Housing market: Are novelty homes tough to sell?

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Media captionDoes a unique feature - like a Tardis for a bathroom - affect your chance of selling your house?

The striking thing about the downstairs toilet at the Richards' family home is that it is much bigger on the inside than you might expect.

Yet it should be no great surprise as father-of-two Max Richards has built an impressively accurate replica of the Tardis to serve as a door.

The Police Box convenience is by far the most unusual aspect of the family's picturesque converted barn in the Devon countryside.

Now the property is on the market, is the Tardis a distraction for potential buyers, or an idiosyncrasy that lodges it in their memory?

"People like it, they laugh a bit, but they like the look of it," says Dr Richards, who really is a doctor, although not a Time Lord.

"Some people have walked past it and not even noticed it which I find quite hard to believe, but generally viewers see it as a positive."

Online viewings

The four-bedroom home has been for sale since June.

With many house hunters now conducting the searches on property websites, the Doctor Who loo has certainly attracted interest.

Their estate agents have told Dr Richards, 43, and his wife Jacqui, that their listing is attracting the highest number of click-throughs of any of their current stock of properties.

Yet compared with some entries on these internet portals, this unusual feature is somewhat subtle.

Property website Rightmove has listed a home complete with stairs in the style of MC Escher, a house with life-sized Blues Brothers figures and a flat fitted in nightclub decor.

Meanwhile, rival Zoopla features a converted church complete with stained glass windows and a spire.

Image caption No longer on the market, but this was a favourite among online house hunters
Image caption This took the idea of unusual domestic features to another level
Image caption It is not just inside homes that viewers might see something they were not expecting
Image caption These characters should help the owners avoid getting the blues
Image caption This old church has now been converted into flats
Image caption Meanwhile the inspiration for unusual properties may come from overseas, in this case Japan

So are unique features or a wildly wacky home a help or a hindrance when it comes to selling a property?

Miles Shipside, a founding director of Rightmove, says that sellers need to be aware that their tastes might not always be matched by those coming to have a look around.

Another fear is that sellers find they are often showing around the curious.

"What a seller needs is a genuine buyer who is interested in the property rather than the extreme features. There is a danger that if you make your property attractive to voyeurs then they might view it for the wrong reasons," he says.

"You might not be able to spot the genuine buyer among those who are just interested in the attractive features."

Yet, he points out that tastes do change. In history, bay windows and turrets were unusual, but now they have become accepted.

"Ultimately, if a house has quality as well as more extreme features, then the quality will win out," he says.

That said, a valuer, or a potential buyer making an offer, may factor in the cost of stripping out any unusual decor when it comes to estimating how much the property is worth.

Fresh bread

Sellers are in relatively short supply in the UK housing market at present, but those who are looking to put their property on the market must not be lazy, according to Alison Cork, founder of online homeware business

Image caption First impressions are key when it comes to selling a home, says Alison Cork

"Even if the market is frothy, you want to create as many people around the honey pot as you can, because it is just going to increase the price that they are going to offer," she says.

She believes that viewers form an impression of the property in the first 30 seconds, so it must be "neutral, clean, light and bright" as they step through the door.

The National Association of Estate Agents suggests that sellers show off the best bit of the home and refresh, review and repair key rooms before putting it on the market.

Then, according to Ms Cork, the seller needs to appeal to viewers' senses. So it must look good, not full of clutter. It is best to switch off any loud music when viewers arrive, and then there is the smell.

"It doesn't have to be coffee and fresh bread, but it must smell clean," she says.

Time and space

Back in Devon, there is little doubt that the Tardis leaves an impression. It is not every day that you can spend a penny somewhere in time and space.

The two children, Mimi, 11, and Theo, eight, think that it makes their house a home.

Dr Richards says his work is a celebration of his favourite piece of British architecture.

But ultimately it is the architecture in which it is housed that will be judged by viewers who may or may not become buyers.

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