Tag Archives: lifestyle

A fireplace with a kettle above it

A fireplace with a kettle above it

Do you have a real fire? At this time of year, you may not want to spend the time or effort lighting it for viewings. Not to mention the mess….. Try this instead: clean out the grate, then fill it with chunky church candles. Light them for viewings, and hey presto: instant lifestyle, warmth and atmosphere.

No mess.


If you’d like my help to sell your home more effectively, please answer a few short questions here and if I think I can help you, I’ll be in touch.

A kitchen with a plain background and a round table and chairs

It was a sweltering hot day in June and I was showing a young couple round a very sweet little flat in Kendal, Cumbria. I was a rookie – only been in the job two weeks working for Barratts and this was a part exchange property I was showing. The flat was owned by a young professional lady who was buying one of our new properties and we needed to sell her flat to make the figures stack up. She’d furnished it beautifully, very contemporary (though it was the 1980s, I should point out, so chintz and apricot was definitely the look of the moment!) and the viewing was going really well. The young couple clearly really liked it and asked if they could look around again, and I waited in the kitchen. They returned, making the right kind of noises, and I thought it was in the bag. Then she opened the integrated fridge, and it all went wrong. It was horrible. The food, if you can call it that, was all mouldy and furry, and the smell was terrible. Not only that, but the fridge clearly hadn’t been cleaned for many months, if not longer, and there were bits of decomposing foodstuffs and nasty stains all over it. For a moment we all stared at it. Then she shut the door, and looked at her boyfriend. He shrugged helplessly. The lady then opened the cooker, to be met by a very similar sight, and finally the microwave. Horrible.

Needless to say, this couple did not put in an offer. She just couldn’t come to terms with the owner’s slovenly habits and you just knew that no matter how much she scrubbed, the memory of what she had seen would linger like a very bad smell. You see, it had tainted her view of the flat, and of the owner, and she just couldn’t separate the two issues.

You may think that what’s inside your fridge is irrelevant when you’re selling your home, but if you have an integrated fridge/freezer, as many of us do these days, I’m afraid it is going to play its part in helping or hindering you to sell. I’m not suggesting you fill your fridge with champagne and caviar, but you could make sure it is spotlessly clean, and fill it with some nice fresh fruit and veg. I promise you, it will make more difference than you or your viewers will know, because it is happening sub-consciously. We don’t make rational, logical decisions when we are buying a house: we choose a new home that “just feels right”, and one of the hundreds and even thousands of clues that we pick up on a viewing, is whether the owner’s lifestyle is something to aspire to, or eschew.

If your home is on the market, go check your fridge. And if it doesn’t look like an advert for Indesit, go to work. Your viewers will notice, I promise.

If you’d like my help to sell your home more effectively, please answer a few short questions here and if I think I can help you, I’ll be in touch.

A sofa, mini wooden cabinet, and a lampshade near the window with outside view

There are many elements that go into making great property photography: the weather, the skill and experience of the photographer, and the features of the house itself – they all go into making or breaking the shoot. But did you know there are lots of things you can do to increase the chances of achieving the best images of your house? You need to ensure the images of your house not only do it justice, but also more importantly, indicate the kind of lifestyle that a buyer can aspire to. Here are some of my suggestions to do just that:

1. Clean and clear – we all know that tv can add inches to a person’s waistline, well property photography can take off inches! Rooms can look cluttered and meanly-proportioned, with dark corners and distracting colours. Clear surfaces and floor spaces, take up rugs where necessary, and clean everything until it sparkles. Light and reflected shine are the best ways to show off the size of your rooms. (Note: your photographer may want to use a very wide-angled lens, but I would caution against this; at best it can give the rooms very odd angles and at worst, mislead a viewer.)

2. Go shopping! Any self-respecting property lover adores seeing inside the homes of the rich and famous, but one of the reasons these houses look so fabulous is that they are staged for the shoot. Steal their style! Shop for staging accessories and give your home the star treatment:


  • Croissants
  • Champagne
  • Fruit – stick to one type per bowl. Strawberries, limes and green apples look great.
  • Rustic board of artisan breads and cheeses
  • Flowers – in keeping with your home style; eg hand-picked posy for a farmhouse, Calla lilies for a contemporary home.

Living rooms:

  • Church candles in fireplaces
  • Flowering plants
  • Lifestyle magazines and coffee table books


  • Fluffy white towels
  • Luxury spa-style toiletries


  • Flowering plant for patio table centre
  • Pretty tealight holders or church candle lantern

3. The better you brief the photographer, the better the images will be! Go round the house making a note of any particularly attractive angles or features, then call him as close as possible to the day he is due, so your requests are fresh in his mind. Suggest he makes notes, or follow up on your conversation by emailing him a summary. Talk to him about the house, and suggest any particular features of interest in the house and garden, that best portray the character and style of the home. Ask him to ensure that in addition to his standard shots, he also takes some ‘lifestyle’ images, eg bowl of fruit, coffee on an outside table, roses in the hallway. Suggest he also tries some ‘vignette’ shots; these are shots framed by a doorway, or in a mirror.

4. Make sure the photographer knows what time of day the sun will be on the front of the house. Think also about evening shots, and when the sun will be on the garden. This may necessitate two separate visits so make sure the photographer has allowed for this.

5. Follow him round! Plump cushions, move chairs, take away any distracting objects, remove bins and washing. Make sure you can see what he’s photographing so you can anticipate any potential for the room not looking its absolute best. Put lamps on, or turn lights off, to keep the ambient light at the right level. A good photographer will really appreciate your help and will guide you throughout.

6. Keep your images seasonal– it’s very telling to see a house advertised in September with daffodils in the garden, or in January with Wisteria in full bloom. Keep your property photography as close as possible to the current season. This often means asking your agent to revisit to refresh your images with new ‘foliage’ shots. At HomeTruths this is something we routinely arrange every three to four months. After all, you may not want your viewer to know how long your house has been for sale – and why give them an excuse to make a low offer?

Some improvements to the images can be made in editing, like putting in a blue sky or taking out a skip! But remember that if you aren’t absolutely delighted with your photography, you can ask for it to be re-taken. Insist on perfection and the viewers will turn up in droves!

If you’d like my help to sell your home more effectively, please answer a few short questions here and if I think I can help you, I’ll be in touch.

A wooden cabinet with a plant beside it, a pot of plant and decorations on top of a wooden table, a hanging furniture on a wall, and a wooden door and floor

I once was asked by a client to help him sell his beautiful 18th Century oak-framed barn in Cheshire. Despite selling a home in the £500,000 plus bracket, my client was still only in his twenties, having been initiated into the very successful family business from an early age. His two passions were motorbikes and partying, and not necessarily in that order. There was evidence of his interests throughout the house, from a fully-blown games room where the dining room should have been, and a full sized wooden motorbike in the middle of the living room. He also had a “chillout” room in place of one of the bedrooms, complete with walls adorned with erotic art. Needless to say, it didn’t go down that well with the family buyers……

I told him there were two possible solutions: one – find a buyer exactly like him. Two – change the house to suit the likely family buyer. As he’d already tried the first strategy for over a year without success, I persuaded him that mine had a higher chance of success. He reluctantly agreed. Out came the motorbike, to be replaced by lovely rustic coffee table; the chillout room was transformed into an elegant guest bedroom and the games room was dismantled, and a large, family-sized oak dining table installed. On the day of the photographer’s visit, I had a last run round the house, hiding unsuitable magazines, tidying away sixteen pairs of trainers, Playboy towels and bedding, and instructing him to put the several crates of empty beer bottles out for the recyling. The fresh flowers, fruit and just-for-show toiletries were placed carefully and the resulting images made all the effort worth it.

We re-launched in the early summer, with an open house, and almost a dozen families turned up to see the barn, including some who had previously viewed and dismissed it. The agent had done a great job of selling the ‘makeover’ and the new glossy brochures were snapped up and ooooed over.

The result? Two offers at the asking price. A contracts race ensued and my client found himself moving out just six weeks later. Last I heard he was opening a pub….. well, he needed somewhere to display his ‘art’.

If you’d like my help to sell your home more effectively, please answer a few short questions here and if I think I can help you, I’ll be in touch.

A garden with wilted plants and trees except for the green grass that lights up the place

Where do your viewings end? After you’ve shown them round the house, do you then take them into the garden? The problem is with doing this, is that as they are already in their garden, possibly in sight of their car, it’s very easy to say goodbye and for them to simply go at that point. What you really want them to do, is to have another look around the house alone, to give them chance to talk to one another in private, and ask their partner, “what do you think?’.

The answer, is to plan the viewing in advance. Decide where you want to start – I’d always advise the best downstairs room in the house, to create the maximum first impact (leave all the doors closed by the way, so they don’t wander into rooms in the ‘wrong’ order) – then plan the tour of the rest of the house in the most natural order. Upstairs, it’s sometimes a good idea to show the bedrooms in reverse order, so not only does the master bedroom feel bigger by comparison, but you also end the house tour on a high note. Then take them out into the garden, but come back in the same door you went out of.  If this is a patio door, you may find you need to ask them to take their shoes off, or leave slip covers by the door, so they don’t trail mud inside on a wet day. Then go back into the best room downstairs, and say “why don’t you go and have a look around again by yourselves”; very few people will refuse this offer, and you could add “I’ll be waiting in the kitchen when you’re done but don’t hurry” so they know they can take their time, and that you won’t be following them round, so they are free to talk in private.

So, avoid the garden close; instead, take control of the viewing, make sure it lasts at least 20 minutes to half an hour and you will have much more chance of your viewers having the time and space to fall in love with your home. Just as you once did.

If you’d like my help to sell your home more effectively, please answer a few short questions here and if I think I can help you, I’ll be in touch.

A hanging heart-shaped on the furniture with pillows inside the bedroom

Julie Stevens of Younique Designs Ltd is a professional Home Stager. 

If you have been trying to sell your home for some months and possibly even had a sale fall through you could find yourself broken hearted, demotivated and lost of all inspiration of what to do next. You may have lost sight of why you wanted to sell in the first place.


My advice to my clients who find themselves in this situation is the following:

  1. Firstly, Reflect back to your decision to sell – was it a half-hearted thought? Maybe you saw the perfect next home for you. Did you think, ‘lets just put it on the market and see what happens’? Was it pressure from family members who think its time you moved into something smaller and more manageable?  Whatever the reasons for your decision were, were you really committed to it?
  2. Reassess where you are now.  What has happened? How has the marketing strategy of your agent been implemented? How many viewings have you had? Have your photographs been refreshed on line? Do you have a brochure that represents your property well? How many price drops have you been through?
  3. Ask yourself afresh why you want to sell. If you have a clear answer on this then you can move forward. Understand what your desires are, how you want to feel when you sell and move into your new home.
  4. Understand that you have to be motivated to action in order to achieve those desired feelings.
  5. Start afresh with new eyes to see the home you have for sale.
  6. Realise that your home is a product to be sold – as such it has to be packaged and marketed in the right way to appeal to the right buyers. It has to stand out from the crowd; it has to have the right features and benefits to meet the aspirations of your potential buyers.
  7. Take the advice of a professional Home Stager to see if your home is presented and packaged in the right way for your target buyers. A Home Stager will understand the aspirations of buyers and know what they want to see when looking for their new home.
  8. Put yourself in your buyer’s shoes – what do you see?
  9. As a buyer yourself for your new home – what do you want to see? How does this differ from what you have to sell?
  10. Write down what you did

If you’d like my help to sell your home more effectively, please answer a few short questions here and if I think I can help you, I’ll be in touch.

A bedroom which is focused on the side table with a lamp on top of it overlooking the window view with a vase of flowers

A bedroom which is focused on the side table with a lamp on top of it overlooking the window view with a vase of flowers

People watching – what a terrific pastime it is! I’m a very visual person, with a background as a professional photographer, so I really enjoyed all the outfits, hairstyles, personalities and characters that Henley Regatta had to offer. Boaters, blazers and wedding-type hats were the order of the day, and some attendees were more creative than others!

What’s today’s lesson then? I suppose it is to be observant! When your viewers arrive, notice what they are wearing, how they carry themselves, and their gestures and try to deduce from their appearance what kind of buyer they are. Are they down-to-earth, jeans and trainers types? Focus on the garden, the garage and the practical elements of your home. If the lady turns up wearing high heels and perfectly groomed, then she will appreciate any touches of luxury and sophistication your home has to offer. Make sure you give her the best chair, and offer her a cup of tea made in a teapot and served in a cup and saucer. These are all little touches, but little touches all add up to become a buying motivation.  Make the effort and see what happens!

If you’d like my help to sell your home more effectively, please answer a few short questions here and if I think I can help you, I’ll be in touch.

An oak bedroom with a wide space reflecting the outside's veiw through a glass window

An oak bedroom with a wide space reflecting the outside's veiw through a glass window

“Didn’t we have a loverly time at the Henley Regatta……”

It was fantastic! I went along with my husband Michael and my baby sister Kathy (the very talented photographer Katherine Ashdown), courtesy of a client of my husband’s. We dressed appropriately, as I hope you’ll agree, and Kathy and I were particularly pleased with our nautical styling! It was amazing to see everyone so beautifully dressed up, and as a lady, much of the enjoyment of my day was in watching all the other ladies, and admiring their gorgeous outfits. My husband was very content to cheer on the rowers as Kathy and I engaged in some serious people-watching. More of that in tomorrow’s blog.

The highlights of our day were:

  1. The delicious catering, absolutely in line with the quality and creativity you would expect from such a prestigious event.
  2. The outfits: some outlandish, some beautifully elegant, but almost all worth looking at!
  3. The shopping: all the best of British shops selling lovely pretty things.
  4. The atmosphere: and the rowing, of course!  Seeing all those young university men competing against each other was a real treat. Just think, they could be competing against each other in the House of Commons in a decade!
  5. The company: I thoroughly enjoyed spending the day with two of my loved ones, but also the other people we met really made the day fun and it was over before we knew it!

So what’s today’s lesson from Henley Regatta? Well, I suggest you look at your home and ask yourself “What are my highlights?” Looking at my five highlights above, can you arrange some visual and sensory treats to wow your potential buyers?  How about homemade cookies, served by you wearing a special outfit, having staged your home with some pretty things, and to create atmosphere, some well-chosen music playing? Then all you have to make sure you do, is to be the best host or hostess, and make your viewers feel like the very special guests they are.

If you’d like my help to sell your home more effectively, please answer a few short questions here and if I think I can help you, I’ll be in touch.