How to get your house ready for sale

How to get your house ready for sale

by Carly Susic, Melbourne property advocate 

If you’re planning on selling your house soon, it’s time to get your house ready for sale. But of course, you don’t want to spend too much—or spend in the wrong areas. Many vendors ask agents for advice on how they should prepare the property. But in our experience, agents don’t always have your best interest in mind. This leaves vendors confused about what to do—but we can help. 

Agents will offer advice about getting your house ready for sale 

While most agents can be really helpful in this area, others are not so well-informed. They might suggest investing unnecessarily. But it’s not them putting their hand in their pocket, so they can be cavalier about the investment. 

For example, recently we were assisting a family in selling a deceased estate that was really run down and cluttered. One agent recommended spending on painting, carpet and the professional stying. Another said not to touch it at all, and leave it empty. While a third agency thought that the vendors should focus on the garden alone. The vendors were not only dealing with the death of their mother, but very confused about how to get the house ready for sale let alone sifting through a lifetime of memories and trinkets. 

Selling a house, especially a deceased estate, is a stressful time, so confusing advice from agents can make it even more difficult. 

In the end, all the home needed was a good declutter, selective styling using some of the existing furniture and a few minor fixes. There was no need to repaint, recarpet or invest heavily in the home. 

Agents love to recommend fixes 

Many agents are completely correct when they suggest property upgrades to get your house ready for sale. However, some have commercial agreements in place with their preferred carpenters, plumbers, landscapers etc. The best way to find out? Ask them. It’s important to know whether they are recommending it because you need it or because it is easier to just tell you to do everything —or because they are getting an affiliate payment for referrals. 

Renovations take time

You might think putting in a new kitchen or bathroom will help the property sell. But it also can take  months to complete the project. And if the market shifts in that time, especially if it falls, you will be unable to recoup your investment. So consider how the market may change in the time that you’re undertaking property upgrades or if you are going to be put in a compromising time to sell if you take the time to undertake the works. Will it work in your favour? This is very difficult to predict in these uncertain times.   

Avoid overextending your budget 

You want to get the maximum sale price for your property, but you don’t always recoup what you invested, so it’s important to get that balance right. 

Before you spend excessively, consider the long-term outlook for this space. If a room is likely to be ripped out because it’s in the wrong place, don’t invest in fixing it up. Low investment changes like painting and a highly detailed clean might be sufficient. It is important to consider if the money you spend will be recouped in a higher sale price, another thing to consider is if the works need to be done to ensure a sale, if this is the case you have to consider that you are spending the money to ensure the home is saleable not to get the cost back. 

Consider your ideal buyer

What is the potential buyer likely to want from your home, and how will they use the space? If a developer is likely to tear down the property, keep renovations to a bare minimum. Whereas a young family may want to live in the property for a few years before renovating, meaning it has to be very livable now—making upgrades could be worth your while. If you are selling to empty nesters, consider upgrades that improve the accessibility and functionality of the property. 

Many buyers want a turnkey purchase 

Due to the spiralling costs of renovations at the moment, many buyers want a property that doesn’t require extensive renovations. This is what we call a turnkey home, as the buyer simply has to turn the key on the front door and settle in without lifting a finger. So, evaluate your property with this in mind. What would make the property immediately liveable, with no further actions required? This is likely to be highly appealing to particular buyers (depending on your target buyer of course).

Street appeal is essential 

Many buyers will drive by the property to view it from the outside before an inspection. So those first impressions matter. Make the garden weed-free, tidy and welcoming, trim any overgrown bushes or trees and ensure the roof and front porch are well maintained. A high pressure clean can work wonders with paths and driveways to have them looking nearly-new again. 

Kitchens: invest wisely 

Consider the placement of the kitchen in the home. With older properties needing renovation, the kitchen may be in the centre of the house or not in an ideal open plan position. Which means buyers may be wanting to move it towards the rear of the property. If that’s the case, you don’t want to spend on a brand new kitchen in the wrong part of the house. So you can give it a refresh without breaking the budget. 

This can include: 

  • spraying benchtops to update the colours 
  • painting cupboards
  • adding new handles 
  • upgrading tapware 
  • undertaking a huge clean 
  • decluttering (assume buyers will look in every cupboard) 

When it comes to kitchen appliances, like oven, cooker and dishwasher, ensure they are sparkling clean and in good working order. Keeping that turnkey buyer in mind, would the appliances turn them off the kitchen? If so, you can upgrade the appliances without going to the expense of an entirely new kitchen. Buyers love to see a sparkling brand new cooker or oven in a property. And your expense is far less than an entirely new kitchen. 

I’ve seen vendors add in $70,000 kitchens in the hope of increasing the value of the property but it isn’t always the case. Especially if the market shifts while the kitchen renovation is taking place. So it’s an area you can definitely overcapitalise on if you are not careful. 

Great changes that can make a huge difference are updating the colour schemes. Splashbacks can be dated, so upgrading the tiles, adding door handles and spraying the cabinets a new colour can work wonders. Any changes in kitchen decor and colour schemes should be neutral to appeal to as many buyers as possible. 

One mistake vendors make is adding a totally modern kitchen to a period home. Modern features are great for modern homes, but period buyers appreciate a more classic look—so don’t go overboard. 

Most bathrooms can be affordably updated 

Again, there’s no need to blow your budget on a brand new bathroom. As with the kitchen, think of the long term usage of your ideal buyer. If you’re targeting young families, they’ll want a bath. 

Older buyers want accessibility. Knowing your buyers’ needs can influence your investment decisions. In bathrooms, a spray of the bath can make a huge impact if the colours are out of date. And new vanities are very affordable, and they’re great for adding highly desirable extra storage space. Shower screens or new shower curtains can help modernise the bathroom too. And it’s very affordable to get the grout and silicon re fitted. Above all, have the bathroom looking the cleanest you’ve ever seen. 

To recap: how to get your house ready for sale

  • Focus on creating street appeal in the garden 
  • Don’t over invest in upgrades that will delay the sale and 
  • Consider your ideal buyer and their long-term requirements for the home
  • Don’t over modernise a period home
  • Focus on neutral colours for broad appeal 
  • Consider low-cost upgrades that create a good impression on a budget 
  • Have your house incredibly clean 

You may also like: 

What to do when you can’t afford the house you want 

Can you buy a house before the auction? 

When you’re the underbidder at an auction

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