, pressure wash the patio and add colour with some pretty hardy plants in pots.

6. Dress your rooms

Make a room look inviting and well-staged by creating a mood. In the dining room, set the table for a meal using your best china. Put your lotions and shampoos in neat groups in the bathroom, and hang freshly laundered dressing gowns. Place winter flowers in vases around the house. Set a newspaper on the coffee table and a few magazines to add that extra polish.

7. Add some sparkle

clean_homeMake your home sparkle on the inside, and keep it really clean. Vacuum carpets, wash the windows, dust furniture and clean the floors. Clean out your fridge as – surprisingly – many people look in the fridge, especially if it is integrated. Your whole house should look and smell as if it has just been completely spring-cleaned.

8. I ‘scents’ a sale!

While making your home smell nice is a must, don’t spray air fresheners or perfume in case visitors are allergic. Focus on getting the home smelling naturally clean and welcoming. A lovely inviting smell is baking – make some cookies and time them so they’re just ready as people arrive. Ensure that you offer them to the buyers though, or they’ll be disappointed.

9. Flower power

Splash some cash on a couple of really nice bouquets of flowers. Put one in the living room, and split the other into two or three smaller vases for the hallway and master bedroom. Keep to the Spring colours, though bolder shades can work well for accent colours. Spring flowers like daffodils and tulips will add a lovely scent while reminding your viewers that warmer weather is almost here.

10. Add some ambiance

Try playing some soft music to add a sense of atmosphere to the house. There’s nothing worse than a house that’s too quiet, and you may feel you have to rush in and talk when sometimes viewers just need to soak it up. Music can really help to put everyone at their ease. Go for easy listening, but relatively up to date, like Adele, Dido or Michael Buble.

Home staging can be a really good investment. None of these suggestions are particularly expensive, and most are free. By spending a little money, and some time and effort, you will be in your new home in time to enjoy your Easter eggs.

SAm Ashdown byline pic

For more house selling advice, check out Sam’s Selling Secrets at or her blog at

December 18, 2013 at 7:00 AM 1 comment

Top 10 #propertyoftheweek Picks – Church Conversions

A selection of our top 10 church conversions for sale in the UK. Listed in no particular order as we’d like to hear what your no.1 is, so please vote in the poll below for your favourite.

1. What a stunning home, love the open plan living space.
3 bed in Lincolnshire, £350,000 – House Network


2. Wow – this whole house is just beautiful.
5 bed in Northumberland , £445,000 – Finest Properties


3. The most beautiful bedroom window!
5 bed in Sheffield, £650,000 – Reeds Rains


4. Some great original features in the bedrooms of this flat.
4 bed flat in London W13, £745,000 – Northfields


5. Probably the most interesting church conversion you will see.
4 bed in Uxbridge, POA – Chewton Rose


6. A picturesque property with a beautiful country kitchen.
3 bed in Newport Wales, £639,950 – MGY


7. A whole host of stunning original church features.
4 bed in Leeds, £595,000 – Fine and Country


8. This unique B listed converted church building offers stunning coastal views.
2 bed in Plockton Scotland, £215,000 – Remax


9. A pretty Essex home.
4 bed in Essex, £795,000 – Fine and Country


10. For the showstopper church ceiling in this living room.
4 bed in Stamford Brook, £1.2M – Foxtons


Send us a link via Twitter to your #propertyoftheweek on Zoopla and our pick of the Top 10 will feature on the blog every Friday.

December 13, 2013 at 10:59 AM Leave a comment

Average value of a home in Britain increases by £28.30 a day

The average value of a home in Britain is increasing by almost £30 a day, according to the latest figures published by Zoopla.

11.12.13 Scotland 1

Scotland is hot on London’s heels, enjoying a 6.85 per cent increase in property values in 2013

It equates to an average rise of £10,329 this year, with the average value up 4.4 per cent to £233,289.

It follows a host of new Government initiatives introduced this year to help stabilize the property market and set the foundations for a sustainable recovery. As a result, 2013 has witnessed property price growth across most of the country.

With confidence in the market increasing, 2014 could see further price growth as the number of sales increases, construction continues, and more property comes to the market, according to Zoopla.

The effect of Help to Buy and low interest rates can been seen in the figures, with increased demand driving up property values on the lower rungs of the property ladder. In England, semi-detached houses have seen the biggest increase in value, up 6.42 per cent or £13,054 during 2013.

The gain in property values has been broadening out across the country as the recovery finally starts to be felt across the regions.

While London continues to surge ahead of the rest of the country with average property values rising £46,398 since this time last year, Scotland is now hot on the capital’s heels, enjoying a 6.85 per cent increase in 2013. Overall, property prices have risen in 10 of the 11 regions across Britain in 2013. Only Yorkshire and The Humber experienced a marginal fall of 0.37 per cent in average house prices in the past 12 months.

And reinforcing the broadening effects of the recovery, northern cities now appear on the top 10 list of best performing urban areas in 2013. The largest increase in house prices in the past year has been seen in Newcastle at 10.05 per cent. Other cities in the north making the top 10 include Barnsley, Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen and York – all recording property price gains of more than 6.5 per cent during 2013.

But it is not all good news in the North, with the worst performing city in 2013 being Rotherham in Yorkshire, which suffered a small drop in average home values of 0.1 per cent in the past 12 months.



Avg. value

Dec 2013

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Dec 2012

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% Change











South West England





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South East England





East of England





West Midlands





North West England





East Midlands










Yorkshire & The Humber





Source:, December 2013




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Dec 2013

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Dec 2012

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Source:, December 2013




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Dec 2012

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Milton Keynes











December 11, 2013 at 11:32 AM 1 comment

Christmas cleaners go into overdrive ahead of the arrival of mother-in-laws

We’ve had Black Friday and Cyber Monday. So the next festive landmark is Christmas Dust Day on Thursday, December 19 – the penultimate day in the office when workers start to panic about preparing their homes for the arrival of friends and family.

fantastic cleaners

Christmas Dust Day marks the day when workers across Britain realise ‘crikey, it’s Christmas’ and start to panic about ensuring their homes are looking their best.

For the past three years, Fantastic Cleaners has seen requests for pre-Christmas cleaning peak on the Thursday before Christmas. In each of the last three years, general cleaning enquiries on this particular day increase by more than three times the month’s average.

With the impending threat of mum – or worse, mum-in-law – peeking at the turkey and commenting on baked-on oven grime, there is most notably a surge in demand for last minute oven cleaning. In 2012, December saw overall requests for oven cleans increase by 120 per cent compared to a year earlier.

Rune Sovndahl, managing director of Fantastic Cleaners, said: “We have noticed that the more people panic about cleaning their homes in time for Christmas, the more they resort to some interesting last minute cheats.

“These range from literally ‘sweeping dirt under the rug’, to closing shower curtains to hide grimy baths, and even dimming the lights to hide dust. This doesn’t always fool their friends and family, however, and many people will get caught out.”

Beautifully presented properties for sale on Zoopla:

10.12.13 Clean homes 1

For sale: Two bedroom flat in Brighton £675,000

10.12.13 Clean homes 2

For sale: Five bedroom detached house in Leeds for £649,950

10.12.13 Clean homes 3

For sale: Six bedroom property in Exeter for £1.5m

December 10, 2013 at 11:12 AM Leave a comment

Costs of Christmas lighting casts a shadow over festive cheer

While Britons may say they like the idea of seeing lots of brightly lit Santas, snowmen and reindeers outside of houses at this time of year, the harsh reality is far more ‘bah! Humbug!’.

Property festive: We wish you a merry Christmas

Almost half of those surveyed said they like festive lights outside of houses at this time – but almost a third adopt a more Ebenezer Scrooge approach.

The findings by Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks showed 14 per cent thought Christmas lights are a waste of money, while a further 11 per cent wish their neighbours would not decorate the outside of their homes.


Nearly one in 10 said they simply don’t like Christmas decorations while a sixth said they would like to put lights outside their home but the cost of powering them puts them off.

Andrew Pearce, a director at Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks, said: “Our research has shown that people either love or loathe outdoor Christmas lights. Some view them as extravagant and an unnecessary waste of money and electricity while others enjoy the Christmas atmosphere they bring to the community.

“Whatever decorations you opt for this year, it’s still possible to have fun this festive season without blowing the budget.”

Tips to save money this Christmas:

1. Set a budget – and stick to it. Work out how much you can afford to spend and don’t exceed this amount.

2. Remember the most expensive present is not necessarily the best. Sometimes a more thoughtful, personal gift can be more appreciated. For example, new parents may prefer the offer of babysitting rather than more perfume or aftershave.

3. Shop about – when you have decided what you want to buy, look for the best bargain. Many shops have sales in the run-up to Christmas, so pick your purchasing timing wisely.

4. Group together – rather than buying gifts for every one of your friends individually, why not hold a secret Santa where each person buys for just one friend?

5. Have a family feast – ask your guests to bring a course or some goodies with them so you don’t have sole responsibility for Christmas dinner. It could simply be bringing the wine or the Christmas crackers but will help you share the expense.

Properties for sale during the festive season:

09.12.13 Christmas tree 1

For sale: One bedroom end of terrace house in Long Stratton, near Stratton

09.12.13 Christmas tree 2

For sale: Three bedroom maisonette in London Fields for £750,000

09.12.13 Christmas tree 3

For sale: Four bedroom detached house in Woodford Green, London, for £875,000

December 9, 2013 at 12:55 PM 1 comment

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