Brace yourself, Kirstie Allsopp wants you to put some work in. ‘Dust! What the hell is wrong with everybody? Just get a duster and dust. Do I have to do classes? Don’t tell me your life is too busy, this is about selling your house, you’re talking about huge amounts of money.’
There’s nobody better to ask for advice if you want to sell your home – now or in the future – and would like to get the best possible price. Allsopp and Phil Spencer, her co-host on Location, Location, Location – the most popular of all television property shows – have been helping people move since 2000. But, as viewers will know, the 46-year-old expert is friendly but brisk and she doesn’t pull punches.
Her tips for what to do before you sell your home – featured exclusively on these pages – are simple yet effective: like cleaning up before people come round to view the property, decluttering, depersonalising and taking a long hard look at what really needs doing. Phil also has key advice on bigger projects that could add thousands to your property’s value.
Dream team: Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer
Kirstie is keen not to over-promise on what’s realistic when selling a house. She says: ‘It’s a percentage game. You have to ask yourself honestly, “Did you overpay in the first place? Is the property still in the good condition it was in when you bought it?”’ She also says: ‘You need to know the state of the market. If the Queen put in bi-fold doors on the back kitchen of Buckingham Palace, would it increase in value by ten per cent? No. But if you take the average family house with a narrow old-style kitchen, sitting room and dining room, classic semi-detached style, and you knock down a wall and put in bi-fold doors and a family kitchen then, yes, it will add ten per cent. I’ve no fear in saying that.’
Be careful to consider the state of the whole house though, if your budget is limited. ‘If something big needs fixing, such as the roof needs replacing, then do it. But let’s say Granny dies and her whole house is just very dated. There’s no point only doing the kitchen. People will say: “Oh yes, a new kitchen but I’m going to rip it out because I’m doing the whole house anyway.” It’ll also show up just how much the other rooms need work. It’s about balance.’
Allsopp may be the daughter of a baronet and live in upmarket Notting Hill – with her partner, property developer Ben Anderson and their two boys Bay and Oscar, aged ten and eight – but she is passionate about the struggle moving home can be, having spent more than two decades speaking to families across Britain, rich and poor, about their own difficulties in doing so. So what else will ensure your home sells – especially as the market slows?
First impressions count, says Kirstie: ‘Sometimes it’s difficult to see what needs doing when you live in a place, so ask a friend. Your agent won’t tell you, because they’re afraid they’ll offend you and you’ll fire them. Chipped tiles, scruffy unfinished DIY jobs, damp and mould. It’s not always necessary to get someone in – there is a lot you can do yourself.
‘But be practical – big jobs, such as rewiring the house, will also mean you need to re-plaster and repaint. You may well not need to get into that.’
Kirstie’s ten home-selling commandments
You’re moving because you’ve outgrown your home but you need to remember how you felt when you moved in. Fall back in love. Think what you want to do to the place – other people will probably want that, too. And follow my ten commandments…
1 DON’T BE GREEDY
Ask the estate agent the ceiling price for your street. Nothing you do – short of adding a Royal baby in your front room – is going to add ten per cent if it’s above the ceiling price.
2 CLEAN UP
Get out the hoover. Don’t use air fresheners. Loads of people, including me, find them really toxic. Smell is important. And here’s a handy tip: just open a window. Fresh air works.
Anything you intend to chuck out when you move, chuck it before it’s even valued. Don’t assume the estate agent has the vision to see through all your clutter.
Signs with little ditties about life, a bright pink bathroom set and a family picture wall might be your thing but you want buyers to see themselves in your home, not you.
5 FIND BALANCE
If the whole place is faded and jaded, then doing up the bathroom alone isn’t going to add value – in fact it’ll make the other rooms look even worse. But do fix things that need fixing…
6 DO THE DIY
Don’t leave half-finished DIY jobs. Take a good look around, or ask a friend. If people view the house when it’s scruffy, you’re literally knocking £5,000 of its value right there.
7 SHOP NOW
A shiny new toaster, nice new towels in the bathroom, a new bedspread… these things add sparkle. Big-ticket items, such as sofas and beds, however, may get damaged in the move.
8 KEEP YOUR COOL
If you’re desperate to sell, don’t let on – even to your agent, who will tell buyers. You don’t want to be in a weak negotiating position.
9 DON’T BLOW IT ON A KITCHEN
It is almost irrelevant how much you spend on your kitchen. A £40,000 kitchen does not automatically add £40,000 to the value of your house. Layout and functionality is key.
10 PLAY YOUR PERCENTAGES
Big families like eat-in kitchens with bi-fold doors opening on to the garden – they can cost from £2,500 but on an average semi or detached house can add about ten per cent to the value.
It can also pay off to look at your lease, if you have a leasehold property. ‘I’m always amazed that people don’t extend their lease before they try to sell. A short lease is very off-putting to a buyer,’ she says.
As for those who want to buy a home right now, her best advice will surprise you: ‘Stop using the b****y internet! Houses are homes, they are physical entities. You can’t go and look at every place, I know that, but people get into this thing of rejecting properties that would really work for them, if they only went and had a look. Pictures are so misleading.’ And because doing up your home, or trying to sell it, gets too stressy, she suggests you take up knitting, or making pottery – anything crafty. Kirstie Allsopp is also a queen of crafts and is hosting three versions of her popular live show The Handmade Fair this summer.
They are at Bowood House in Wiltshire – a three-day even that finishes today – and on the Green at Hampton Court Palace in September. But don’t expect to see her there all the time, though. Kirstie only attends for two days out of the three at Hampton Court and was at Bowood only on Friday. ‘I have a sacred promise to the children,’ she says. ‘If I don’t stick to the promise to keep the weekends free, it all starts to unravel. Monday to Friday I can really be ships-in-the-night with Ben and the children during the school term but they have to know that at the weekends I am there for them.’
She’s still found time to speak to Life, though – so read on to find out Kirstie and Phil’s essential advice tips for improving the value of your home, and making sure it sells. And over the page, Kirstie casts her knowledgable eye over the kind of homes on sale in Britain today…
Phil’s top 10 tips to boost your home value by thousands
1 BUILD UP
When estate agents were asked to specify how they would add value to a home, 41 per cent advised adding an extension of some kind. Mortgage lender GE Money says a loft conversion can add 12.5 per cent to the value of your home. With the average UK home costing £226,906, according to April’s UK House Price Index, that’s £28,363.
2 BUILD OUT
A quality extension that gives you, say, a family room, an extra bedroom or a bigger living room can add 11 per cent (an average of £24,959) to the value of a home.
3 ADD A CONSERVATORY
A good conservatory that seamlessly blends in and offers extra usable space to the ground floor could add 6.7 per cent to the value of your home, which is £15,200 on the average house price. Expect to get your money back at least for a decent conservatory costing £5,000 to £30,000. And for top-of-the-line conservatories, in the right house, you might get ten to 20 per cent more value.
Spread the word: A quality extension can add 11 per cent to the value of a home
4 INVEST IN BATHTIME
Replacing a bathroom is a job most people don’t want to do themselves. While cost can range from £2,000 to £20,000, at the top end of that scale, a smart new bathroom could add as much as £25,000 or more to the value of your home. Even spending a small amount on an update – from £500 upwards – can add at least three per cent to the potential selling price of your home, according to GE Money. To the average UK homeowner, that’s £6,800.
5 DIG DEEP
Digging out a new basement to create a whole extra floor is generally deemed to be a good idea, although there is some debate whether it adds to a property’s value. I think it can, but it depends on where you live and how much the work costs. Expect to pay on average from £200 a square foot to convert something already there and from £250 to £300 a square foot if starting from scratch. Not every house suits a subterranean extension, but an estate agent will tell you the local value of property per square foot. That will help you work out whether the cost justifies the expense.
6 SPLASH OUT ON WARMTH
Central heating almost always more than pays for itself. The cost to install central heating ranges from £1,000 to £3,000 depending on the system you choose, but value added can be as much as £5,000. Double-glazing likewise doesn’t cost a great deal – anything from a few hundred pounds to a few thousand, depending on the size of the task – and it can add £10,000 or more in value.
7 BANK ON GARDENING
Estate agents reckon a garden is one of the best value-adders, swelling value by 20 per cent or more. In cities and large towns, a simple balcony, terrace or patio can augment a home’s value. In the country, buyers tend to expect a property to come with a garden. As with interiors, spend money on the structure of the garden if you can. Buying lots of expensive plants might add less value than working out where a good big feature tree can go, along with a patio and pathways. Installing decking or a patio can add two per cent (£4,538 on the average house price) to a house’s value, says GE Money.
9 GO GREEN
Installing sensible green devices such as solar panels or wood turbines could certainly add value to your home. Research by the Energy Saving Trust shows that a third of those polled said they would be willing to pay more for a home that uses energy from renewable resources, such as wind, solar or hydropower.
10 STAGE A TAKEOVER
If there is a patch of land nearby – big or small – it is always worth doing your research to find out who owns it and see whether you can rent or buy it. There are so many options for how you might use it – including a kitchen garden, an office, a pool, tennis court or a children’s play area – and it will certainly return your investment.
8 STORE THAT BIKE
With more people cycling to stations, work or school these days, secure, waterproof bicycle storage is becoming as important to buyers as parking space or good public transport. A ready-made bike shed costs about £400, and a simple bike rack less than £100.
SPREAD THE WORD: A quality extension can add 11 per cent to the value of a home
Your perfect place – at the right price
No one has exactly the same idea of a dream home – with period, location and space varying according to who is doing the dreaming. Which makes sense, considering the huge variety of housing that we live in.
Some might love the community feeling and historic details found in the terraces that so many of us have as our homes or were brought up in. Others might like the quieter life offered by more suburban houses; some might crave the wide-open spaces of the countryside, while others might prefer more modern houses with eco features.
So, here, Life’s property experts have handpicked a selection of five homes from across the country, all on the market, to give a flavour of the range of housing on offer in Britain. And we have let Kirstie Allsopp loose on them to tell us what she really thinks, and where they each have potential. Because, whether dating back to the 1400s or having been built in the past few years – and whether costing less than £400,000 or £2 million – they all have room for improvement.
Kirstie says: ‘One of these could be your dream home but, as I always say, only if it’s in the right location. If the area you live is where you feel happy, then almost any property there will be the right one. I think what happens is that, sometimes, we look for a home that we feel projects our aspirations. But really, you should just think, “Where do I want to live?” And then go for it…’
SUFFOLK – £775,000
Unique features: Grade II listed, timber-beamed property called the Flying Chariot in the town of Hadleigh; four reception rooms; separate contemporary studio; covered parking area; parts date back to 1400; murals and gargoyles contained within the building.
KIRSTIE SAYS: People are nervous of listed properties because they come with so many regulations, but this is an enchanting house. I love the bay windows. It’s the kind of place I’d love to live when I’m older. In terms of improvements, it is what it is. The vendors have obviously done a lot of work.
Contact: Carter Jonas, carterjonas.co.uk, 01787 844362
SURREY – £2M
5,000 sq ft modern home near South Holmwood in the Surrey Hills; all bedrooms en suite; separate annexe; underfloor heating; extensive gardens; electric gates; floor-to-ceiling windows; internal double garage; price has dropped by more than £500,000 in six months.
KIRSTIE SAYS: Personally, if I was going to live in a big modern house, I’d want to build it myself. This has potential and is in a great area, but seems unfinished, which is probably reflected in the price. It would be amazing to make more of the garden and the terraces. If you gave it some love and invested in it, it could be worth a lot more.
Contact: Grantley, thegrantleygroup.co.uk, 01483 407620
SOMERSET – £675,000
Unique features: Detached house with solar panels in the village of Dinder, near Shepton Mallet; sells electricity to the National Grid; wind turbine and private spring in the garden; walled garden; integral garage and driveway with space for eight cars.
KIRSTIE SAYS: The PVC windows, the rending on the brickwork, the dated curved steps – it’s just begging to be made prettier, hence the good price. There is huge potential to restore it and make it look more in keeping with its rural setting.
Contact: Purple Bricks, purplebricks.co.uk, 0800 810 8008
Grade II* listed country house in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty near Alston; former estate manager’s house included; walled gardens and grounds of approximately 8.8 acres.
KIRSTIE SAYS: A total dream home. I’m a sucker for a good bit of stone and castellation.
It’s probably wildly impractical and miles from anywhere… and you’d need a ride-on mower.
Contact: Jackson-Stops, jackson-stops.co.uk, 01904 625033
Unique features: Early Victorian terrace house in Plymouth with three reception rooms; double-fronted; south-facing front garden; west-facing courtyard patio.
KIRSTIE SAYS: The back garden is small so you would want to make the most of the front garden by giving it more privacy. There is a lot of space inside and, opportunities to do work on the basement and update other rooms.
Contact: Lang Town & Country, langtown andcountry.com, 01752 256000
Kirstie and Phil’s top 10 tips for buying your dream home
1 LEARN TO LOVE AGENTS
Until you can learn to embrace – or at the very least like – estate agents, all the rest of our advice will be only 50 per cent effective. So take half a day off work midweek, dress up in your Sunday best and visit all the agents in the area you want to move to. Prepare business cards with your contacts and an outline of your requirements. Make a list of the most helpful agents, then call them twice a week. Keeping up the relationship is vital.
2 LOOK TO THE FRINGES
If you can’t afford a place in your ideal area, get a map out and examine the what is on the outskirts of that location.
Every good area creates a ripple effect: its boundaries spread.
3 SPOT THE NEXT HIT
If you’re looking to discover if an area really is ‘up-and-coming’, take a walk around. Are there skips, scaffolding and houses being refurbished or renovated? These are signs that others are investing in the area too. However, delicatessens and chic boutiques opening up in a neighbourhood may mean it’s moved ‘up’ and you’ve missed the opportunity.
4 GET REAL
Think about the style of the house you’d like to live in, but make sure you’re not looking for a banana in a hardware store.
If you want a particular type of house or flat, ensure before you start looking that it exists in your key locations.
5 WIN AT AUCTION
Despite what we are led to believe, the countryside is not awash with disused chapels, schools and pubs ripe for conversion. But if you’re determined, you are most likely to find what you are looking for at auction. Be aware, though, you need a survey and a solicitor in place, and you have to pay the deposit on the day – up to 20 per cent – with the rest of the money ready to follow within 28 days.
6 TRY A LEAFLET DROP
We constantly warn of the dangers of being too restrictive in your criteria, but there are times when only you may have decided that only one house or one street will do. If this is the case, carry out a leaflet drop. Keep it short and sweet: ‘If you are thinking of moving in the foreseeable future, please give me a ring.’
7 SPOT AROGUE
If you’re viewing a flat and the building is scruffy, it may indicate a rogue landlord, or freeholders who take no interest in the upkeep. Insist the agent gives you the details of the managing agents and talk to other residents. Do as much research as you can before spending a penny on surveyors’ or lawyers’ fees.
8 LOOK AHEAD
Buy a property with potential to extend and, when your aged parents come to live with you, you won’t need to upsize. If you suspect children might be on the cards, it is worth asking yourself questions such as, ‘Are there good schools nearby?’ or ‘Is a loft apartment on the fourth floor with no lift and a spiral staircase going to work if I find myself pregnant?’
9 LOCATION, LOCATION…
If some of you are thinking ‘I bet Kirstie doesn’t stick to her own advice,’ you would be wrong. She lives in a brute of a building in West London, built post-Second World War. Why? Location. The house leads straight on to a communal garden in one of the nicest streets in London. If it was built in 1870, as were some of the neighbouring properties, it would have been out of Kirstie’s budget.
10 BEFRIEND A BUILDER
If you’re considering making alterations, pay a builder to have a look around, even before the survey. He will be able to give you rough costings for anything you’re thinking of doing. Kirstie takes her partner Ben, a property developer, who can tell her pretty much instantly whether a house is in good nick or not and how much it would cost to do any repairs needed.
© Kirstie Allsopp & Phil Spencer, 2004, 2014
- How To Buy A House, by Kirstie Allsopp & Phil Spencer, is published by Hodder & Stoughton and available as an ebook at £7.99.