by Carly Susic 

Were you planning to sell your home in 2020? You’ve been thrown a huge curveball, thanks to covid. Selling your home during restrictions is far from ideal. 

There’s bans on inspections, pressure on agents, low stock and fluctuating demand. So, the typical strategies for getting a great sale price may not be so effective. 

But if you still want to sell, the prospect is not as bleak as you may think. Don’t listen to the doom and gloom on the news. The data quoted on the news is often based on median prices. Just one fire sale of a total dump can skew that median. Plus, the data for all of Melbourne differs greatly between suburbs. In your particular area, the price demand may be holding firm. So it doesn’t matter what’s happening across town. Buyers are still out there and they want to buy quality homes.  

Making an offer prior to auction

Buyers will compete for quality homes

Reasons for selling in a quiet market

Perhaps your home was on the market for autumn 2020 and thanks to lockdown back in March you decided to wait it out. Of course, little did you know that Melbourne restrictions would continue all winter, (except for a few short intervals). You can’t wait any longer and need to sell before the year ends. 

Or perhaps you’re just ready to sell your home now? Are you sick of Melbourne lockdown and dreaming of a sea change or tree change to the rural lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of? The pandemic has made some reconsider high-density living. Trading it all in for a life in the country, mountains or beach has never been more appealing. (Personally, I’d take Noosa.)

Unfortunately a few people might need to sell for financial reasons. If you’ve lost a job in a recession or are under financial pressure, downsizing your home, getting rid of an investment properly or selling a holiday home is a good way to free up finances. In this case,  you don’t want to be pressured into selling at a fire sale price. You need to maximise your chances as much as possible.  

The advantages of selling during a pandemic 

Naturally, when recession hits, people decide not to sell their homes. As the market slows, they decide to wait it out. Many people made this call back in March 2020. This means fewer homes on the market. The buyers (and there’s always buyers for quality properties) are forced to compete. Regardless of the market, if you have a handful of buyers competing over your property, the price is driven up. 

It’s the classic supply and demand model that you learned in year eleven economics. 

Selling your home amid pandemic restrictions 

Currently in Melbourne, stage four restrictions prevent face-to-face inspections. Plus, auctions are conducted only online. Even though estate agents are suggesting purchasing homes sight unseen, I’d never dream of advising a client to do this. 

You can’t get a sense of the room proportions, being in the actual space or even just the vibe of the place. (Or the smell.)

So, how do you sell under these circumstances? 

It’s not advisable to sell during stage four restrictions, due to the limitations on inspections. Plus, the drama of the in-street auction with the neighbours crowding around creates an atmosphere that pushes along auction bidders. So we’d be unwilling to sell without those too. 

But when stage four restrictions ease, it’s important to be ready with a sales plan. This includes six vital elements:

  • having realistic expectations 
  • choosing the right agent 
  • timing strategically 
  • understanding the Melbourne spring market 
  • staging the auction
  • presenting the home to its absolute best

Let’s dive into these elements in detail.

Having realistic price expectations

Of course, we all want to sell during a boom. Unfortunately, that’s not the case at present. Even though late 2019 and early 2020 were very promising, we are unlikely to see the highs of 2017 return in the near future. So it’s important to be realistic about the price you expect. 

Sometimes, it’s about the cost of staying in your home. If you don’t sell now, you don’t have the chance to move on and take advantage of buying in a similar market. You get stuck in a home that no longer serves your needs. Holding on, waiting for prices to climb may cost you in other ways. Plus, there’s no such guarantee you’ll get the price you want. Years could drag by. Accepting the true value of the home and moving on can be the best approach. 

Perhaps you have an emotional connection to the house so you’re only prepared to sell it for top dollar? Or you want to make back the money you spent at the height of the market. Or, you invested in renovations to suit your own taste. If you love your home it can be hard to see its flaws. 

“Someone will fall in love with it and pay top dollar,” they tell me. I find this belief to be very common among vendors and  rare among buyers. 

But, although this absolutely does happen often in a volatile market, the buyers don’t see it that way. They’ll only pay what the house is worth. They appraise the home clinically. They compare to similarly-priced homes in their area. They’ll evaluate the cost of overdue renovations. They don’t care that it was the home where you had your first child or the deck where you had that great party.

So, you need to meet the market with your price. If you state a high price you ruin your campaign before it even begins, because you fail to attract interested buyers. 

Choosing the right agent 

A slow market puts pressure on agents. They work on commission, so fewer homes to sell means fewer dollars in their pocket. So if you’re selling during these conditions, you can expect strong competition from agents to get your listing. 

Agents can be extremely charming and persuasive. Some cross the line and pester you. (If you use us, we take care of the pushy sales calls, visits and emails, so you don’t get harassed.) 

Beware the agent who essentially ‘bids’ for your listing by offering you the highest price. You sign with them because they quoted the best estimation. But after the ink has dried on the contract, they’re recommending a different, more realistic sale price. You’re locked in, and there’s not much you can do about it. 

Working with a vendor’s agent can help you choose the agent who’s giving you a fair quote on price expectations. We have access to the private data that agents use to quote prices too. So we can determine if they’re not being realistic.

You can negotiate the commission. You don’t have to accept the terms the agent offers. This is another service we offer vendors, who may feel uncomfortable haggling on commission arrangements.  

You may also want to choose an agent with the technology and experience in online auctions. Or an agent who has adapted to another method to help you to achieve the best sale price possible. (More on this later.)

Timing strategically 

Winter is traditionally a quiet time in the Melbourne real estate market. Many vendors prefer to wait till spring, when the weather is better and the garden is in full bloom, showing the home in its best light. 

So, as winter comes to a close, it’s likely that vendors are now ready to sell. Particularly if they were planning to sell in autumn, and decided to pull the home off the market due to the pandemic. 

You want to get in early to maximise the aforementioned competition. The more vendors start to list properties now for spring, the more competition you have on your hands. 

selling your home during restrictions

A spring garden adds instant curb appeal

Spring is a fractured market

Spring is traditionally full of stop-start campaigns due to disruptive events: 

  • Victorian school holidays 
  • the AFL grand final 
  • Spring Racing Carnival 

This year it’s even more chaotic.While the grand final has been moved to late October, it will still be a big day on the Melbourne calendar. As such, not a good day to sell your home during a pandemic. The race that stops the nation will most likely proceed (without crowds but we’ll watch from home), giving us another day to avoid during sale campaigns.

On the other hand, events like the Royal Melbourne Show have been cancelled and with travel restricted, school holidays will have less of an impact this spring. 

If you can time your sale around these disruptions and get in early you have a greater chance of success. 

Of course the big caveat: IF restrictions ease. While at time of writing cases are dwindling, we can’t be sure that stage four will end when it’s reviewed on 13 September. 

Staging the sales campaign and auction

Due to the uncertainty in the market, more vendors are moving to off-market sale. This saves you in marketing and auction costs. But you are more reliant on your agent to deliver buyers. If they have a solid network of interested buyers, it can be a clever strategic move. If not, buyers won’t know your home is on the market. I find this strategy varies greatly between Melbourne suburbs. 

So speak to your agent or vendor advocate to determine what’s the best approach. 

We all love the dramatic auction in the street, with the neighbours crowding around. The drama of the occasion can get the bids flowing. Plus, a charismatic auctioneer who has the bidders in the palm of their hand make a huge difference too. Agents miss this terribly, and I do too.

But sadly, we’ve moved into a world of online auctions. 

Some agents have been quick to embrace the technology of online auctions and are using them to great success. While others have not been so fast to adapt. (Make sure to ask prospective agents before you sign up with them.)

Regardless of the type of campaign, you should have a four-week process. This puts an end date to the sale and draws out buyers. 

Have your presentation on point

This is more important than ever. Those final touches can make your home stand out. Styling should be impeccable. Declutter and remove those photos. People can’t imagine living in the home when there’s personal photos on the walls and mantlepiece (Plus, you don’t want others gawking at your private photos.)

Fixing those quick odd jobs can make a huge difference too. You don’t see them because you’re comfortable at home, but buyers will. Get on to:

  • bathroom grout
  • mould
  • missing silicon
  • dripping taps
  • squeaky doors 
  • rotting fascia boards or timber
  • marks on ceilings
  • cracks

Those small elements can make buyers question the structural integrity of the home. It makes them worry that there’s other structural problems. You want your home to look well loved and maintained, not neglected. 

A major declutter can work wonders. Remove evidence of pets like bowls and scratching posts. Invest in a plug-in fragrance or candles to eliminate pet smells. Take all the junk off the fridge. Fill laundry baskets with any items that you need out of the way during inspections and put them in the boot of the car while buyers are coming through. Your buyers should feel the home is ready for them to move into. So make it easy for them to imagine living there.

selling your home during restrictions

Beautiful styling entices buyers and is well worth the investment

Selling your home in a pandemic: key takeaways 

  • less stock on the market drives up competition among buyers 
  • set realistic price expectations
  • choose the right agent, with the right online auction technology
  • get in early before more homes land on the market
  • make sure your property is presented in the best light

Consider a vendors advocate to help you

With all this uncertainty, vendors’ advocates can help take some of the stress away. You’ll feel confident in the sale price, get support choosing an agent and access expertise when deciding on the sales strategy. 

With our fee being a part of the normal selling commission, engaging a vendors advocate is essentially no cost to you.  So if you’d like a free consultation, so I can evaluate your particular circumstances and recommend a plan specific to your situation, contact me on 0418 575 906.