Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Smell the coffee

It doesn't take a genius to know that olfactory factor is vital in selling houses. No one wants a house that stinks.
In fact, bad smells top the charts of undesirable features, beating even misted aluminium double glazing, toilet carpets, and, yes, even partially-melted polystyrene ceiling tiles.
At the moment we have a rather unusual zoo fragrance emanating from our living room. Not a big zoo, you understand, not London, or Whipsnade. Perhaps more of a petting zoo, or if you're not downwind, the small animal section of a garden centre.
Because in a box in the corner of the room are nine lovely 11-day-old puppies. And though the box is regularly changed, and pups kept clean, I can see the look on visitors' faces as the doggy smell hits them when they walk into the hall.
It's a perennial problem for estate agents; the house is in a good location, the pics look great, the viewers swarm (well, OK, at the moment a few buzz past). But as they step over the very promising threshold the stench of smoke/cat pee/socks hits them, and they spend more time considering the guttering from the back garden than imagining themselves entertaining the boss in the open-plan kitchen.
There are solutions, apart from the obvious one of cleaning, including special air purifying machines (but not air fresheners - as one agent put it, nothing says, 'my house stinks and I'm trying to hide it' like air fresheners).
But I would love to hear the conversation between embarrassed agent and appalled owner as he tries to broach the problem.
'Lovely house, sir. It would be worth £500,00 if...'
'If my eyes didn't water and my gag reflex weren't activated by the noxious smell coming from years of slovenly living and that box of puppies in the corner.'
The thing with smells is that they can permeate to the extent that new carpets and a complete redecoration are the only answer. So I'm nipping the odour of my lovely puppies in the bud, and have bought a ton of bicarbonate of soda - which, according to Kim and Aggie will clean everything from a blocked drain to a blocked artery.
And when, in the spring I try to sell my house, I hope the only smell will be the sweet fragrance of success.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Twelfth night

Twelfth night is here and, though, like the rest of the country, I'm sick to death of picking pine needles out of my socks and wrestling baubles off the cat, the streets around my home look dreary and depressing.

I hadn't really noticed how dowdy my area of Brighton was looking until everyone simultaneously unplugged their fairy lights and threw the Christmas trees, stray strands of tinsel still attached, into their front gardens.

And it made me wonder why we only dress up our homes once a year (or twice, if we're trying to sell). We slouch around like Jack Duckworth for eleven months, then plaster on the slap and the flashing earrings like Bet Lynch just for the last couple of weeks.

Maybe it's because in cities people don't tend to linger on their doorstep, and the only time we look up is to see how bad the leaking gutter has become.

Of course, there are streets nearby which look lovely all year round, and they're not in the millionaire's neighbourhoods. I'm talking about the rows of multi-coloured tiny terraces, where owners not only keep their fronts pristine, but also cultivate award-winning floral displays.

And I suspect that the effort put in pays dividends, not only in terms of community pride and cohesion, but also in the value and saleability of their properties.

So perhaps, instead of settling down to another year of grumbling about falling house prices, and ignoring the guttering, I should set a good example by making my house look as nice for the other eleven months of this year as it did at Christmas.

Now all I need to do is tidy up the back garden so I can find the ladder.