Tips For Selling Your Property
1) Preparing yourself for the sale
Say goodbye to your home. This can be harder for some family members than for others. Once you have made the decision to sell then you will need to disconnect yourself emotionally from what was your home. It has become a product to be sold. For as much as it is possible try to see the property as already sold, empty of your belongings and the keys ready to be handed over to new owners. This will make it easier for you to prepare the product for sale.
Look to where the future will take you, don’t dwell on the past and its possibly conflicting feelings.
2) Choosing your agent
Every agent will tell you that they are the ones you should choose. Every agent will make statements and claims about their performance and their processes. Make sure that they can explain and justify everything to your satisfaction. Have high expectations of your agent, after all they are selling one of your biggest assets.
Were you impressed with their level of organization and professionalism? Did you feel comfortable spending time talking to them? How well did they build rapport with you? Did they listen carefully to your needs and your story? Were you prepared to “buy” what they were “selling”? Do you trust them? Your potential buyers will need to be just as impressed and as comfortable dealing with your agents as you were. Any agent can sell your property but those who can generate the highest level of personal engagement with your buyers are already streets ahead on the negotiation.
Selling property can be a stressful and complex process however the best agent will help carry a lot of that burden. Much of this comes from honest and straightforward communication both with you and with the buyers. How important to the agent is selling your home? How important is your satisfaction to them? Are they tenacious, are they driven? Do they have the energy and enthusiasm to maximize your opportunity?
3) Preparing your property for sale
We all know not to judge a book by its cover but many of us do it all too often. We especially do it when driving up to inspect an open home. First impressions count. Not everyone is a competent handy person, many buyers will not have enough funds left after settlement to fix things and many just cannot imagine seeing the property in a different light. If properties are similar then the average buyer will fight harder to win a property that appears to need less work.
Giving it your best presentation will give the agent more interested buyers to work with and therefore in a competitive negotiation maximize the price and also close the deal quickly. A good agent will want to give you advice on your home's presentation. Please don’t take it personally, they are just trying to help.
However only you can decide how much effort and money you can justify in preparing your house. Fortunately much of what you could do is not expensive or even that hard.
So back to first impressions. Unless you have a really unique property then you are competing with other seller’s homes for the same buyers so making your property stand out and sparkle is very important.
Enhance the street appeal
Perhaps the single most critical element of presenting your property. If your budget is tight here is where you spend it. Buyers will form an opinion of your property before they enter and we want it to be as warm and positive as possible.
This starts at the kerbside, so mow the grass both there and on your property. Nothing says neglected unloved possibly rental property like overgrown and neglected front yards. Weed the flower beds, trim the bushes and trees especially if they are shading the house windows. Some people even plant a handful of small flowering plants along the path or garden edge. A few yellow marigolds or similar are very inviting and inexpensive. If necessary paint or even replace the front door or mailbox. Paint any external timber if it needs freshening up.
Thoroughly clean the house
You wouldn’t sell your car without giving it a wash and a good clean inside and if you didn’t you certainly wouldn’t get as much for it. To maximise the number of interested buyers prepared to pay top dollar ensure that carpets, walls, skirting, light fittings, windows and window frames are clean. In fact any part of the house that is stained, marked or just does not sparkle. This especially applies to any mould in bathrooms and laundries.
If you have a pool it needs to be clean, clear and inviting and kept that way during the sale.
Areas that do not come up well after cleaning should be repainted. Internal walls are best painted a light neutral colour but not white. Ceilings are best painted white to add to the perception of height. Any boldly coloured feature walls or the one wall with fake brick wallpaper or similar need to go. Some TV home shows do some nice work with feature walls and multi-coloured rooms but let’s let the new owners mess with that. Bright lightly coloured surfaces equal bigger looking rooms.
Fix any damaged and dented walls whilst you are repainting. External timber especially at the front of the house should also be fresh and clean which may mean repainting.
If the budget, both time and money, is limited then remember first impressions. The painting and appearance of the entrance and main living areas at the front of the house are more important than the bedrooms however cleanliness of bathrooms and kitchens are important.
De-clutter, de-personalise and organise
You want to make the rooms look as large as possible. Ideally you should remove unnecessary furniture and minimize the number of pictures on the walls. Some people hire a storage unit, others impose on friends or relatives to store some things. Spreading the remaining furniture out will show off the floor space to best effect.
Any furniture with flat surfaces such as tables, shelves, chests of drawers and kitchen benches need to be free of clutter. One beautiful vase on a table, one inviting bowl of fruit on a bench or one very small selection of books on a shelf is the limit. If you have book shelves full of or overflowing with books or ornaments then they become a wall of their own encroaching into the room. Empty shelves with one item here and there will make the room feel larger. We all like looking at display homes, the rooms seem so large and if they are furnished then the furniture is bare except for the odd artistic item.
Since you are selling anyway you could consider already packing the bulk of your books, family photo albums and ornaments. In fact consider removing all the ornaments and bits and pieces from a room and after cleaning and painting just put back the barest artistic minimum. Boxes stacked neatly at the back of a wardrobe or garage are a better look then their contents cluttering the house.
The de-cluttering process will also help de-personalise the space. Buyers get distracted by the family photographs and heirlooms. The cleaner the slate the more they can see themselves writing on it.
Organise all the built-in cupboards and storage areas including those in the garage, kitchen, laundry and bathrooms. Untidy and often over full spaces look small and cramped. It is a great time to make some hard decisions about what could be donated to charity. Some people say that you should even turn all the cup and pot handles the same way in the kitchen cupboards. Perhaps over the top but neatness and organisation probably makes a space look more effective so maybe not a bad idea.
Remove and replace items that you want to keep
The chandelier that has been in your family for generations, built-in appliances and other fixtures that are not included in the sale should be removed and replaced before the buyers see them. As silly as it sounds, if they fall in love with the chandelier you can risk the whole sales negotiation. Whilst your contract will specify what is not included you would be surprised how many buyers or other members of their family don’t really take that detail in. You don’t want settlement held up as the solicitors argue about the removal of fixtures.
Cracked joints in the plasterboard walls and ceiling cornices with gaps in our popular timber-framed houses are very important to fix. Yes, they are usually trivial, caused by movement or shrinkage in the house’s timber frame but the average buyer sees them as an indication of serious structural issues. The walls are cracked! Usually very easy to fix unless of course there are structural problems. Many buyers will move on to the next home choosing not to bother checking their impression via a building inspection as they can clearly see that the building has problems.
Even in the less common full brick buildings cracks in the cement render are also usually cosmetic and easy to fix, just the render expanding and contracting at different rates to the brick work.
Creaking stairs and floors often raise serious concerns in many buyer’s minds. Again people see these as structural problems when they usually are not. They can be difficult to rectify but if they are bad you need to fix them.
Repair tile grouting if missing, fix loose tiles and replace the flexible sealant behind bathroom vanities if it is cracked or discoloured. Tighten loose taps and faucets.
Fix any door handles and locks that are loose or do not work. Doors should open and close easily and for that matter so should outside gates. Oil squeaky or sticking hinges. Built-in cupboard doors need to open and close properly.
Replace cracked windows and torn fly screens. Missing or obviously cracked roof tiles and ridge capping needs attention.
In summary whilst some of the suggestions might seem a little over the top, the take home message is that first impressions are critical and that the more your property looks like a new home the stronger a buyer’s resolve will be to close the deal.
So no rusty car engines in the front yard, no large holes in the walls, no dishes from yesterday or last week’s cooking in the sink and especially no tired and emotional family members sleeping it off on the couch during the open home showing. Don’t laugh, it happens!