This month, the mating season between house buyer and house seller reaches its climax. Hormones are raging as Gervase the estate agent rushes around playing Cupid. If you're selling, how do you ensure your house or flat isn't left on the shelf? How do you turn prospect into purchaser?
If you're selling in a leafier, well-appointed area, cosmetics are the essential hormone in the mating ritual when maximising 'net-to-wallet'.
No point spending pounds 20,000 on new foundations when you've got mushrooms growing on your bathroom wall and gnomes in the garden.
Take the kitchen. Kitchens are high fashion. If you buy well, they carry status. There's a saying in the kitchen business, 'If the product sells, raise the price. If it bombs, raise the price.' The more money you throw at your kitchen, the more bounces back. You want something modern, functional and hand-built in the classic 'golden triangle' configuration of sink, cooker and hob.
Bespoke kitchens with German-branded white goods and en-suite dining areas sell quicker than your bog-standard off-the-back-of-a-band-wagon laminated hardboard unit. Did someone say 'Ikea'? Ikea is like clothes; it's just stuff. Ikea clears the net only if tailored and fitted by professional carpenters. Flooring is essential. Portuguese tiles are this year's limestone. Hardwoods - beach, oak, maple - are this season's undiscovered girl next door.
Bathrooms are the second most important room. As with kitchens, natural lighting beats even the most expensive halogen spots. Failing something stylish from Lefroy Brooks or Czech & Speake, try a mid-range bathroom from Aqualisa or Bristan. Blending old and new elements will help sell.
A standalone cast-iron roll-top bath tub with claw-and-ball foot and modern chrome taps with shower attachment will add pounds pounds pounds s, if teamed with a modern sink unit.
The conservatory debate rages on. Unless well designed - but how many are? - they'll either freeze or microwave you, depending on the season.
Gardens can sell a property. Cinderella-ise your dismal apology of a back garden with decking, trellis and terracotta pots.
For the show-around, traditional first-impression ploys like coffee beans in the oven, freshly baked bread, a beautifully laid dining-room table and the contents of several florists give your property a good feel and conjure an air of expectation. With furniture, less is more, quality is everything. Neutral colours on the walls lend a sense of space and light.
Clean windows make rooms look larger. Dud lightbulbs should be replaced and storage space should have nothing stored in it. Donate to Oxfam any article of clothing you haven't worn in three years.
Impress upon prospects that yours isn't a distress sale, but a move on to a bigger and better postcode. Letters addressed to 'The Hon ...' left on the kitchen table, and smart invitations to A-list parties propped up on the mantlepiece are vital when making an upwardly mobile impression. Display prominently on the coffee table the annual reports of the six best-performing Footsie 100 stocks of the past 12 months.
On the telephone handset in the kitchen, write down on the panel of quick-dial numbers '10 Downing Street', 'Highgrove' and 'Goldman Sachs'.
Finally, if your property contains an office, this room should demonstrate that its incumbent is head of the household. Psychographics are key. A brace of antique Purdeys on the wall, ancestral portraits, a signed photograph of Guy Hands inscribed, 'To Gordon, congratulations on a brilliant deal', and a bust of Napoleon will exude a sense of power and authority. Having an unusual shape of bespoke desk, lovingly whittled from cherry teak and set on a slightly raised platform, will also assert the supremacy of its owner. Personally, I swear by a set of mock landmines, inscribed 'Greetings from Matrix Churchill', which, laid out on the office floor, work wonders when shifting a tricky property.