Finding Your First Home

Looking for your first home is very exciting – so how do you start your search while being practical? Here are some things to help you focus your search and stay on track.

TOP TIP: Keep an open mind. No matter how clear and defined your list of requirements is, compromising is often required when house hunting.

The location

Ask yourself a set of important questions to help you clarify your needs. This list isn’t exhaustive, but it will get you started:

  • How far are you prepared to travel to work?
  • Are there good transport links?
  • Should you be looking for an area which is close to good schools, play areas and a safe community?
  • Is there enough entertainment nearby, such as a cinema or theatre?
  • How far away are the shops? Can you pop out for milk if needed?
  • Is there a high level of crime in the area?
  • Does it feel like a safe area at night?
  • What is the neighbourhood like, is there a strong sense of community?
  • Are there lots of rented properties nearby with temporary neighbours or students?
  • How annoyed would you be living on a busy road? Could you get used to it over time?
  • Are there any plans to develop the area, such as new transport links or big housing developments?

The property

Ask yourself what you are looking for:

  • Do you need a house or could you live in a flat?
  • How much storage do you need?
  • Do you need two bedrooms, or would just like two bedrooms?
  • How important is outside space? Could you maintain a large garden? How much would you use the outdoor space?
  • Where will you be able to park your car? Is there a drive or will you be fighting for a space on the road every day? Will you need a permit to park nearby?
  • What is the council tax like, can you afford it?
  • Could you live with the décor for a few months until you can afford to improve it?
  • Is the bathroom functional, can you replace it a few months down the line when your funds are replenished?
  • Could you knock a wall down to make a bigger space? Could you add an extension to accommodate the living space you need?
  • Does it have the potential to be the right home, even though it may not be at the moment?

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Sale Ready in Eight Easy Steps

1. First Impressions Count

But contrary to popular belief, that “first impression” isn’t when a potential buyer walks through the door. It’s way before that, when a potential buyer looks at the photographs of your house.

So make sure your home is at its very best for the estate agent’s photographer, inside and out. And, of course, then you have to keep the standards up when that potential buyer does eventually walk through the door…

2. Make the Outside Look Great

People do judge a book by its cover, so make sure your “cover” is a shiny, coffee table hardback, not a worn old paperback.

Spend time tidying up the garden with simple things like mowing the lawn and weeding. Plant flowers if things look bare, and put stuff into those tubs – you know, the ones that someone bought you for Christmas three years ago, but you never got round to using.

As for the house itself, make sure everything is new and fresh and recently painted. “Kerb appeal” counts.

3. Declutter

No one wants to look at a house where the owner has clearly said “you’ll have to take us as you find us”.

So get rid of all the clutter that’s found its way on to every surface (and all over the floor).  Put the small stuff – from your kids’ scattered Lego to the slightly, erm… ‘individual’ teddy bear collection – into storage. Move some of the bulky stuff too, if it makes the room look cramped.

And consider actually replacing items. If the huge table from granny actually only just fits in the dining room, consider getting a smaller table that does fit, and makes the room look bigger.

Remember, the average UK house price is about £205,000. You can get a decent table for £205.

4. Start Painting

Get someone you trust to walk round your house, and tell you what needs re-painting. You might be surprised.

They’ll point out not just the faded spare room which you knew needed doing, but the vibrant purple living room wall which you only did last year but which, frankly, isn’t to everyone’s taste.

With everything newly-painted and undramatic, your potential buyers can see much more easily how they could live in your house. They might even say – and this is the clincher – “we could actually just move in as it is”.


5. Get Cleaning

It may seem obvious, but it’s hopeless to tell your potential buyer “oh, we’ve been meaning to do that, but we never got round to it”.

Get round to it. Now. If there’s a cupboard door hanging off or even a tap that’s dripping – get it repaired. If the grouting in your shower has gone black or the carpet in the dining room is threadbare – get it replaced.  And clean everything.

You might also want to think about removing all traces of your pet. Some people are allergic to cats.  Some people are scared of boisterous dogs.

Remember, you’re part of a sales team now. Make sure what your selling is buyer-friendly and up to scratch.


6. Make Each Room Work

Imagine your house is an album, and each room is a track on the album. It’s your job to make sure your house/album is all killer, no filler. Make each room sing.

Has the spare bedroom become a dumping ground? Then that’s your “dodgy track”. Make sure you ditch the collections of children’s books and camping equipment, and turn it back into a room that someone can actually sleep in.

Are the kitchen surfaces covered with food items, from cereal boxes to your extensive – and little used – herb and spice collection?  Then for goodness sake, stash it all away.

Buyers – who look round an average of eight homes before buying one – are looking for reasons not to buy your home. One bad room can kill the mood.


7. Use Your Senses

Does your house feel too cold?  Don’t say “we always wear jumpers”, turn the heating up.

Does your house look light and airy? Clean the windows, replace any broken light bulbs, consider more powerful lighting, use wall mirrors to make everything look bigger and brighter.

Does your house… well… smell? A bad smell, or even a not-that-bad cooking smell, is considered a real turn-off for buyers. So fix the source, whether it’s a drain or a bin, open the windows, clean everywhere and don’t dismiss the old freshly-brewed coffee trick.


8. Be a Salesperson

Think like a salesperson, and you won’t go far wrong.

From the moment you contact your first estate agent, to the moment the happy purchaser offers you the full asking price (it’s not luck, it’s preparation), you’re a key figure in a deal worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.

So think like one, and act like one.

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Little Otters Launch Event

You are warmly invited to the Little Otters Launch Event showcasing this exciting new development.

This exclusive event is taking place on Saturday 3rd November, 10am – 12noon. For more details please contact our Ottery office – 01404 514982.



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Smells and Selling Your Home

What kind of smells can help sell your home?

While it may be common to fill a house with the smell of fresh baked cookies prior to an open house, doing so can actually hurt your cause.

Every house smells like something. We all know that no matter how scent-free our homes seem to us, someone else can walk in and instantly pick up on last night’s sautéed fish or the garlic that went into Wednesday’s spaghetti. Maybe the recycling needs to go out, or litter box odour lingers no matter how often the pan is changed. There’s always something. Even the fragrance products you buy might strike a guest as stinky.

Those odours are all fine if they’re fine by you, but they are not smells that can help sell your home. For that, we’re looking for light, clean and neutral.

First off, neutralizing a home’s air does not mean spraying a product that claims to neutralize or freshen. Scented sprays mask odors and often create the unpleasant effect of, for example, cheap artificial gardenia perfume layered over old cooking grease. Neutral means clean, as in nearly without smell.

Things that are clean smell clean

The deep house cleaning that prepares a home for sale is also going to improve its scent profile. However, be careful that your efforts do not leave the house reeking of ammonia, bleach or any strongly scented cleaner. Using well-chosen products, you’ll freshen up the air when you:


  • Wash all bed covers and wash or dry-clean curtains.
  • Have the carpet cleaned or, if necessary, replaced.
  • Mop hard-surface floors with a lightly scented or unscented cleaner.
  • Scrub the bathrooms top to bottom, again being careful to use lightly scented cleaners and time to allow time for the room to air out.
  • Store old shoes in plastic boxes with lids.
  • Wash pet bedding.
  • If possible, move pet paraphernalia and litter boxes to a garage or otherwise away from main living areas.

Research shows complex smells may not sell.

Scientists at Oxford University have spent years studying the effect of smell on buyer behaviour. Research suggests complex scents — such as the intermingled chocolate and vanilla of fresh-baked chocolate-chip cookies — are distracting. They simply make our brains work too hard trying to figure them out. The simpler the smell, the more likely someone is to make a purchase. While our homes aren’t retail stores, home buyers are buyers, and their behaviour can be affected by smells.

So what smells can help sell your home?

What are these simple selling scents? Professionals offer some suggestions. If you want to use scent to help sell your home, try deploying a hint of a single-note organic one such as:

  • Orange
  • Lemon
  • Pine
  • Basil
  • Cedar
  • Vanilla
  • Cinnamon

And if you’re intent on baking, skip the chocolate chips or anything gourmet in favour of a simply scented cinnamon bun.

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Macmillan Coffee Morning

Come and join Friday 28th September 10am – 2pm in our Ottery St Mary office, as we join forces with Macmillan Cancer Support and host a Coffee Morning. Lots of lovely homemade cakes and biscuits for you to enjoy.

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