Making a big impact with your small home

Sectional title apartments and townhouses are becoming increasingly popular home choices for first-time buyers, but do require some special treatment when the time comes to sell up and move on.

Dr Piet Botha, chairman of the Nationlink estate agency group, points out that while a freehold house on sale attracts attention from passersby and makes its own individual impression from the street, first impressions of a flat or townhouse are created by the condition of the complex as a whole.

"This of course underlines the importance of having a solvent and active body corporate that keeps up the maintenance of the complex - but also makes it even more important that you impress potential buyers with the interior of your individual unit."

Light, or the absence thereof, is one of the crucial factors in smaller living spaces, due to smaller rooms, as well as at least one wall usually being shared with another unit.

To make rooms seem lighter, one can visually "push" one wall away by illuminating it with downlighters or a pair of striking standard lamps. To further enhance the impression, it's always a good idea to apply a fresh coat of paint in a light colour before putting your home on the market.

Other tactics for townhouse showing, says Botha, include:

* Getting rid of clutter. An untidy home always looks smaller, and scores of items that stamp your personality too strongly on your living space will hinder potential buyers from being able to picture themselves living there.

* Removing some furniture. Too much furniture, especially if it's dark, can make even a spacious apartment or townhouse look pokey. If you're planning to move to a bigger home, put some items in storage while you sell the smaller one.

* Setting the scene. Arrange furniture to reflect the best/ most appropriate use of various rooms and spaces. Don't leave a huge table parked in a small spare bedroom, for example, and if you have an open-plan living area, help the potential buyer divide it up mentally by placing furniture to create separate living and dining areas.

* Eliminating odours. Potential buyers may not be as excited about your pets as you are, even if they are small animals. And stale cooking smells can put people off even the most modern kitchen, so make sure your home is spotless and smells fresh.

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