Charles Hutchinson consults Ann Maurice, TV's House Doctor, for some remedies to fix those DIY disasters.

Britain is in the midst of a property boom, or so the South keeps telling us. Spring is here too, traditionally the time when house owners look to spruce up their homes as the days lengthen and the light improves.

But should you have been seduced into painting the bathroom lime green, or thought orange and pink 'worked' in the hallway a year ago, then before you put your house on the market, stop! Call for the new House Doctor book and learn about Home Staging.

Home Staging? This is the technique of presenting your home for sale so that it will appeal to the broadest possible buying audience.

Your guide to Home Staging is no-nonsense American interiors stylist Ann Maurice, who returns to Britain's TV screens for a third series of House Doctor on May 9: the same day that HarperCollins publishes House Doctor (How To Add £££s To The Value Of Your House).

The Californian former real-estate agent can turn a seemingly impossible-to-sell property into a des res, in only seven days.

Her first two series saw 12 sales out of 12, and for the new one, two out of the four houses done so far have sold already and a third is very close to following suit. Ann has a straightforward working philosophy. "You have to mentally and emotionally let go of your home before you're going to sell it," she says. "We're neutralising the home; it has very little to do with your personal preference and taste. Your ultimate goal is getting the sale."

Do clients ever take offence at her suggestions? "Occasionally, but the TV show presents me as more brash than I really am - I'm very diplomatic. You can't survive in sales if you say what you actually think all the time," says Ann, who sold real estate for 13 years before making the "natural transition" into her present career.

She acknowledges that the present booming property market does put vendors under more pressure.

"I think it does, yes. We've seen some homes that, even in this crazy market, remain unsold for ages," she says. "There's a real problem here. Sometimes, the house is overpriced, or there are factors like being on a busy road, that we can't change. But 99.9 per cent of the time it's presentation, and we can close that gap."

First impressions are crucial, Ann stresses. "Selling a home is a practical decision, but buying one is probably the most emotional purchase you'll make in your life. Generally, the decision is made in the first 60 seconds of viewing. You are subliminally attracted or put off. You may not even know why you've said yes or no."

Home-makeover shows rule the TV airwaves at the moment, but Ann is keen to make a distinction: "First of all, we're not a makeover programme. We aim to have a light touch, and spend very little money. In a lot of these makeover programmes, there's nothing really informative about them. They're kind of 'in-your-face, look what I can do' decorating. How much of it is practical; how much is aesthetically pleasing, or affordable? I mean, feather boas on your mirrors, garish colours....It might make for good TV, but would you want to live there?"

Naturally, Ann talks up her new series. "It's going to be absolutely fabulous," she says. "We have a great team with a lot of creative licence. It's going to have a different feeling to the first two. There, we were kind of getting our feet wet, and we're determined to do things a bit differently this time."

As for the book, it emphasises that the trick in home staging is to ensure prospective buyers can imagine themselves living there as soon as they walk in. Equally significantly, House Doctor aims to help the home owner add value to their home, without spending a fortune.

Indeed, the book should prove just as useful for those looking merely to improve their home for their own pleasure rather than to attract a sale.

The book is divided into seven sections - Exteriors, Entrances, Reception Rooms, Kitchens, Bedrooms, Bathrooms, Gardens - preceded by an introduction to home staging and finished off with a list of "resources" (the shops and companies used by Ann for the home improvement materials).

In keeping with the House Doctor title, each section takes the form of a diagnosis and cure, prescription and case study, accompanied by Before and After photographs, a Do and Don't list and doses of dynamic advice under the heading Sell It!

From blinds to fireplaces, ambience to colour schemes, from creating enticing stairways to arranging bookcases, clearing clutter to brightening up lighting, the book has practical, simple-to-follow remedies. House Doctor is definitely worth a consultation.

House Doctor is on Channel 5 on Tuesdays at 8.30pm, from May 9.

Ann Maurice's House Doctor is published by HarperCollins on May 9, price £14.99.

PICTURE: Few budgets stretch to a new kitchen, so Ann's aim here was to cheer up the lifeless grey of the room. "Repainting in a warm apricot transformed the place into somewhere any of us would want to be," says Ann. More space was created by moving the table to the other side of the room. Another tip is to set the table if you have any prospective buyers coming over - it makes the room more enticing. And if you're not up to cooking a casserole, pop some part-made bread from the supermarket in the oven to get those home-made smells going. Last night's curry is not an alternative.