The many and various ways I pass the time now has a new addition. Usually it involves drinking coffee whilst sitting at a computer keeping in touch with chums, or sipping wine sitting on our tiny terrace catching the sun, and wondering what else I can do to avoid any cleaning or tidying or putting away of stuff and things that aren't even MINE. And now I am going to type this blog. Provided that doesn't become a chore as well, in which case...

Sunday, 26 February 2012

A Sprat to Catch a Mackerel

After years of being a devoted follower of The House Doctor (and not just in the days when the divine Alistair Appleton fronted it) I am finally getting the chance to put into action some of what The Blessed Ann Maurice preached on Channel 4 when she was doyenne of property programmes, before being usurped by The Right Honourable Kirstie Allsopp.  In Ms Maurice's view if it didn't initially prove enticing to buyers, to get your house off the estate agent's books without a big price drop one might need to be prepared to spend around 1% of the asking price on de-cluttering, modernising, refreshing and de-personalising a property so that even a viewer who is totally blind in their mind's eye can imagine himself living in it and plan where his furniture will go to the extent of making an offer. 

Having also sold Our Ma's house in the same area of town less than a year ago I know from the estate agent we used then, and will use again, the first fortnight of marketing is key, when one usually gets the by far the most viewers and interest.  In addition to this, the second quarter of the year is usually the one in which most domestic property is sold.  So April is when we intend to put the house on the market, and we will have house-doctored it before we even start, to miss out (one hopes) any lengthy nail-biting stage when a house is for sale but receiving no sensible offers.  

This is particularly important for us, as The Husband will have to carry on paying the mortgage on it even after he has no earned income, which would eat chunks out of his redundancy pay - eeek!  Not a situation we want to see carry on for long.

The sprat to catch a mackerel of my title is how I choose to think of a house-doctoring process.  And being Lancashire born-and-bred 1% is far too big a sprat for me.  Northern canniness, an eye for a bargain, a liking for the secondhand (inveterate eBay and charity shopping) and a willingness to expend some effort (which is 100% free, after all) leads me to think I can manage it for no more than £50-£100 per room in a four-bed house. 

Absolutely top-whack.  Even £100 on every single room would be 0.4%. And I won't be spending that much, I promise you!

It seems wise to concentrate our resources, both of money and energy, on the Big Four Rooms; Kitchen and Bathroom (C21st obsessions) and Sitting Room and Main Bedroom.  There is also the House Doctor's "curb appeal" which will need to be assessed and adjusted as necessary, and the back garden needs to look its best and most aspirational (which it can - in May and June in particular, it is usually very lovely indeed).

I've had house-doctoring in the back of my mind for years as we have always intended to sell this house when The Husband retired and move full-time to our smaller house in Wales.  So any alterations or redecorating I have done has been in her recommended muted "natural" palate of soft earthy colours, mostly light browns, cream, stone or pale yellow, with sparing use of accent colours.  On the ground floor the accent is a fresh grass green, to tie in with the gardens as seen through the windows and patio doors. Upstairs the accent colours are shades of blue or green, as seen here in the bathroom

 I do realise there are too many toiletries out - I will thin the articles further before marketing the house

Happily for us Sitting Room and Kitchen need no more than a good clear-out, spring clean and carpet-shampoo (we own a Vax, so there's no hiring outlay) having been re-decorated quite recently, only last autumn in the case of the former.  I need to get the kitchen looking smart with a freshen up and deep clean, re-grouting the tiles back to their pristine condition (below) and removal of a lot of the equipment we have out; even this is too much

Other rooms need more work to bring them up to scratch.  The study/fourth bedroom is presently lilac and silver, and that will have to change.  Lilac was fashionable around the time of the millennium, but is much less so now.  There is also a "red flag" in that room, a narrow crack in the painted wallpaper where there has been expansion in the gap between the brick chimney coming up from the sitting room below and the stud wall abutting it. That isn't as bad as a patch of the dreaded damp, but nevertheless NO RED FLAGS ALLOWED!  That wall will need to be stripped and re-papered, so I may as well repaint the whole room and have done with it.

I made a start on all this on St Valentine's Day, of all days - so romantic - by embarking on the sprucing up the main bedroom (I refuse to call it anything so Edwardian - nay, Feudal - as the Master Bedroom - as no-one who knows me would be surprised).  In any case we have three double bedrooms of roughly the same square footage, so it isn't a stand-out room but for the fact it is the only one with extensive fitted clothes storage.  And we sleep in it, all three of us, The Husband, myself and The Dog (note to self, ensure their is no "off-putting doggie-odour", a bĂȘte noire of The House Doctor, although we may need a kind visitor to sniff that out as we will have long-ago been habituated to it).  Ten days later this room is now pretty much done, just a little more painting needed and the new curtains (50% off in the Sales, of course) to be properly hung.  At present they are pinned up at the window so we can use the room over the weekend whilst we have a visitor in the main guest room.

I know this darling shade of duck egg blue isn't the bland magnolia that most people seem to think is the least objectionable colour to the largest number of people, but the decor has to tone with the light grey cupboards and wardrobes.  Magnolia would have been bland to the point of unappealing with grey units and white woodwork, I feel.  And anyhow, just LOOK how cute The Dog looks in his new quarters! 

Not relevant when we are selling up and moving on, I know, and very much anathema to Ann Maurice, who in her sterner moments has threatened to ban particularly large smelly dogs to an outhouse or kennels until a house is sold, but we aren't actually going to be in the house once the keys are handed over to the estate agent, except for a visit every couple of weeks to touch base with Our Ma in her Bide-a-Wee Home for the Bewildered.  We are leaving it as near immaculate as we can muster, then packing up the ol' jalopey and heading for them there (Welsh) hills, so the pets don't shower the place with hairs and feathers and the humans don't mess it all up in the process of having a life...