Sell your home like a Norwegian and make thousands
Harvey Jones did, and sold his property in two days for thousands of pounds more than the original price.
When house hunting, I've always been shocked by the shoddy and often filthy state in which sellers proudly present their biggest asset.
Damp stains and dirty dishes, manky carpets and suspicious odours, blaring TV sets and moulting dogs... and the owner still expects you to fork out hundreds of thousand pounds to take the rathole off their hands. And no, they wouldn't dream of dropping the price.
If I was shocked, this was nothing in comparison to my girlfriend. She's Norwegian, and they do things differently over there.
If you buy a house in the UK you can expect to get taken to the cleaners. We have the smallest homes and the most inflated prices in Europe, and the filth comes free.
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In Norway, the cleaners get taken to the house. Every seller either hires a cleaning company to scrub their property until it is spotless, or spends a week or two (or three) doing it themselves.
So far, so Scandinavian. But it doesn't stop there. They also remove nearly all their furniture, leaving only the odd decorative sofa, dinner table, bed and rug to make the place look stylish and desirable. They declutter every corner and hide it in their loft, garage or parents' house until the property is sold.
Then they add nice little touches, like decorative candles, bowls of fruit, and fresh flowers.
When a friend sold his small £150,000 flat in Oslo, he also paid for the wooden floors to be polished, and replaced every single kitchen unit. Because that's what they do in Norway.
In the UK, we simply open the door.
Pining for the fjords
Now I don't expect us to go to the same extremes. For a start, we're British, and instinctively suspicious of people who try too hard. And to be honest, we're muckier than those squeaky clean Scandis.
The Norwegian property market also works differently, with people attending at special pre-arranged mass viewings, whereas UK buyers turn up willy-nilly, often over several weeks or months until the property is sold. Living in a show home for such a long time isn't easy.
But next time you sell, give it a go. We applied Norwegian methods when selling our three-bedroom terrace in Lewisham, south-east London, and it worked a treat.
Made in Norway
Or rather, Ingrid (my girlfriend) worked a treat. I watched amazed as she boxed our belongings and shoved them into the shed. I muttered something about the rainforest when she came home laden with multi-packs of kitchen roll. And I fled the house when she unleashed her arsenal of cleaning products.
We painted the more eccentrically-coloured rooms magnolia, replaced the kitchen sink and worktops, and installed some spotlighting. The makeover cost us £500.
Our house looked like a show home when the estate agent returned to give us his final valuation, and he upped the price by £7,000.
I quite liked living in a showhome, but we didn't do it for long. We sold on day two, to the second couple who walked through the door, for a little below our new asking price.
True, this was before the credit crunch, when buyers were easier to find, but the principle is even more important now.
Oil, gas and cleanliness
Apart from gas, oil and the occasional girlfriend, we don't import much from Norway, but we could certainly import their way of marketing homes. Presentation matters, even in the scruffy old UK.
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A clean and tidy home can add £5,000 or £10,000 to the price, according to new research from Domestos. Estate agents reported that clean properties are guaranteed to sell more quickly, and for their asking price.
Bad smells, filthy bathrooms and messy kitchens with dirty dishes in the sink will all persuade buyers to drop their offers, or flee in disgust.
At the very least you should bleach the toilet, wash the windows, descale the bath and get the duster out.
Yes, I did say descale the bath. If you're expecting someone to hand over a six-figure sum for your property, the least you can do is scrub off the unsightly brown stains in your sink and tub.
- Watch this video: Cut the cost of your mortgage!
There's some hope for us
The message is apparently getting through. Three-quarters of sellers now give their home a thorough tidy before showing it to buyers, with one in four spending up to three days giving the house a good clean.
One in two spend up to £1,000 sprucing up their home, typically on a kitchen, sitting room or bathroom makeover. We're still a long way behind those clean living Norwegians, but it's a start.
The best way to sell your home
If you want some more tips on selling your home, check out this guide: How to sell your home. Then, why not have a wander over to Q&A and ask other lovemoney.com members for hints and tips about what worked best for them?
This is a lovemoney.com classic article, originally published in September 2009 and updated.
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