Selling: 6 key steps before the first buyer inspects your home
Last updated: 27 May 2015
So you’ve made the decision to sell your house. Great! Now where do you start? Our guide outlines the different stages of preparation before the first potential buyer walks through your door. While the sequence of these steps can change depending on your situation and preferences, each one is important.
1. Stop, reflect, research
Making the decision to sell your house opens an exciting new chapter in your life. It is also a significant decision that should not be taken lightly. From this moment you should be clear about your reasons for moving and your goals. Don’t forget to factor in a budget for the move, including moving costs. Consider these factors before you invest time and money into preparing for sale.
2. Find an agent who you’re comfortable with
A good agent makes all the difference to your listing, and ultimately, your sale. You may already know an agent, or perhaps you like an agent you connected with at a past open house you attended.
Be sure to take the time to find an agent you feel comfortable with. This may not necessarily be the agent who tells you what you want to ‘hear’, suggests the highest asking price and offers the lowest commission, but more so the agent who came to say hello when he or she listed the house next door, or the one that keeps in touch with you about property movements in your neighbourhood.
You should also ensure that all key decision makers are present for your first meeting with your agent. This is when a relationship begins to form and you gain a good understanding of everything that’s involved in the entire process, not to mention the important role your agent will play to guide you and remove unnecessary stress from the project.
3. Discuss the presentation of your property and the appraisal
A proactive agent will provide guidance about possible improvements to make to the property, also known as its ‘presentation’, to improve its market attraction. From carpet steam cleaning to remove stains or evidence of pets, to a coat of paint or a “declutter”, your agent should be a valuable advisor in the lead-up to listing.
“If you have an older home or if you haven’t renovated in a long time, sometimes a coat of paint can do wonders to its presentation. Some homes are improved with a spring clean and a ‘declutter’ of the extra possessions that have accumulated over time” says Fiona Hawley, Property Consultant at Wood & Co Real Estate, Swan Hill.
“Sellers sometimes say ‘it’ll be fixed before settlement.’ My response is always ‘Just fix it now. Waiting till settlement may end up costing you thousands in negotiations on the final sale price’.”
Your agent will also be in a position to provide an appraisal of your property, indicating a price range that will attract buyers. The appraisal is based on your agent’s research of other properties of comparable size, location and presentation, including data from sales and, importantly, properties that have not sold.
Beware of well-intentioned neighbours who insist your property is worth much more, usually without any market research, because they think that if your house is listed at a higher price, their own property value goes up. Rest assured, if you’ve selected the right agent, he or she will be working hard to get you the best price and that will keep the neighbours happy.
4. Signing of the exclusive sale authority with your agent
Upon signing the exclusive sale authority, a good agent will be highly motivated to get to work for you as the agent only gets paid if he or she sells your property!At this stage your agent will discuss and sign off a marketing campaign for your property. Newspaper ads, online ads, open house inspections and an overall budget and start date for your property to be “live” and open to visits.
It is important at this point to make sure all paperwork is in order, including council permits for renovations, extensions, swimming pools or a shed that has been erected and compliance certificates for an installed wood heater. Don’t forget to disclose any history of white ants or anything that is no longer functioning properly at the property.
“The last thing you want, during a final inspection and when the finish line is within reach, is for the buyer to discover that only 3 hotplates work on the stove, the ceiling fan or rangehood exhaust doesn’t work, which can delay the sale process and create frustration for all parties who want to conclude the deal” adds Fiona.
5. Look to the future and make an emotional break from your property
Now is the time to look to your future and sever the past and any emotional attachment to your property. Start seeing your property as a product to be marketed and sold for the best possible price and no longer as your home. You want prospective buyers to picture themselves living there, in their new home, not yours. It can be a good idea to remove some family photos and portraits but not going so far as to ‘depersonalise’ it and render the house cold and devoid of homeliness.
6. Staging your property
The property is now on the market, there’s a sign on the front lawn, it’s on the internet, the ad is in the newspaper and buyers will be walking through your house within days or even hours! Unlike ‘presentation’, or big improvements that should be done weeks or months in advance of listing, ‘staging’ involves giving your property the “home beautiful” finish just before buyers pass through your door.
Put out clean tea towels and fresh towels in the bathroom, empty kitchen bins, put away pet food bowls, clean the stove, oven, bathroom and toilets as well as turn off the television and set the heating or cooling so visitors feel comfortable the moment they enter. Remember, your agent is a valuable resource and he or she is showing homes to buyers every day and knows what helps make properties appealing and what turns buyers off.
“Don’t forget to trim and tidy your lawns and garden for that first impression from the street. If you need assistance, we can put you in contact with a handyman or cleaner to give your home added polish before a staging, which can make all the difference!” concluded Fiona.
Coming soon: The do's and don'ts of staging (hint: there are a lot of don'ts!)