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Cheat Sheet

Selling Your Home For Dummies (Australian Edition)

As soon as you make the decision to sell your home, you need to look at your asset in a different way. No longer just the place where you and your family live, your home is now a product that you need to market and present to your potential buyers. The more people who see your home as desirable, the higher the price you’re likely to sell it for. Here is some information about how to get the best possible price for your home, from researching your likely buyers to targeting your marketing, plus making the process as pain-free as possible.

Understanding Likely Buyers for Your Home

Different kinds of properties suit different kinds of buyers. If you can second-guess the kind of people who may be attracted by your property you can:

  • Better target your marketing.

  • Better understand how you can go about preparing your home for sale.

  • Decide which real estate agent to choose to handle the sale.

Talk to friends to get ideas on who they think may be interested in your property, and what they might be looking for. A good real estate agent can also give you some insight into likely buyers based on their experience of the local market.

Cleaning and Decluttering Your Home before Selling

Home buyers are looking for a place they can imagine themselves being happy and proud of. So, when you come to sell your home, your job is to ensure that nothing gets in the way of your home ‘communicating’ with the potential buyers.

Start by clearing your property of anything that isn’t absolutely essential to the functioning or the aesthetic attraction of a room. Clean out and tidy storage cupboards. Cull pictures, knick-knacks and junk.

Ask a friend with a discerning eye to help you be ruthless about decluttering your home for sale.

Then clean until the place sparkles from floor to ceiling. Rid every corner of grime, cobwebs, mildew, stains, animal hair and dust. Polish windows and mirrors until they gleam. Wipe out cupboards and drawers. Weed the garden, and sweep the front path.

Adding Value to Your Home with Cosmetic Changes

Repaint your property inside and out in a fresh neutral colour to lift its value (proportionately by more than many pricier renovations). Paint or replace tired-looking cupboard doors in kitchens and bathrooms, swap dated cupboard handles and taps with smarter modern versions, replace broken tiles and cracked glass. Tear up worn carpets to sand and polish floorboards.

For really outdated kitchens and bathrooms, replace the stove, sink, bath and basin with quality local products. Forget the granite or stainless steel workbench. A neutral laminate or timber bench top gives the new owners the option to upgrade if they wish.

Leave larger scale structural improvements to the new owners. You’re unlikely to get the money back you spend on upgrading the infrastructure such as re-wiring or re-blocking (replacing the foundations of your property).

Building More Storage into Your Home

One of the biggest complaints of home owners is the lack of storage; this can be a turn-off to likely buyers who are inspecting your home.

Showcasing your home is all about highlighting the possibilities. Here’s how to make more space for storage:

  • Rooms. Ensure each room in your property has some form of cupboard, cabinet or shelving. Even if the storage isn’t built-in, you can show the room’s potential for fitting in a wardrobe or bookshelf.

  • Roof space. Convert your roof space into an attic with a pull-down ladder and have it on display during open-for-inspection times. Even a crawl-space is somewhere to store old files and other treasures.

  • Shed. If you don’t have a garage, buy a garden shed big enough to fit a few tools and a bike or lawn-mower.

Finding an Enthusiastic Real Estate Agent

If you’re not handling the sale of your property yourself, you’re relying on a real estate agent to bring in buyers and get them interested in your home. Make sure the agent you choose understands your property’s good points and has the skills and commitment to market them with enthusiasm.

Think about whether an agent is the type of person who can communicate well to the kinds of people you’ve determined are likely to be interested in your home:

  • Does he dress appropriately?

  • Can he talk authoritatively without being intimidating?

  • Is he the kind of person who is likely to win the trust of your potential buyers and encourage them to make a good offer?

Targeting Your Real Estate Marketing

Real estate agents often encourage you to spend thousands of dollars on advertising and marketing that may not even be appropriate for your property.

Big glossy advertisements don’t necessarily result in bigger prices. More important may be listing your property on a major real estate website, along with a well-designed and worded signboard outside your property that attracts and informs drive-by home-seekers.

You can reach local buyers by letterboxing brochures and by placing advertisements in the local newspaper. If your property is likely to appeal to buyers from other areas, advertise in publications with a metro-wide circulation (including an agent’s own in-house magazine).

Skilful use of photographs and descriptive text can highlight your property’s best points, particularly those not obvious from the street. Sing the praises of your location as well as of the property itself.

Pricing Your Home Properly

List your home at a price that is likely to target the right buyers. Too high and you’re narrowing your potential buyer pool, too low and you’re only going to get the opportunistic bargain hunters.

Don’t rely on agents to give you a realistic price expectation. They invariably over-quote to get your property on their books. When you don’t get offers at that price they’re likely to blame the market rather than their unrealistic price expectations.

Get an independent valuer to give you a valuation based on her knowledge of the local property market and her appraisal of your individual property. Between this figure and the agent’s over-optimistic price expectation, you can get a better idea of how to price your property.

Preparing Your Home for a Pre-Sale Inspection

The repainting, polishing, cleaning and decluttering are all done in preparation for the sale of your property. On inspection day, make sure your home is fresh and welcoming. Sweep the front step, polish the doorknocker, fill the entrance with light and put fresh flowers in strategic spots around the property.

Get rid of the kids and the pets — and all evidence of them, including toys, animal hair and smells. Clear the sink and kitchen bench, and put fresh towels in the bathrooms. Burn vanilla or peppermint essential oils no less than an hour beforehand. Have soft tasteful music playing in the background, and make yourself scarce.

Being Prepared to Negotiate When Selling Your Home

When you get an offer from a buyer that may be much lower than you would like, reply courteously letting the buyer know that you’ve done your homework and that you’re expecting a price a little closer to your listing price. Be prepared to drop around 5 per cent from your hoped for price — but take guidance from your agent about the demand from buyers thus far.

In an auction sale, if the property is passed in at a price lower than you like, have some negotiating points ready to offer the under-bidder. Can they offer you a better price if you volunteer a longer settlement period for instance, or if you leave the collection of large, potted palms behind?

Ensuring a Smooth Transaction from Home Sale Contract to Settlement

A contract isn’t binding until each of you, the home buyer and the seller, has a copy signed by both of you. If you’re selling via private treaty sale:

  • Make sure your agent can contact you immediately when he receives a good offer.

  • Have your solicitor/conveyancer on call to be able to get moving on the conveyancing, too, to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.

For settlement day, make sure you:

  • Vacate the property (unless the sale goes through with tenants in place).

  • Leave it in the same condition it was in when your buyer signed the contract — otherwise the buyer has the legal right to delay or pull out of the settlement.

  • Organise the disconnection of all utilities.

  • Hand over the keys to the new owners.

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