When you put your home on show, you should make sure you remove all personal items and confidential paperwork.
That's the advice of Dr Piet Botha, chairman of the Nationlink estate agency group, who says there are two good reasons to pack up and put away your mail, photos, music, books and religious artefacts.
"The first is that you want to give potential buyers a blank canvas - a home where they can paint their own imaginary pictures of their family in residence, and the second is that you do not want to give them any personal information they could use against you in price negotiations.
"If you leave opened mail lying around, for example, buyers could find out how much you owe on store or credit cards. They could perhaps find out if you're behind with your mortgage payments or if the taxman is after you and, armed with that information, make a much lower offer than they had initially thought about."
It seems obvious, he says, that homeowners should not leave such documents in view, and yet they do, along with a host of other items that can provide buyers with a surprising amount of personal information.
"These include framed diplomas or degrees hung on the wall which could give an indication of what you do for a living and your possible earnings. Buyers might see a recent medical qualification, for example, and reckon that the homeowner is young and needs to sell fast to pay off large student loans, once again giving them leverage in price negotiations."
Then there are the wedding photos and religious artefacts, music CDs and favourite books, all of which can enable even a mildly inquisitive buyer to form an opinion about the seller - and most buyers are extremely curious, says Botha.
"Many will even feel free to pull out drawers and open cupboards, which can be a dead giveaway for seller who is separating or getting divorced and only has one set of clothes hanging up.
"Of course most sellers in this position feel a lot of pressure to do a deal quickly, especially if they are having trouble keeping up the home loan repayments on their own. But again, that is not information they should really be sharing with potential buyers, even unintentionally."
ISSUED BY NATIONLINK