First impressions matter when it comes to selling your home for the best price possible: according to estate agent lore it takes just eight seconds for potential buyers to write off a house - or to fall in love with it. As a property owner your home is your biggest investment and if you don't make an effort to enhance your home's 'kerb appeal', you run the risk of squandering that investment and seeing your home languishing on the 'for sale' lists while newly listed properties are snapped up.
That empty crisp packet billowing across the path, that lopsided blind in the window, that weed setting up home next to your doorstep; these are what buyers notice in split seconds and clearly signal a neglected home. And, they'll be thinking, if the seller can't do something small like clean his front door glass, should we be worrying about the big, potential money-pit problems like rising damp or forking out for a new roof?
Not many of us can live in a house with a crunchy gravel drive and a wisteria in bloom (we can dream!), but there are quick and easy ways to make potential buyers feel positive about your home before they've even stepped inside.
Paint your front door
Choose a muted grey, sage or black in matt for instant cool credentials or go for a pop of colour in bright pink or orange gloss. This is a job worth doing properly over a weekend - sand off old lumps and bumps, undercoat and, whatever you do, don't leave paintbrush hairs, drips or spots on the front step. Complete the loved look by fitting new chrome door furniture or reclaimed and polished knobs and knockers.
A bucket of warm soapy water is all it takes to give tired exterior window sills and frames a fresh new look. The same goes for your front door, if the paintwork is already in good nick. And don't forget your front steps.
Wash your windows - inside and out
Try to do this on an overcast day as bright sunlight dries streaks onto windows. Don't bother faffing around with newspapers and vinegar. More clean soapy water and a squeegee works beautifully.
Check your curtains, blinds and nets
Lopsided poles, sun-damaged curtains, broken roller blinds, dusty Venetian blinds. Give them all the once-over and replace or mend. If your net or café curtains are looking a bit dingy, pop them in the washing machine with some whitener.
Announce your house or flat
If you're in a flat, make sure your doorbell is working and labelled cleanly and smartly (no peeling Sellotape!). If you're a house-owner, make sure the number or name is clearly signposted - there's nothing more frustrating for would-be buyers than trying to find the right place. A stylish glass pane etched with your number can be achieved with a steady hand, a stencil and a spray can of white frosted spray paint.
Clear your guttering
It's no one's favourite job but it is oddly satisfying clearing all the old leaves and gunk from your gutters. Sluice with fresh water afterwards. You really don't want to have the house with the moss and buddleia springing up or the leaking downpipe.
Add some greenery
You don't have to be crazy about gardening to make your front space look attractive. A couple of matching ceramic or terracotta pots with box balls and some ivy on either side of the front door are low maintenance and look instantly stylish. Bedding plants are cheap to buy from every garden centre or large DIY store, easy to grow and give an instant colour hit. Just stuff them into a pot or window box - the more the merrier - and water weekly with a tomato feed during the summer.
You can use evergreen climbers to disguise eyesores like the bike shed or lead the eye away from less-than-straight facades. Scented honeysuckle or a rose around the front entrance are immediate winners.
Clear a path
Sweep up leaves and any loose rubbish and dig out any weeds. Patio cleaners can transform dirt-encrusted, weed-lined surfaces back to their original colours - golden stock bricks, York stone paving or just a cleaner concrete. If you've got a gate, give it a wipe down to remove dust and dirt and check it opens easily - WD40 is your friend. Make sure your bins have lids and hide them behind the fence or hedge if you can.
Don't let the next door neighbours lower your 'kerb appeal'
If you've primped and primed your home's exterior, it can be depressing to see next door's outside space filled with brimming bins and unkempt weeds. Don't just moan; hop over and offer to sort it out. It will only take 10 minutes.
Now all you have to do is invite the estate agents round for their (hopefully high) quotes.