Selling a house: preparation, staging and frustration

for saleSo it turns out we are not moving after all.

I knew I shouldn’t have broadcast that we had a buyer – it’s the ultimate jinx!

This is the second buyer that has pulled out. The first pulled out because she was allergic to rapeseed which the farmer sometimes grows in the adjoining fields. The second buyers pulled out because they are divorcing. I can make our house look absolutely beautiful but I can’t do anything about those sorts of factors.

So now we have switched agents and are starting again. It is rather depressing though to look at our house with fresh eyes (for the new agent to take photographs) and realise that all the painting and deep cleaning we did last year looks like it never happened. We need to do it all again and then MOVE OUT if we are ever to have any hope of selling this place.

The agent took photographs of the house: living areas and outside only as that’s all we do, he said, so it was a little embarrassing to see another house come on the market with the same agent (admittedly in a different price bracket) which had a full complement of pictures including all the bedrooms which were beautifully presented with matching cushions and so on.

So now I know why our house hasn’t sold. It’s because we don’t have matching cushions adorning all the beds!

Of course, I’m not thinking that, not really, although I’ve watched enough of the programme Why Your Stinky Cluttered House Won’t Sell to know that all this ‘staging’ to make your house look as though nobody actually lives in it does work and, for the most part, we do do that each time we have a viewing. (Exhausting.) But the bedrooms could do with improvement so I have been and bought some crisp white bed linen, comforters (in an accent color) and some cushions in a different but matching color (see how good I am at this?).

Correspondingly, I fully expect the house to be sold by tomorrow.


Ha! Just as I was about to hit publish on this, the estate agent rang saying could someone come and look around in an hour from now. It’s a sign!

However, given I had to say no – there was no way I could get this place looking presentable in an hour – that may also be a (less than positive) sign.


Although we haven’t quite sold yet, I’m feeling confident. Here’s what we have learnt along the way:

Tips for selling your house

If you want your house to sell for a good price and relatively quickly there are a number of things you can do to make your house attractive to potential buyers:

Preparing your house for sale

1. Declutter and de-personalize – throw out anything you don’t need anymore and put any items you can into self-storage. Remove personal items such as family photographs, certificates or children’s artwork.

2. Fix all the little broken things inside and outside your house – make your house look like it has been well-cared for:

– fix any leaking gutters or broken fencing
– replace any broken floor tiles
– re-caulk around showers and baths
– replace broken window blinds
– clean or replace dirty or worn carpets
– make sure all light bulbs are working

3. Deep-clean your house including all the windows. And then clean your house regularly.

4. Buyers like to open cupboards so make sure your closets look clean and tidy and not too full (throw out or store clothes you don’t need), clean inside your refrigerator, make sure kitchen cupboards are clean and not crammed full of items.

5. Give your house kerb-appeal: mow the grass, invest in some plants to put by the door, give the door a fresh coat of paint or a good clean.

6. If the kitchen is looking worn, consider replacing it or replacing kitchen cupboard doors and old appliances.

7. Paint your walls in neutral colors so prospective purchasers can imagine themselves living there.

8. Arrange furniture to give as much space in a room as possible.

Staging your house

Once the preparation is done, it is a good idea to stage your house for viewing:

1. Use plain bedlinen in bedrooms and accessorize with cushions/pillows and comforters/throws.

2. Use plants, mirrors, lamps, cushions, flowers and other accessories in living areas to make your rooms look more attractive.

3. Accessorize bathrooms with nice lotions, soaps and towels. Close toilet lids and remove trash cans.

4. Tidy everything away, remove evidence of pets if you can and tidy away as many children’s toys as you can. Put away bulky kitchen appliances to leave kitchen worktops looking spacious.

5. Give your house a last-minute clean and open the windows for fresh air.

6. For the viewing make sure your house is warm, the lights are on and everything smells clean and fresh.

If you’re selling/have sold your house, let me know how you got on!

Photo: AKZOPhoto

37 thoughts on “Selling a house: preparation, staging and frustration

  1. Sarah

    We’ve had our house on the market for a little over six months now and are finding we are getting no viewings at all any more, feeling quite despondent about it actually. Thanks for the tips though, I think I need to check that we’re doing everything we can.

  2. Katie

    Oh no, I’m really sorry to hear that your sale is not going ahead. I hope all your improvements (!) mean another quick sale for your now.

    Katie x

  3. justine longford

    We too are selling our house and it, I have to say the most stressful experience I have ever had. Long gone are the days when you see a house, fall in love, put an offer in, sell yours and life is a bed of roses. No it is now a horrible thing to have to go through involving most agents who need a lesson in humanity and i think you are incredibly lucky if your sanity remains in tat by the end of it. Military operation comes in to play before a viewing; fresh ‘yellow’ flowers are put in every room (yellow is supposed to be a selling colour), candles lit, we have shares in Febreeze air freshner and out comes the fruit cake that is now over 6 months old – but still looks convincing (am awaiting when we have to coat in PVA to preserve its shelf life). Then we move out. Dog in tow, out into the pouring rain only to then be told; viewing has been cancelled or the house is too small, house is too big, the garden is to small even though we back on to 20 acres of woodland!! In the meantime we fall in love with properties that come onto the market, sell and yet another missed opportnity. Our estate agent say ‘your house is so sellable’ say no more!!!

    1. Ella

      It sounds like we are having a near-identical experience – it’s no fun, is it?

      I like the fruit cake idea, might have to try that!

      Good luck and hope you sell soon.

  4. liveotherwise

    Ooh, premium comment luv! Is that good then?

    So pleased to hear from you, but wish it was with better news. Really helpful post though I’m pleased that we are planning never to move again as we just wouldn’t manage any of that. Hohum.

    1. Ella

      If we never had to move again either, that would be fine with me 🙂

      I like premium comment luv because it’s a good way of thanking regular commenters – there are a few fly-by visitors as a result too but overall I like the plugin.

  5. Midlife Singlemum

    Good points. When I bought my home I learned 4 things:
    1. It’s not always about squeezing the last hapenny out or everything, sometimes you have to opt to saving your sanity and pay for it.
    2. You will make mistakes and it may cost you. If you lost $200 you have won, only worry if you lost $20,000.
    3. Everyone has advice for you. Listen politely but remember that advice is always subjective and may not be the best advice for you.
    4. I can’t for the life of me remember what number 4 was. If I remember I’ll come back later.
    Good luck Ella!

    1. Ella

      Yes, all good points, I especially like number 3 because house-selling and buying is such an emotional thing that I think there is no advice that fits everyone’s circumstances.

      If you think of number 4, I’ll be glad to hear it!

  6. Ali

    Our house is just about to go on the market. I just read this and ticked off all (yay) except kitchen cupboards which I need to do but…

    Four weeks of hard slogging I am hoping is going to be worth, my house now doesn’t feel like mine but hey that was the point I guess but if it gets a sold sign outside well it will be all worth it. *Holds Breath*

    Good luck with your sale, Ihave got a box of clean towels, tea towel, oven glove, soaps, table runner and duvet covers to make it the house look well not like mine in an instant well….we will see 🙂

  7. Myrtle

    Selling and buying a house is not easy.. We need a help from experts so that at least we know what should we do.. Great help!

  8. Thea

    I’m pretty excited for you. I hope you would be able to sell your house this time. Have you chosen a place where you could transfer in case this buyer will immediately give the down payment? Crossing fingers for your deal.


  9. Emma

    I would not want to be selling a house right now. Sorry!

    Good luck though, it sounds like you are doing everything you can 🙂

    1. Darin Spears

      I had faced such problems, when I was trying to sell my house three years back as we were shifting to a new city, the conditions were slight similar, almost 4 prospective buyers backed out at the last moment. I was little panicky, but my wife told me to hold my never, and the results were great. If you will panic, you will not get what you want.. !

  10. Jeline

    Thanks for the tips you have shared here and I am still hoping that this can still be very effective now..

  11. Emily

    Found your blog looking for tips to sell our house which is, well, not selling. Thanks for the tips, there are things I can try at least to see if they will help but I wish selling a house wasn’t so difficult!

  12. Chris

    I spent 6 months away from my family one time trying to sell our house. I went through many “stagings”. I also filled two storage sheds due to “declutter” activities. A couple of ideas for selling: I think having a list of improvements or upgrades done to your house is a good idea. Buyers will compare your house to others and if you can show a history of maintenance or upgrades it goes a long way when buyers compare other resell properties. If the agent is not providing enough photo support, two choices: 1) get another realtor, 2) take your own pictures and put them on the internet. Give the link to your agent to add to the listing. Finally, smells can help or hurt. My wife would put some cinnamon sticks in a warm pot of water of the stove to give a nice smell to the house. Good luck with the sale.

  13. Jennifer

    Some really great tips! When we had the photographer around taking pictures of our house last year, we took as much as we could out of each room while he took the photo (it was all piled up in the hall!) so that it wasn’t cluttered. Before viewings we also moved things like the pushchairs and larger toys out into the garage. When viewing houses we could definitely tell the ones that had been staged, but it does make such a difference to your first impressions.

    Good luck, and I hope that things happen quickly and smoothly.

  14. Laura

    Great tips, why not do a little feng shui in terms of laying out your rooms, if the buyer is not into that kind of thing they will not notice but if they are then they will connect with you and the room, there is no harm at all in having a connection with a potential buyer and almost tricking them into liking you with some “common” ground. Be ready for a few questions though!

  15. Bernice


    This is just what I needed to read right now, which is probably not what you really want to hear! I even felt just a little bit of glee….

    I am trying to sell too and have also lost two buyers for similarly ridiculous reasons like your buyers. I have a third baby on the way and nowhere to put it.

    If things don’t improve I am thinking eBay!

    Here’s to hoping things start looking up for us soon!

  16. Sara Glove Company

    Great tips on house-staging in order to get it ready for selling. Just wanted to add a suggestion or two: remember the bathrooms! Kitchens and bathrooms, according to real estate brokers, can be the deal-makers or deal-breakers for your house sale. The bathroom(s) need to be sparkling when potential buyers visit. Kitchen too. Thanks for the article and good luck with house selling.

  17. Taff

    We’ve been trying sell our house for 3 years. Numerous viewings and they nearly all liked the house – our problem is a busy road and scruffy neighbors. It proved very hard to sell.

    One couple earlier this year viewed 4 times and had 2 surveys. Then they offered well below the asking price price, but we were so worn out, we accepted. That was 5 months ago. The house is blighted by their fruitless offer (it still stands) & the agents have stopped all viewings, but there’s still no sign of them actually buying it.

    As for us, we’re about to lose our 5th possible house, the last remaining unsold on our shortlist, because we can’t move unless and until the purchase is completed. It’s driving us crazy because we don’t want to be the ones who pull out of the deal, but we don’t want to be homeless either. Rentals and storage and both very expensive and high risk. I do wish there was a maximum time for people to fool around like this. It’s absolutely cruel.

  18. Marie

    One thing I do not see addressed here which I believe it is crucial to some sales.

    All the “how tos” and “helpful hints” will do no good if the owner is an elderly single/widowed person, with a cluttered house and family living far away. He/she is disabled, so cannot put these suggestions into play. Someone needs to address how such a person can accomplish all of the above hints, when he/she is unable to do so and may be financially limited, as well.

    Let’s see how many of you can undertake the task of determining the “how to” for this situation?

  19. Herman

    You’ve shared really great tips. I would like to add on that if there is enough space then you can build a garage or a store to add the value to the property.
    I agree that every thing should be perfect before the visit of customer.This definitely increases the chance of positive response from the customer.
    You have explained each and every step in detail. Cheers buddy..!!!!
    Much appreciated post.


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