There was a time when Spring started later and daffodils and crocuses only stuck their heads out in April when the snow had retreated. I recall walking along The Backs in Cambridge on a carpet of spring bulbs to Church on Easter Day. This year, the flowers risked frostbite by opening almost at the same time as my Christmas stocking!
Spring and the Easter Bank holiday is traditionally the time when the Mr & Mrs Brit heads off to the DIY store and the local A&E is full of over confident masons, plumbers and carpenters. Retailers will be hoping that as well as starting early, their shops and superstores do a brisk trade through until June.
A tough property market is usually a good thing for the DIY stores as homeowners think of ways to improve their property rather than moving. With the cost of moving for many now reaching continental levels of over 6% and prices falling in many places, people often think that they can not only improve their home but also improve the value of their home at the same time.
But what can you do to add value?
Unless you are going to change the market for your property (by adding another bedroom or converting the loft) and appealing to a new pool of possible buyers then the best rule of thumb is to do things that improve the presentation of your home. A clean and tidy house is much more likely to sell than a grubby one. You want buyers to leave imagining themselves living there rather than talking about the ring round the bath. Spend money on a bit of paint rather than on a new bathroom suite.
Don’t spend money on ‘toys’ like a pool or tennis court. There will be some people who will appreciate a new kitchen but most people would rather put their own in than pay for your idea of good taste.
Minor damage like a broken window or a cupboard door should be fixed but don’t bother with a full make over. The Tv programs advice works well in a buoyant market but this is a time to encourage as many buyers as possible to bid not just the richest. You need competition to get the best price.
Cheap ‘green’ improvements are great and should improve the energy rating in your Home Information Pack but don’t be tempted by a wind turbine. Not everyone has a green conscience yet and even fewer are prepared to pay for one.
Tidy the garden but don’t tart it up. You don’t know if your buyer will have kids who want a football pitch or are avid gardeners. Let people see the potential, don’t make them pay for something they don’t want.
Remember that these days the buyer will want to see guarantees for any significant work carried out. Your offer to come back and sort out any problem with your DIY plumbing isn’t the sort of guarantee their lawyer will have in mind.
There’s a fine line between ‘home improvement’ and ‘property development’ – except in what a buyer will pay for. He expects to pay for professional work but not for something that looks like it was done by an amateur. If you have the inclination to pop down to the DIY store this Spring, concentrate on cleaning products, energy efficient light bulbs, some paint for the front door and perhaps a window box or a tub. Remember that first impressions count and leave the difficult stuff to a professional who is going to be paid to do what the purchaser wants. The chances are that like you, they will never get round to fixing the minor problems. They’ll be too busy enjoying their lovely new home and anyway they think that they can always do-it-themselves next Spring!