This week, Lorna Vestey on being the first in the street to sell: We have just put our house on the market but to our horror estate agents’ boards have gone up outside three of our neighbours. How do we ensure we are the first to sell? Concentrate on the basic fact that you need to make other people want to live in your house or flat. Forget that it is your home and look at it with a stranger’s eye. You should maximise the space, the light and any particular good features. Remember that most viewers are unconsciously buying into a lifestyle, too; so identify your likely buyers and present the property accordingly. What is our first step? Thorough cleaning is essential – preferably get in professionals and don’t forget carpet and window cleaners, too. Always make the beds and open windows first thing, clear washing-up immediately and never leaving clothes lying around. So when everything is gleaming, what next? Presentation: the de-cluttering so beloved of TV property shows may be a cliché but is an essential for showing your place at its best. Demonstrate the function of every room; for example, if it could be a bedroom, put a bed in it. Some simple redecorating may be necessary, too; strong colours may be characterful, but in your new objective mode you know they have to go. Pale, neutral colours sound boring but they sell. Take down net curtains, except where the outlook is awful. Mishmash carpets won’t appeal. In fact, recarpeting throughout with a cheap, pale beige carpet will instantly make most properties look bigger, lighter and more upmarket. Isn’t this getting a bit expensive? No, spending money like this when you are about to sell may be the best investment you’ve ever made and can give you the edge over similar properties. Anything else that can put us ahead in the race to sell? First impressions are vital: your home will be judged within the first few moments. This means that your front garden/entrance must be smarter and more welcoming than the opposition. Painting an exterior can work wonders. Keeping everything looking immaculate is a strain but there are some things over which you don’t need to stress. Children’s toys lying around a bedroom or playroom are fine; a teenager’s room looking like a den is all right too as long as it doesn’t smell like one and has no dodgy posters. You also don’t need to grill coffee beans, bake bread or banish the family pet (unless it pongs, barks or bothers visitors). Lorna Vestey is a former partner of a blue-chip London estate agency.