The Seven Deadly Sins of Selling Your House

Three years ago I sold my first home, bought my second and learned a few valuable lessons along the way. My first purchase in 2009 was a straightforward, textbook process. The second time around I found myself in uncomfortable new situations I wasn‚Äôt prepared for. I’ll be honest, I was a bit naive and I paid the price. I hope my experience of selling my home can help others, so I’ve pulled together a few thoughts.

Channeling a bit of Buzzfeed, I’ve given this a theme. Who doesn’t love a good post that’s been shoehorned in to a barely relevant grouping? I know I do!

Since selling a home can be hell, here are my Seven Deadly Sins of¬†selling a house…


Your tastes are unique.

I’m sure your house is lovely. However, chances are your¬†taste is probably not the same as anyone else. People have to be able to see themselves living in your home, and not everyone has the ability to see past your unique personal touches. I say ‘unique’, I mean ‘completely bizarre’ obviously.

When I was preparing my home for sale, I returned all the walls to a neutral colour. We had a bright orange bedroom wall (don’t ask, I still have nightmares) that we repainted white. It opened up the whole room and made it look so much bigger.

Surely it’s common sense. A shocking pink bedroom might have been perfect for your little girl, but the family with four blue-loving boys may¬†subconsciously dismiss your home as too much hassle. If you’ve ever watched one of those TV shows where a professional helps you sell your home, that’s normally the first thing they do.

TIP: Return your home to a neutral palette so people don’t have to work too hard to imagine living in your home.


Your time will come.

Try not to be disheartened if¬†the neighbour’s house sells before you. It’s all about timing. You never know the circumstances of their sale,¬†so don’t feel envious when you see the ‘SOLD’ sticker going up.

Who am I kidding? I was obsessed with how¬†my neighbour’s houses were doing, especially before I put my own up for sale.¬†Rightmove¬†offer¬†an email alert service which will notify you of¬†any new or changed listings in a selected¬†area. If you save a property, you can also track any¬†other changes, including Sold STC (subject to completion), reduced asking price, or¬†taken off the market completely.

Though it seems a bit obsessive, it’s also a really handy way of keeping an eye on the overall market. If a similar property in a neighbouring area dropped their price or came back on the market after being STC, I would know we were in for a longer wait. I could see¬†trends emerging in my area and adjust my expectations.

TIP: Set up email alerts to keep an eye on what’s happening in your local area.


Your time will be wasted.

You’re going to get a lot of tyre kickers if you don’t screen viewers properly. We asked our¬†estate agent to make sure people who visited¬†the house were legitimate viewers, as we’d heard horror stories from friends. You would be surprised at how many people enquire without being in the position to buy. Some people see it as a day out and lots of people¬†just want a classic snoop¬†around the place.

Even with screening, you won’t always get an offer from every¬†person that enters your house. Not everyone will love your home, so try not to¬†get pissed off even if you think “this is it”!

Treat it as a learning experience and make the most of it. It’s like a ‘high risk’¬†experiment. If you have a particularly good (aka pushy) agent, get them to find¬†out what the viewer liked and didn’t like about your house. Most times they will be polite and say it’s just not for them, but you might get lucky and receive an honest answer.¬†If you do get good feedback, adjust¬†your plan accordingly. You never know, the smell from that¬†dead rat under your coffee table may have put someone off after all…

TIP: If you’re going with an estate agent, make sure they can weed out time wasters and get them to collect feedback from viewers on what they liked and (most importantly) didn’t like.


You have to make an effort.

Make sure the place is looking good, especially for the listing photographs. In my obsessive viewing of every property that comes on the market, I’ve noticed that the houses that stay on longest normally have the worst photographs. It doesn’t technically mean that the key to selling your house is in fancy photography, but I imagine there’s something to be said about a first impression…

Let’s be blunt¬†here. It takes two minutes to pull all the rubbish out of the shot and show the room in its best light, yet most people can’t be bothered.¬†Nobody wants to see¬†that¬†empty toilet roll on the bathroom floor next to a pile of magazines. Hide all your kids toys¬†and get rid of that extra chair you’ve shoehorned into your awkward shaped living room.¬†Nobody has to see what’s behind the camera, it’s the finished photo you’re after.

Buyers need to be spoon fed the home‚Äôs potential. That’s what you’re trying to convey – what it could be, not¬†how you currently live in it. Try to take a step back and imagine each room from a viewers perspective. It can be hard when you’re so used to the place, but taking the time to see things through fresh eyes can really help.

TIP:¬†Take a walk around your house and imagine you’re a brand new viewer. Make sure the photos convey the potential of the house, rather than how you actually live in it.


You can’t cut corners.

Spend money on the best services that you can afford, especially solicitors/lawyers. Using cheap legal representation might be adequate if everything is straightforward and textbook, but if something unexpected happens you will need someone who knows what they’re doing.

I know this first hand. I stupidly went down the cheap and cheerful route when selling my house. The resulting mess caused a lot of stress, not to mention a crash course in conveyancing law. When things started to go sour after the contract was signed, we needed someone who understood what was happening and what our rights were. The solicitor we used was no help at all, like a chair in a suit. We had to do it ourselves with the help of some friends which cost us a lot of time, sleep, wine and grey hair. I don’t recommend it. Well, maybe the wine…

Think of it as insurance – you pay the premium and hope you don’t need it.

TIP:¬†Get yourself the best legal representation you can afford. It’s always worth it.


You should be realistic.

The official valuation of your home isn’t always what you get in your pocket. The real value of your property is only what people are willing to pay. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less. Pick a number you’re comfortable accepting and go with it. Unfortunately we live in the real world, and unless you live in a crazy property hotspot, you’ll need to be realistic if you want to sell.

Hanging out for that extra few quid can put you in to house-selling-purgatory. There are houses in my area still available from 2012. It’s five years later and the price hasn‚Äôt budged an inch – neither have the occupants. Imagine five years of scrambling to tidy the place for viewers? I‚Äôd rather sell at a realistic price and move on to my new home than be stuck in ground-house-hog day for years.

It’s about more than just the book price of your home. Think about the effort and time it takes to go through the house selling process, and include that in your valuation. How much value do you put on your time and convenience?

TIP:¬†Decide on a number you would be comfortable selling at and don’t get too hung up on the book value.


You can’t fall in love.

Try not to¬†fall in love with another house before you’ve sold, or are at least close to selling yours. It puts you in a very weak position and can give you serious stress.

I know, I know. It’s not easy.¬†I didn’t follow my own advice on this one, and ended up in a horrible position where I was being pressured from both sides. I stupidly fell in love with a new house and as a result I had a lot more to lose from the selling process, which the buyers used to their advantage.

TIP: Keep your eyes averted and try not to look at other houses until you’re sure of an offer. Perhaps even rent for a while so you’re out of the chain altogether.

There you have it: my seven deadly sins and tips to selling your house. Even if you’re guilty of all seven, chances are you’ll be ok. I’m writing this from my new home and survived to tell the tale.


Driving Home For Christmas

Ever heard the¬†theory that Chris Rea’s ‘Driving Home for Christmas’ is actually about an obsessive husband who has finally tracked down his estranged family in hiding? You’ll never hear it the same way again.

I’m driving home for Christmas
Oh, I can’t wait to see those faces
I’m driving home for Christmas, yea
Well I’m moving down that line
And it’s been so long
But I will be there

Eh… Merry¬†Christmas?

Project: Ombre Flower Clutch

I’ve been on the search for an ombre bag for a few months now.¬†I searched everywhere but couldn’t find what I was looking for. There was a very clear picture in my head of what I wanted: embellished, feminine, not too dainty. Anything¬†I found online just wasn’t right. Wrong colour, wrong fabric, too big, too small…

What do you do when you can’t find it?¬†Sew¬†it yourself!¬†So I did:


I love it.

Here’s how I made it…

Continue reading Project: Ombre Flower Clutch

First Dress: Bodice Mockup

I¬†read¬†that it is¬†helpful to make a¬†toile¬†(also referred to as a muslin)¬†before¬†starting your¬†actual garment. You essentially create¬†a¬†mockup in cheap fabric before you commit to the good stuff. It’s supposed to reduce waste of¬†your precious¬†fabric and, if you do it right, give you a¬†better fit.

Some people rely on finished measurements supplied with a pattern and skip the toile altogether, but I decided to take the extra step. I really struggle with standard bust measurements in shops, so I liked the idea of being able to see how it fit before I made the commitment.

Continue reading First Dress: Bodice Mockup

First Dress: The Fabric

I could have been a responsible adult¬†and¬†used something from¬†the many piles¬†of fabric in my house,¬†but I just couldn’t help myself getting something new. It’s my first dress, after all!¬†If you can’t treat yourself to new fabric under those circumstances…

Continue reading First Dress: The Fabric

First Dress: Pattern Pieces

I’ve never used a predefined pattern before, especially one with so many different markings. Thankfully, the McCalls pattern (variation D) was quite straightforward and had just six pieces to cut out.

Neither you or I could have predicted a time-lapse video of me dumbly tracing shapes would exist, but here it is. I’d say sorry, but I had to sit through it!

First Dress Project: Pattern Pieces from Narelle Gibbons on Vimeo.

Continue reading First Dress: Pattern Pieces

New Hobby Alert

My hobby is essentially collecting hobbies. In the last two years I’ve done handbag design,¬†watercolour painting, sewing, wooden furniture, crochet, singing, knitting, baking, needlepoint, short stories…. I’ve lost count.

I think it stems from my obsession with being handy if¬†a Zombie Apocalypse comes. Web development isn’t exactly going to be the most sought after skill, unless you’re talking Matrix style Apocalypse. I could roll programming and knitting into one really cool offering there. I’d fix so many holey jumpers in Zion, the rave scene would look like a GAP advert.

Continue reading New Hobby Alert

Digitally Naive

I¬†have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. It’s full of absolute rubbish, but I like to keep an eye on¬†how my family and friends are doing. From time to time I find myself angry as I scroll through my timeline. Like today, when one of¬†my relatives liked and shared this post:

Oh come on. Seriously? That’s a photograph? Of the Pope and Mary? Really? REALLY?

It was then, as I hunched over my phone scrolling through hundreds of comments to find at least one other person who thought it was hilariously fake, I realised why it had angered me.

Facebook is a place where intelligent yet¬†digitally naive are exposed to a world they don’t really understand.¬†It’s hard to watch. I think I’ll take a break from it for a while.


Spoiling the Makeup Magic

I don’t normally wear makeup to work, mostly because my lazy priorities lie in getting that extra time¬†in bed. I’ve never been a morning person, and flip between jealousy and annoyance at those who have themselves together before 8am.

Sometimes I try to pretend I’m an organised morning person and take advantage of a quiet train to put some¬†makeup on: coverup, mascara, blusher. To ‘frame the face’, as Jeremy Renner recommends. Nothing crazy that requires two sponges, a paint brush and the the support of the entire Kardashian family¬†– less than a two minute job normally. And never on a packed train.

The reactions of fellow passengers can vary. Most people don’t care or aren’t conscious enough to notice. Some other women take it as a¬†cue to pull out their own makeup. Then you get the odd man, normally in his 20s-30s, who can’t seem to handle it.

They look over constantly and seem to get very uncomfortable. I’ve even had a few tut their disapproval (this morning, for example – hence the blog post).

I’m petty sure I understand why.

They don’t want to know how sausage is made.

By sausage, I mean my face.

By my face, I mean the thin cover of lies that pretends I’ve got actual colour in my cheeks and eyebrows that don’t have gaps like a morse code training book.

It’s like that time I watched a YouTube video of how caviar is made. I knew roughly what it was made of, but seeing it actually happen up close… not cool.

It spoils the magic. I guess that makes us the Penn and Teller of the makeup world.

The Perfect Puppy

I’ve been a dog owner for over a year now and I love it. It feels¬†natural to look after the tiny, fluffy, living creature that I essentially keep captive in my house, but it wasn’t something¬†that came easy. I was really¬†worried –¬†I had no¬†previous knowledge of keeping or training a dog. Growing up, my family were more goldfish people!

As I like to do with any new project,¬†I spent weeks researching what I’m supposed to buy, prepare, and expect. I think it’s fair to say that there is a¬†lot¬†of information out there, and everyone has an opinion. It was pretty overwhelming, so¬†I ended up going back to basics and looked for a book.

After reading a ridiculous number of book reviews, I settled on the number one book for Dogs on Amazon (with 300 x 5 star reviews): The Perfect Puppy by Gwen Bailey.

It took me a couple of days to read it cover to cover, but I came out of it with so much knowledge and confidence in what was to come. The main questions I had were:

  • What should I expect on the first night?
  • What happens if he tries to go to the toilet in the middle of the living room floor?
  • When do I feed him?
  • How do I teach him what’s right and wrong?
  • When can I take him for a walk?

The book covered everything I wanted to know and more. One of my favourite sections was the suggested routine, something I was quite worried about:

The Perfect Puppy

I didn’t go for the exact routine they laid out, but just knowing¬†what was needed (a LOT of pee breaks) really helped.

I won’t¬†go¬†through the book page by page, but if you have a puppy and are looking for something simple to read to get you started, this is it. It breaks down all the training into easy chunks, and answers the stupid questions you’re afraid to ask.

Among the many things I took away from this book, two things stood out for me:

  • It’s all about patience. Just keep at it and your puppy will get it eventually.
  • Never punish, only praise. Dogs don’t understand why you’re shouting, so there’s no point.

A year down the line, this still holds true.

The book is also bursting with cute puppy pictures. This was my favourite, his little face is adorable!