How to get top Dollar in a Slow Market



Sometimes selling makes sense.

You may have cash flow issues or your property may no longer be performing for you.

The good news is that it’s a buyer’s market, so what can you do to make to get the best possible price for your property?

Presentation is vital, says Michael Harris, senior sales consultant with Raine & Horne Newtown, and the better you present your property the better your chances of tugging at the heartstrings of buyers and pushing up the selling price.

This is especially important in a competitive selling environment where buyers have plenty of homes to choose from.

“If you’ve got somebody up the road who’s really good on presentation, their house is looking really smart and inviting and has that wow factor, but yours is a bit daggy and doesn’t quite work, then you know that the buyer’s going to get far more emotional about that other property,” says Harris.

First impressions count

Don’t underestimate the value of making an excellent first impression. Harris points out that, for some buyers, the state of the property’s façade will determine from the outset whether they decide to put in an offer.

Home staging professional, and author of the Australian Guide to Home Staging, Katrina Maes agrees. She suggests putting yourself in the shoes of a potential buyer and running through the features of the property that will catch their eye as they arrive – starting with the street number.

“When people arrive they’re looking for numbering. So you want to make sure that your letterbox is numbered perfectly, the numbers are straight, and the letterbox is freshly painted. And that there are no cobwebs or letters hanging out of it,” she says.

Move on to whatever is most visible from the street. If this is the garage, for example, make sure that it’s spotless – and add a paint of coat if necessary.

Use a pressure hose to freshen up the driveway, and make sure that the path to the front door isn’t hindered by clutter or overgrowth.

“It’s really important for buyers to be able to see how to get to the front door, how they’re going to access it and what it’s going to be like for friends and families to get there,” says Maes.

Moving on to the porch, its’ worth repainting the front step if it’s looking tired, and the front door should be immaculately clean or repainted if necessary.

“You don’t have to go bland and blend in with the rest of the house. Look at a colour that’s in contrast, or a glossy grey or even a black – depending on the style of the house,” says Maes. “Even an Indian red works well as well, depending on the rest of the house.”

Buyers will pick up on any damage to fly screens or security doors, so be sure to repair or replace these if needed. Alternatively, if you have a solid front door with plenty of character, then property academic and author Peter Koulizos suggests by not replacing the flyscreen or security door and allowing the front door to stand out as a selling point.

While having plenty of greenery in the front yard offers a certain level of privacy, Maes notes that when it comes to selling it’s important that potential buyers can see through to the property itself. “They need to see that the garden’s open, inviting and large,” she says.

Trim any overgrown foliage, remove weeds, put down a layer of mulch on plant or flower beds and mow the lawn to make the garden feel as large and low maintenance as possible.

Top tips:

  • Make sure the house number is clearly visible, straight and clean
  • Sweep and pressure hose the driveway and front path
  • Tidy and trim the front garden to make it look as low maintenance as possible
  • Repair or replace the front door, security door or flyscreen if necessary
  • Repaint the garage door and front step if necessary

Communal areas

If you’re selling a unit or townhouse, then it’s likely that there will be a fair amount of communal space between the street and your property’s front door. In the lead up to putting your property on the market, Maes suggests trying to persuade the body corporate to carry out a good clean or makeover in these areas.

Of course, the body corporate’s budget or plans may not match up to your own selling timeline, so it may be down to you to spruce up those communal areas as best as you can.

At street level, sweep or pressure hose pathways and give the plants a trim. It may feel like doing somebody else’s job, but if it helps to secure a quick and profitable sale then it’s worth the effort.

With interior shared spaces, run a cloth over lights and fittings, brush out any cobwebs and wipe away any marks on the walls.

“Chux have an amazing product that’s available at the supermarket,” says Maes. “It’s a little white cube that looks like an eraser, and you just put a tiny bit of water on it and it takes off all sorts of marks on paintwork. That’s a really cheap and easy way of freshening up a common area if you can’t get access to corporate body funds.”

On the open for inspection day itself, another sneaky trick for unit sales is to liberally spray a scented cleaning product in the communal corridors and staircases that lead to your property. The aroma will help to create the impression that the building is well looked after.

As Maes points out, it’s these little touches that will make your property stand out from the rest, even if it’s something as simple as buying a new doormat for the owners of the opposite unit to match yours.

Top tips:

  • Ask the body corporate to clean and repair or decorate communal areas
  • Sweep and pressure hose exterior pathways
  • Wipe down lights and fittings
  • Clean any marks on the walls
  • Spray a scented cleaning product on inspection day

The entrance

Your property’s entrance will need to grab a buyer’s interest, give them an indication of the property’s style and make them want to see the rest of the property.

“It needs to be a little bit classy with something of a point of difference,” says Maes. “Whether it’s a unique painting, a gorgeous lamp or a signature piece that can make your property stick in the buyer’s mind – but don’t overdo it.”

The entryway is also an area where the buyers are likely to chat with the real estate agent, so it’s important that it can accommodate three or four people without them invading each other’s personal space. Leave out the entryway table, for example, if it’s going to make the space feel too tight.

Top tips:

  • Make sure the entrance can easily fit three or four people
  • Put in a talking point, such as a painting or lamp
  • If the entrance is large, make it an additional seating area
  • Make sure the entry flows into the adjoining rooms with no clutter getting in the way
  • Only put in an entry table if it won’t make the area feel cramped

The lounge

A common mistake that vendors make in the lounge, says Maes, is to have all furniture pushed up against the wall and facing the television. Face sofas and chairs opposite each other to create a social atmosphere, so that buyers can imagine holding their next social function there.

“It’s great to be able to tell that social story with chairs opposite each other, and we don’t necessarily have to put the furniture against the wall to make the room feel bigger. Ironically, if you can see through to corners, the room actually feels a bit bigger,” says Maes.

If the property is unfurnished, then it can be well worth the cost of renting furniture in order to get the best possible price for your property.  “It gives a warm inviting feel to the property,” says Harris.

Top tips:

  • Don’t push all furniture up against the walls
  • Don’t have all chairs facing the TV
  • Position chairs opposite each other to create a social vibe
  • Rent furniture if the property is unfurnished
  • The room will look larger if buyers can see past furniture to the corners

The kitchen

The kitchen can be a real deal breaker. At a bare minimum, make sure that it’s completely spotless – right down to the cupboard interiors.

“Even if it is quite a dated kitchen, the cleaner it is, the more functional it will feel to someone,” says Maes. “You cannot underestimate how important it is to clean every square millimetre.”

She adds that the cleaner the kitchen is, the newer it will feel, which is vital if your potential buyers are weighing your property up against new homes.

When it comes to renovations, there are some simple and cost effective measures that you can take to boost the kitchen’s appeal. You may not want to go to the expense of a complete kitchen refit, but replacing cupboard doorhandles and painting the doors – or replacing the doors altogether –can create the impression of quality.

Koulizos notes that the cost of a new benchtop will normally be outweighed by the extra value that it adds to the house. As a cheaper alternative, Maes suggests that getting benchtops resprayed creates a surprisingly effective result.

Take a look at what comparable properties with touched-up kitchens are selling for in your area to work out what your renovation budget is. If you decide that installing new kitchen will significantly boost your sales price, then Koulizos suggests that you should go for plenty of cupboard space, a gas stove and an electric oven.

When it comes to the open for inspection, pleasant kitchen aromas such as freshly brewed coffee or home baking will help to create a homely feel.

Top tips:

  • Clean everything, right down to cupboard interiors
  • Replace cupboard door handles, repaint doors or replace them altogether
  • Respray benchtops to make them look new
  • If refitting, go for cupboard space, a gas stove and an electric oven
  • Brew coffee and do some baking on inspection day

The dining room

If your property has a dining room, then it’s a good idea to set the table as if it’s ready for a family meal. Maes adds that many buyers will walk in and think that the dining room is as big as how many chairs there are.

“If you can stick eight chairs in, do it. But make sure that they’re tucked in really tight. Always be conscious of traffic foot flow,” she says. “Sometimes I don’t put chairs on the ends of the table and just tuck them either side if it’s not functional.”

A streamlined dining room will photograph well, she explains, and placing fresh flowers on the dining table as a centrepiece will tug on the buyers’ heartstrings even further.

Top tips:

  • Set the table
  • Put in as many chairs as possible without overcrowding the room
  • Be aware of foot flow; don’t put chairs at the end of the table if it feels cramped
  • Place fresh flowers on the table as a centrepiece
  • Get professional photos taken of your staged, streamlined, dining room

The bathroom

The bathroom can be another deal breaker. While the cost of plumbing and tiling can make a complete refit an expensive affair, there are some cost-effective measures that you can take without ripping out the bathtub.

Consider respraying the tiles and bathtub, and replacing the grouting. Fixtures, such as taps, cupboard handles and toilet seats can be replaced cheaply and easily. To make the bathroom look larger, consider installing a large mirror and a clear glass shower screen.

In the lead up to the open for inspection, make sure the bathroom is spotlessly clean and well aired out to eliminate any hint of damp, mould or mildew. On the day itself, throwing a splash of bleach down the plughole will create the aroma of a freshly cleaned bathroom.

Top tips:

  • Replace old fixtures and fittings, such as taps
  • Respray tiles and the bathtub
  • Replace the grouting
  • Install a large mirror and glass shower screen
  • Make sure the bathroom is spotlessly clean and well ventilated

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