How to get your house in top shape for a sale

If you are looking to get your house in top shape for a top sale, then you will need to please both buyers and surveyors, writes home staging expert Anna Hart.

07.04.14 Anna Hart 2   07.04.14 Anna Hart 1

Obvious maintenance issues are a total turn-off for most buyers – you know, the jobs that you’ve been putting off for months and have learned to live with.

Things you have happily ignored for ages will stick out like a sore thumb to buyers seeing the house for the first time, so if you want to sell relatively quickly and for a decent price, I recommend you address any broken or substandard items before you put the house on the market.

Here’s my list of the top five maintenance jobs to keep buyers happy:

  1. Get rid of any signs of previous water damage, damp or mould – use ‘stain stop’ paint before re-painting the entire wall or ceiling so the stain doesn’t just show through the new paint
  2. Remove and replace any mouldy silicone or grout in kitchens and bathrooms – new silicone seals freshen up bathrooms immediately
  3. Fill and re-paint any cracks, gaps, dents and chips in walls, ceilings and woodwork – use decorator’s caulk to fill gaps between skirting or sockets and walls
  4. Pay attention to the exterior – fix and re-stain fences, re-paint wooden doors and window frames, and check your render is up to scratch
  5. Sort out any noises – dripping taps, squeaky doors or floors

07.04.14 Anna Hart 3

These things will help you get a decent offer from a buyer, but it’s another thing altogether to secure a completed sale at that same price.

Buyers range in their level of home construction and maintenance experience from super-savvy builders or investors to naïve first-timers, but one thing many buyers have in common is that they’re likely to commission a survey once their offer has been accepted.

This means that not only do you have to present your house in such a way as to attract and please your buyer, you also have to meet the approval of their surveyor if you want to get to completion without a hefty renegotiation.

This means thinking ahead; working out what a surveyor is likely to put on their “probably needs expensive attention” list and assessing what you can do to mitigate this. Remember that every potential problem brought up by a survey is essentially a reason for the buyer to lower their offer, and you don’t want that.

It will almost always be cheaper for you to get the work done yourself than it will be to accept a price reduction.

The best way to make sure you’re aware of every item that might need action is to commission a survey yourself, but if you don’t want to spend that kind of money – around £400 for a homebuyer’s survey – here is my list of the typical items that surveys often bring up.

  1. Damp & timber problems – many companies will prepare a damp and timber condition report for a small fee, along with a quote for rectifying any issues. Check for the most obvious cause of damp – such as leaky or broken guttering – and get it fixed. Remember what seems like damp could actually be condensation, so air your house well.
  2. Roof - without getting to the top of a very long ladder, it’s difficult for us to see whether we’ve got any roof problems other than the obvious missing bits, so ask a roofer to check over the roof and fix any immediate issues. Many roofers will carry out a set of basic tile and flashing repairs for under £200. Flat roofs always cause issues due to their limited life span, so get yours checked and consider re-roofing if it is past its best.
  3. Boiler – it is common for buyers to ask for the boiler to be serviced before they exchange contracts, so do this in advance to avoid delays later. Servicing starts at about £70 depending on the type, make and model and will clearly cost more if there’s something that needs fixing.
  4. Electrics – it is very important for your electrics to be properly certified. Solicitors will ask if you have made any electrical changes since the introduction of new regulations in 2005. If you have, they must be certified by a qualified electrician. Cost will vary depending on whether any remedial work is required to bring things up to standard, but don’t leave this as a potentially large surprise bill.
  5. Windows & doors – replace any blown panes (those with condensation or ‘mist’ between the two panes in a double-glazed unit) because buyers and surveyors alike will pick up on these. Make sure the frames are in good condition and check all hinges, handles and locks work properly.

If your investigative work brings up a vast number of problems you may not want to invest in fixing them all yourself, but at least you’ll be aware of the issues and if you do end up renegotiating or being asked to address some items, it won’t be a big surprise.

Anna Hart is an expert in staging homes for sale, working with house sellers to maximise their chances of selling as quickly and as profitably as possible. Anna’s new e-book “How to Sell Your House For Top Price, Fast” brings her practical and proven house sale preparation strategy to sellers across Britain.

03.01.13 Anna photo

April 8, 2014 at 8:00 AM Leave a comment

Number of mortgage deals for those with a 5% deposit more than doubles

The mortgage market is recovering to its pre-credit crisis state as both lending levels and product choice rebound.

Hosue prices

Total mortgage lending soared by 43 per cent year-on-year during February to stand at its highest level for the month since 2008, the Council of Mortgage Lenders recently said.

But it is not just the volume of lending that is showing signs of improving, with the range of products available also increasing significantly during the past 12 months.

The number of different mortgages available to people with just a 5 per cent deposit has more than doubled since April 2013, according to data from

There are now 179 different home loans available to people borrowing 95 per cent of their home’s value, up from just 73 a year earlier.

The current number is also above the 134 mortgages that were on the market for people with a 5 per cent deposit in early 2008, shortly before the credit crisis began to exert its strangle hold on the market.

There has also been a big increase in the number of deals for borrowers with a 10 per cent deposit and a 15 per cent one, with availability for both categories rising by 20 per cent in the past year.

Overall, there are now more different mortgages available than in 2008 in all but two loan to value categories.

Rachel Springall, finance expert at, said: “The 5 per cent deposit market is booming with a variety of choice for borrowers, this is largely due to government initiatives which have been the driving force, such as the Help to Buy scheme.”

Rachel Springall

Rachel Springall, finance expert at

As well as the government schemes, there are growing signs that lenders are becoming more willing to advance mortgages to people with only small deposits.

In its recent Trends in Lending report, the Bank of England found mortgage availability had increased for the seventh consecutive quarter during the first three months of 2014, particularly for people looking to borrow a high proportion of their property’s value.

The Bank said there was a significant increase in the willingness of lenders to advance money to people with a deposit of 10 per cent or less.

It added that although this improvement was in part driven by the Government’s Help to Buy scheme, it expected this trend to continue going forward, as lenders looked to increase their market share.


Adrian Anderson, director of mortgage broker Anderson Harris, said: “I think that confidence in the economy and housing market has made it easier for banks to produce higher LTV mortgages. “

But he added: “Banks are very selective and will be assessing high LTV mortgages with a fine tooth comb and will require a squeaky clean credit history hence only the strong applicants will qualify for a high LTV mortgage.”

But there is still one area of the mortgage market that has not recovered, and that is the level of choice for people looking to take out 100 per cent mortgages.

There are currently just six deals available for people with no deposit, up slightly from four in April 2013, but still well down on the 14 that were on the market in 2008.

Lenders are also continuing to favour those borrowing a low proportion of the property’s value, with 466 mortgages available to people with a 40 per cent deposit, compared with just 25 before the credit crisis started to impact the market.

But despite the improvement in the number of mortgages available for people with only small deposits, the introduction of the Mortgage Market Review on April 26 means lenders are unlikely to ever return to the looser lending criteria seen in the past.

The new regime will require banks and building societies to carry out a detailed assessment of borrowers’ ability to keep up with their loan, while interest-only mortgages will only be advanced to people who have a credible repayment plan.


April 7, 2014 at 2:58 PM Leave a comment

Wood cabin with Cornish beach views has asking price of £350,000

A wood cabin with one main room raised eyebrows after it was suggested that it could be sold for £400,000. But if it’s a room with a view that you’re after, you may not need to look much further.

07.04.14 Cabin 2 

That is because the holiday chalet can be found nestled on a cliff overlooking one of Britain’s most beautiful beaches.

Access to the clifftop property in St Ives, Cornwall, is only on foot via a winding footpath, but once there, panoramic views of Porthkidney beach are on offer.

It is currently on the market for £350,000, but it is understood that the detached property could go for a much higher price when it goes to auction tomorrow.

07.04.14 Cabin 4

07.04.14 Cabin 3

The cabin is a popular holiday destination for honeymooners and those wishing to propose, along with surfers and artists looking for a tranquil coastal retreat, according to the estate agents handling the sale, Countrywide Auction.

The gross rental income for last year was £34,574, with onwards bookings at the time of going to print of £14,332.

The property also enjoys a decked balcony and seating areas, along with well-stocked mature gardens particularly to the side and rear.

07.04.14 Cabin 5


April 7, 2014 at 2:33 PM 1 comment

Can you afford to buy a home?

If you want to buy a home, it may be a good time to step on the housing ladder, suggests the Money Advice Service. Interest rates are at a record low – although they may rise in the future – unemployment is falling and summer is on the way, who could ask for anything more?

Money Advice Service

Traditionally, property’s been seen as a good investment – all you need is to save enough to get a deposit and be able to pay your mortgage, right?

Wrong. New rules require lenders to ensure borrowers can afford to meet their initial and on-going mortgage payments on time, and ensure that borrowers don’t run into financial difficulty running and maintaining their new home. This may sound scary, but need not be.

Time to buy?

The Bank of England Bank Rate is currently 0.5 per cent – a record low, meaning there could be great mortgage deals up for grabs. Of course, borrowers should remember to consider any arrangement or products fees when choosing a mortgage, which when added to the mortgage will mean paying interest on those fees for the entire term of the mortgage. It would make strong financial sense to pay those fees separately if possible to do so.

Right now though, variable mortgage rate deals of around 2 per cent are available to individuals with a good credit record and a 20 per cent deposit to put down towards a property

So far so good, but with the new rules on mortgage lending coming into effect on April 26, borrowers will also assess the impact of foreseeable changes in circumstances, such as if they’re expecting to be made redundant or are planning to start a family.

Interest impact 

According to the Money Advice Service, the average first time buyer is paying 3.4 per cent interest on their mortgage payments – around 3 per cent above the Bank of England Bank Rate. This is good news for many potential homebuyers, yet there is always the chance that interest rates may rise. To safeguard against this, the new rules also assess a borrower’s ability to meet mortgage payments in the event that interest rates rise in the future.

Can you afford to buy?


Question mark in shape of houseMoney Advice Service research suggested one in four new homeowners admits to overstretching themselves financially to get on the housing ladder. When you consider that during the past 18 years, the Bank of England Bank Rate has fluctuated from a high of more than 7 per cent down to its current rate of 0.5 per cent, a stress test against shifts in the interest rate makes sense.

For example, an average first time buyer with a mortgage of £140,800 would be making monthly payment of £749. For these people, a 2 per cent rise would result in an increase of £171 a month on top of their existing mortgage payments.

If you are thinking about buying a home, it’s essential to consider all the key costs. Using a budget planner will help you plan your finances and cope with any unexpected costs.

April 7, 2014 at 1:52 PM Leave a comment

House prices rise at fastest rate

House prices rose at their fastest rate for nearly six-and-a-half years during the first quarter as demand from potential buyers remained strong, figures showed today.

House prices 2

The average cost of a home was 8.7 per cent higher in the three months to the end of March than it had been in the same period of 2013, the highest rate of annual growth since October 2007, according to Halifax.

Stephen Noakes

Stephen Noakes, mortgages director at Halifax

Stephen Noakes, mortgages director at Halifax, said: “Housing demand continues to be supported by an improving economic outlook, growth in employment, rising consumer confidence and low interest rates.”

But on a monthly basis prices dipped slightly, falling by 1.1 per cent during March to leave the average property costing £178,249.

The fall followed particularly strong growth seen during February, when prices jumped by 2.5 per cent.

Halifax also stressed that monthly changes could be volatile.

It added that March’s blip was only the third monthly decline recorded during the past 15 months.

When price changes are looked at on the more reliable quarterly basis, values rose by 2.3 per cent during the three month to the end of March, compared with the previous three months, the biggest quarterly jump since January 2010.

Halifax said prices were being driven up by a combination of strong demand from potential buyers and a lack of supply.

But the group said the imbalance was showing some signs of easing, with the number of new homes that developers started to build in England rising by 24 per cent during 2013 compared with a year earlier.

Mr Noakes added: “The recent strengthening in house prices is increasing the amount of equity that many homeowners have in their home.

“This will potentially encourage and enable more owners to put their property on the market for sale over the coming year, therefore boosting supply and easing pressure on prices.”

Today’s figures come after Nationwide said prices rose for the fifthteenth consecutive month during March, rising by 9.5 per cent on an annual basis.

The recent run of positive data on the housing market has caused fears in some quarters that a bubble could be developing in the market.

But figures from the Bank of England showed that mortgage approvals for house purchase actually fell by 8 per cent during February.

A further short-term dip in mortgage lending is anticipated as lenders get to grips with the new rules under the Mortgage Market Review, which comes into force later this month.

The monthly fall reported by Halifax for March should act to further ease concerns that a runaway market is developing.

Matthew Pointon, property economist at Capital Economics, said: “The stable growth in house prices is consistent with other indicators suggesting that while the housing market is continuing to recover it is not, at least at the national level, accelerating out of control.

“The most likely scenario is for house prices to make further steady gains over the coming year.

“But, at least outside central London, the conditions are not in place for prices to accelerate towards boom-like conditions.”

April 4, 2014 at 12:14 PM Leave a comment

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