Given its value, and that it’s usually your most significant asset, determining when is the best time to sell your home can feel daunting. Yet, a little extra planning and strategy can make a big difference in the result you achieve – and how it sets you up for what is next.
With each of our own renovation projects, we’ve treated selling the finished home like a project in itself. A goal to achieve, a list of tasks, a team to put together, and work to do with a timeline attached. Here are some of the things we’ve considered in selling our renovated homes, and these things apply whether your home is a project you’ve renovated, or a stepping stone into the next phase of your home-making.
What timing will best celebrate your home in all its glory?
There’s a general belief that Spring is the best time to sell a house. I’ve heard all sorts of theories …
- Some believe that it is when gardens look the best, as plants start to flourish after winter, and flowers come out.
- Others believe it’s not too hot, and not too cool, so homes will feel comfortable and the natural light quality will be at its best to show off the home.
- There’s also a larger theory about our natural circadian rhythms, and Spring being when we ‘wake up’, and consider change, moving, creating new starts.
Whatever the reason, you will see a big influx of property listings around Springtime. Great when you’re buying because there can be a lot to choose from. Sometimes not-so-great because there can be lots of other buyers looking too.
And when you’re selling, it can be sometimes not-so-great … because there’s a lot to compare your property to, and a lot more competitiveness in the market. However, if your property has something that makes it different, sets it apart, or adds value through comparison, it can sometimes serve you well to be on the market when lots of other homes are too.
It’s always worth remembering that you’re usually buying and selling in the same market. An agent told me this once. I always remember it when hearing “it’s a buyer’s market” … or “it’s a seller’s market” … because when you’re selling and buying your primary place of residence, you usually don’t have the opportunity to sell in a “seller’s market” and wait to buy in a “buyer’s market”!
For us, though, we knew we wanted to sell our second renovation project in Winter.
We’d renovated it to be a great, functional and funky family home, with a great indoor / outdoor connection. It was in a quiet cul de sac, on a large block, and as a double brick home that now opened up to the north and north-east, it was a comfortable home year-round. It was about 10km from Brisbane’s CBD, in a suburb called “The Gap”.
It wasn’t a big home, and it had a sensational fireplace that we’d renovated. A glorious 1970’s number, with a brick hearth and rounded pebble chimney. Selling in Winter, with the open fire lit and burning – that was going to be how we could best show the home, with the open fireplace, and its cosy size and the beautiful natural light.
Choosing an agent
When it came time to sell (this was in mid 2007), I interviewed seven real estate agents – from both our area, and areas nearby (actually a little closer into the CBD).
We personally thought our best buyer might come from someone who was looking a little closer into the CBD, but didn’t have the capital to buy this much land and house in the areas they were looking, and would be surprised by the value our home offered. (This strategy also worked with our last project, as it was not the traditional, triple-gabled Queenslander style normally sought after in the suburb).
The seven agents gave us an overall price range of $180,000: the low end being appraised at $600,000 and the high end being around $780,000. A price variance of almost 25%. I actually think this is completely ridiculous, given that’s what these agents do day in day out. One agent even said (whilst waving at our bifold doors and outdoor room) “Who knows what premium THIS will give you”.
We chose an agent based on experience in the area selling in the price range we thought it was based on our research – high $600K, to very low $700K – who had a good strategy, and we had bought and sold with before.
Also, given that women make 80% of the purchasing decisions (or majorly impact them) when buying homes, I chose an agent based on how the ones we interviewed dealt with me. I also asked what they saw were the true, saleable assets of the home. Far too many times, I’ve been to open inspections, and the agent thinks that selling me on the features of the bathroom and kitchen will close the deal. Tell me ladies … will you only look at the bathroom and kitchen when you buy a home? With that clinch it for you?? I didn’t think so!
We also negotiated a rate on commission, and to not pay any marketing costs. (These things are all possible, and we’ve done it with each sale. We’ve found that having the conversation during the interview process is a great time to do it – because these agents are essentially competing for your listing.)
(For our last project, we had a valuation done to give us a good understanding of its potential sale price, and comparative properties that had sold. There were less examples to draw on, and we honed in on only interviewing agents that had experience selling at that high end of our suburb’s market.)
If you’ve spent time renovating your home, it’s important too that you find an agent who understands the work you’ve done and how to market it, and who will work collaboratively with you to get the best result, advising you along the way to achieve this.
It’s also worthwhile doing research into your area, so you have a good understanding of the potential sale price of your home, based on comparative examples. Be realistic, and try to detach emotionally from assessing what it your home is worth (or how much blood, sweat and tears you may have put into it!)
We prepared the property for sale
Whenever we’ve got one of our renovated homes ready for sale, we’ve had a systematic process of doing it.
In our last project, we actually moved out to a rental and left the bulk of our furniture in the home whilst it was marketed. However, with the other properties, we’ve been living in them (with toddlers and babies and jobs and dogs). We needed to create a system and a way to prepare, market and sell the property that would would work with our busy lifestyles, and also show the property off to its full potential – every time.
This is what we did:
#01 Declutter first
- We put things in off-site storage so cupboards looked used, neat and organised but not full. Many people move home purely because they’ve run out of storage space. People will open your cupboards during inspections. Your storage needs to look like it’s functional, is doing the job, and still has space for extra things.
- All book shelving was neat and organised – with space left for more things.
- We had some family photos around but not too many – people need to envisage their family living in the home.
- We moved some furniture out, so every piece in every room had a purpose and still left space.
#02 Build in function and future ideas
- We had a double garage underneath the house, that had a level change in the middle of it, and was accessed by two separate garage doors. Both halves were large – larger than one car. The agent suggested turning one of the garage spaces into a teenage retreat. We did this by putting big curtains up to cover the garage door, and some rugs down to cover the concrete floor.
- The hallway to the bedrooms was quite narrow and with rooms on both sides, was quite dark compare to other areas of the home. I hung a gallery wall of family photos along the hallway, so people would slow down and look, and not feel like they were in a tunnel they were moving quickly through.
- I drew up a design for how the home could be extended further, as well as a pool built in, and we made that available for viewing during inspections.
- We also wrote a paragraph about what we loved about the home and the area. It was quite emotive, and about showing what a great family area and street we were in, and how much the home’s design made life in it simple and convenient. This was in the ‘sale book’ which sat with the sales brochures.
Our garage space – kitted out to look like a teenage retreat. The full height curtains were made from cheap Ikea fabric threaded onto a long rope, which was strung along in front of the garage door. It also provided a great ‘concealment’ zone to pop the dirty washing basket I pulled out of the bathroom each open inspection!
#03 Turn inspection preparation into a process (this was, by far, my biggest sanity saver)
- I had a set of linen that was dedicated for open inspections – essentially a bedspread/doona and pillowcase for each bed – and that lived in a storage box in the cupboard. Inspection prep would mean removing the pillowcase and doona on the bed, and laying out the ‘inspection’ one. I packed the messy set away and neatly stored it in the base of the robe in each room. (At that time we had 2 kids – our son was 2, and our daughter was 3 months old – so I could never guarantee the state of their bed linen as it was!).
- I did the same with the tablecloth and bath towels, and had a set dedicated for inspections.
- Floral arrangements are expensive. I instead did an arrangement of palm leaves and greenery – mostly picked from the supermarket carpark (!) I put them in solid coloured vases (so you couldn’t see if the water was becoming discoloured). This meant I didn’t have to replace flowers twice a week, and I simply wiped the leaves off with damp paper towel to remove any dust.
#04 ‘Up’ the value perception of the home
- When your renovations make big changes to the way the home looks and feels, it’s hard for inspecting buyers to really understand all the work you’ve done. So, I put together a slide show of photos of the original house, and had this showing on the TV and any computer screens (for example, in the study nook). This gives the ‘before’ appearance, and embeds value into the work done to create the ‘after’ appearance. I particularly recommend doing that – over and above a photo album. The agent said that, during the inspection, people were standing in the living room, watching the slide show, and turning to her in disbelief saying “was that what this place really used to look like?” Bingo.
- We lit the fire. And we had the bifold doors wide open and light streaming in. We had an early morning inspection when the air was still a bit crisp, but Brisbane never gets that cold in winter – so our solution worked well to sell the home. Visitors could see how well the indoor / outdoor connection worked, and how great it all felt.
#05 Be consistent
- We ‘presented’ the house like this every time someone came to look at it.
- We did not let anyone have an early look before the renovation was finished, or this presentation work was done.
- We even did this when the building and pest inspector came through (because the buyers usually come with them).
- Each time, telling the same story, and presenting the property the same way.
When we sold, I was pregnant with our third and the architectural practice I co-owned with 5 others had been going about a year. We had spent about $90,000 on the renovation, and it had taken 2.5 years. (We’d bought the home for $455,000). We sold the house in the first week it was on the market, for $710,000. Comparable properties in the area were selling for mid $600,000’s range. And yes, we sold to a buyer who had been looking in a different suburb, a little closer in, and not been finding what they wanted for their budget.
And knowing we were ready to sell, we’d found another property for our next project, and already had it under contract. We set simultaneous settlements for both properties. I remember the stress of that settlement day … the buyer’s removalist trucks sitting in the street, waiting for the call from their lawyer to say that settlement had occurred. Us madly throwing the last bits and pieces into cars and our mover’s truck … and even over our neighbour’s fence to come get later … and waiting to hear that settlement had gone through of the property we were moving to! Fun and games, but that story is for another time 😉
We had treated selling the home as our final project in its renovation: A goal to achieve, a list of tasks, putting the team together and working our butts off to achieve the end result. And it was so worth the all the effort.
What about you? Have you used any particular techniques to sell your home and get a great result? I’d love to hear – pop it in the comments below.
Other blogs you may find useful …
The renovation of this home taught me 6 important lessons about renovating.
This home had a sensational outdoor entertaining area, that made a big difference in selling it. Here’s 10 things yours needs to be great …
We made lots of mistakes when renovating – here’s some doozies you can avoid.