Preparing to sell your house – the first steps
Before we get into the details of how to sell a house, you might want to consider using a real estate agent, or perhaps you’re considering taking the route of “for sale by owner”. The first steps for selling a house are the same. Making sure your property is looking the very best it can, is the simplest way to get the best return on your investment. First appearances really do count and will dramatically improve your chances of making a quick sale.
There can sometimes be a trade-off here: in certain cases, a dramatic improvement in appearance (and therefore expected selling price) can be achieved, but it may be necessary to spend some money. There are, however, many things that don’t cost much financially – just a bit of your time and effort.
Always keep in mind who your target audience is. Walk around your house and try to see it how someone who is visiting for the first time will see it. Who are they? What are they looking for? Families with young children are going to look for very different things in a home, compared to a retired couple looking to downsize. If you struggle to do this, ask somebody else to help you – possibly a neighbour or a family member, but – make sure it is someone who will be honest.
Presentation: Be practical, be rewarded
In our experience, there are “non-negotiable” things that will always need doing. They are:
- Declutter – Prune back the furniture and household content. A cluttered room will look much smaller than it actually is. If you need to, put some things in storage, or ask to use the neighbour’s garage.
- Cleaning – From top to bottom, inside and out. Windows, garage doors, cobwebs in the eaves, floors, behind the shed, under the furniture. Clean everything until it shines. Hose down all the external walls and garden fencing.
- Tidy the garden – Clear away the fallen leaves and branches, mow the grass, edge the lawn, mulch the garden beds, remove any unhealthy looking or dead plants. Make it look alive and inviting.
- Presentation – Invest in some neutral linen and new towels, to use for staging (interior decorating), and really give the house that extra appeal.
- Clean up after your pets – Have the carpets professionally cleaned if you have inside dogs, clean up any animal mess from the garden, and put any feeding bowls or pet bedding away.
- Finish the job – Complete any half-done DIY jobs or maintenance. This includes attending to any leaky taps or running toilets, as well as replacing any light bulbs that are not working. Buyers will automatically reduce their offer if they think they might have work to do.
Taking things a little further
These are just a few optional things to look at. You may not have to do them, but they can make a big difference to how quickly you can sell and the price you’ll achieve.
- A coat of paint – Particularly if you have striking ‘feature’ walls, or things are looking a little tired. Neutral tones are generally the best bet for appealing to a wider range of buyers.
- Small details get noticed – Replace broken or aging door/cabinet handles, replace older bathroom taps and shower heads. Pay attention to the little things.
- Offer peace of mind – Have a building inspection done to show to your potential buyers. This will minimise any uncertainty and help to firm up offers, as buyers will know what they are up for if they buy the house.
What is the most effective way to sell a house?
Unfortunately there really is no absolute generic answer to this. Finding the best way to sell your house will always come down to figuring out what will work best for your own situation.
- Do I use a real estate agent?
- Should I do it myself and sell online?
- Private treaty
- Fixed date sale
- Home opens
- Private viewings
If you’re not sure what all these terms mean, investigate or speak to a few agents who can help you understand all the different options that are available.
Do some research on agents, otherwise, if you decide to sell your house by yourself, make sure you are very confident in your own abilities. It can really be an expensive mistake if you get it wrong.
What is the fastest and easiest way to sell a house?
Presentation is key. How you present your home plays a vital role in turning a viewing into a written offer. Remember the tips for preparing your property at the top of this page. There are a few other things you’ll need to get right from the start, to ensure a smooth sale.
- Pricing – You have to get this right. This is another way in which the first impression really matters. If you go in at the wrong price, you may not capture your ultimate best buyer. The correct selling price is the price a buyer is willing to pay in the current market. It is strongly recommended to get a professional opinion on this, from someone who understands the market you are selling in.
- Marketing – The correct marketing approach will help ensure the most people are looking at the house in the early days, while it is still fresh and exciting. If you get this wrong, the house will take longer to sell and you may not generate the competitive bidding which is possible if more than one buyer is interested in the property.
- Get potential buyers to the property – Yet again, first impressions really are so important. Most properties are viewed online initially, so the photos you use online are critical. It is highly worth employing a professional real estate photographer to take the photos for you, using the right equipment, lighting and staging. If the potential buyer does not connect with the house online, they may not bother to attend a viewing.
- Paperwork is vital – Make sure you have all the right documentation and forms from the start. Are you aware of any covenants or easements on the certificate of title? Can you explain what all those formal and legal terms mean? Any errors or missing information can cause delays in the sale and settlement process.
How do you choose a Real Estate Agent?
There is no right or wrong way, but the most important thing is that you have a good relationship with the agent, so that they understand your priorities and requirements.
Many agents are trying different sales techniques these days. There are pros and cons to each of these different approaches, but the important thing is that you understand and agree on what will work best for you and your situation. Also, remember that the best method of sale is very different in Western Australia to the Eastern states, and will vary by location, price range and buyer demographic.
Do not be afraid to interview several agents. This isn’t personal, this is a business transaction. Don’t go for the nicest person – go for the person who you think will work the hardest to achieve the best result for you. Consider talking to;
- the local agent for your area, who claims to know the area better than everyone and has listed almost every house on your street
- the ‘new kid on the block’ who is desperate to be given a chance to prove what they can do
- the agent with the most sales in your price range over a larger geographic area
- the agent a friend or colleague used, loved and recommends
- the agent who impressed you the most when you attended a home open yourself
It is very important to remember that the agent who values your home at the highest price, is not necessarily going to get the highest price. The true value is only what a buyer is willing to pay. If the initial pricing is not correct, you can lose potential buyers. There are agents who will give you a higher expected sale price just to win your business. Please consider all of the factors beyond that.
Once you sign a listing contract with an agent, you are party to a legal document and you have to comply with the terms regarding exclusivity, introductions and costs. Make sure you read and understand it all before signing anything.
Important areas to consider when agreeing on the terms of engagement are:
- The commission they will take for the sale
- Who will pay for marketing costs, and when
- The length of the agreement
Beyond the legal paperwork, sign up with someone who you are happy will communicate with you in a way that works for you; one who will listen to your concerns and who will act in your best interest as a partner in the selling process.
For more information about engaging a real estate agent in Perth to sell your house, see Department of Mines, Industry Regulation, and Safety.
Do you really need a real estate agent?
Is it better to sell property by yourself, without an agent?
Remember agents are trained in the nitty-gritties of the offer and acceptance contract, all the addendums, and all the other legal requirements of a real estate transaction. We are not talking about selling a bicycle you no longer use. This is usually the biggest transaction most people will enter into in their lives.
Negotiation is not the easiest art form. Agent’s know how to do this and can help by taking the emotion out of it. Remember, this is a business deal.
Agents can normally get far better advertising exposure than you can as an individual. Not only do they have better deals with the regular marketing channels, they also have a database of interested buyers that they can tap in to. If you are using an agent, make sure you discuss the marketing approach and costs upfront, including who will pay for what. Often, marketing costs are over and above sales commission.
Legal procedures to selling a house
The legal requirements in the property game can be a mine-field, and a very expensive mistake if you get it wrong. A sales contract is a legal document, and binding in court. Real Estate agents and Settlement Agents are trained in all the legal requirements of these transactions.
Many people nowadays are looking at doing their own selling, to save on agent fees. A common feeling is that all the information you need is on the internet. Yes, it may well be available, but please exercise caution. The law between the various states in Australia is very different. Please make sure anything you are referring to, is in fact referencing the law of Western Australia.
What do I need to do for a Home Open?
Tidy, and then tidy a bit more. Everything needs to be put away. Don’t just shove it in the nearest drawer, as there is a good chance it will be opened!
Clean until everything is shiny. Be relentless, even if you think your home is clean anyway – you can be sure those cobwebs are already starting to reappear…
Depersonalise – it’s great that you have loved living in your house, but your potential buyer does not need to see it as your home – they want to imagine their own family living there.
You want the house to appear fresh but don’t over-do the air freshener or heavy smelling candles, as you may alienate some people by making them wonder what you are trying to hide. If the house is well aired, you should need only a subtle fragrance, preferably something natural.
Remove your animals and all their bedding. Don’t just tuck them away, take them away. A buyer is going to leave with a better impression, if they can relax and inspect the house without tripping over your pets.
Open up all the curtains and blinds, and turn on the lights to make the house appear bright and welcoming.
Have some calming music playing softly in the background.
What are the common mistakes to avoid when selling your house?
- Pricing – You have to get this right. Remember how much those first impressions count, so if you go in at the wrong price, you may not capture your ultimate best buyer. The selling price is not what you paid + what you spent on renovations + your interest cost + how much profit you would like. It is the price a buyer is willing to pay in the current market.
- Incorrect selling strategy – Please do your research on agents and selling methods. Compare approaches with those used in the same market area as your property.
- Put your best foot forward – Make sure your property is looking it’s absolute best. Clean up, tidy up, spruce up and declutter.
- Inadequate or ineffective marketing – You have to get potential buyers through the door.
- Legal pitfalls – Misunderstanding the legal process or any details of the contract you sign.
Does a home owner need to fix a home before selling it?
It really does depend on your circumstances. Sometimes just a few simple DIY jobs or a coat of paint, can increase the perceived value of a home by several thousand dollars. If the repairs are major and going to cost you tens of thousands of dollars, it would be worth seeking professional advice on whether or not this would be the best choice.
There are certain areas that do have to be fixed by a home owner before they can sell a property. Anything relating to safety must be attended to. The home must have RCDs, Smoke Alarms and Pool Safety measures, all compliant with current legislation prior to settlement.
A qualified Building Inspector will be able to determine if these requirements have been met. Quite often, problems and omissions are only discovered during the inspection arranged by the potential buyer of the property – this can cause unnecessary delays and headaches. We prefer the approach of being prepared and getting a full property inspection done prior to listing your house for sale. This allows you to fix up the niggly bits that may concern a buyer, and can take much of the uncertainty out of the buying process.
Do I need a settlement agent to sell a house?
According to the West Australian government, “Unless you are a suitably qualified lawyer, it would be very unwise to try to carry out the settlement of your own property.” source: https://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/consumer-protection/settlement-agents.
A settlement agent takes care of the conveyancing, which is making sure all the paperwork and conditions in all contracts have been adhered to. Their role is to facilitate this process, to allow for a transfer of ownership between vendor and buyer.
They liaise with various government and regulatory bodies, to ensure all dues are paid and legal requirements are met. They also coordinate with banks regarding mortgages on encumbered properties.
How do I choose a Settlement Agent/Conveyancer?
Choosing a settlement agent or conveyancer is entirely your choice. You are not required to use the one recommended by a real estate agent.
Have a look at a few options and choose the professional who you believe will be willing to look after your interests. Consider their experience in the field and their support team. Recommendations from family, friends and colleagues are always invaluable. Ensure you are happy with their communication style and are aware of the process and the role each of you will play.
A settlement agent must be licenced, and there are strict rules around how they work and charge for their services. A settlement agent cannot provide legal advice. If this is what you are after, you will need to engage a lawyer experienced in real estate transactions.
Settlement agents are legally required to disclose any potential conflict of interest, if they are to act for both parties in the transaction. Other than extenuating circumstances, it may be best to choose someone who is not also providing services to the other party.
For more information about choosing a settlement agent, see https://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/publications/choosing-settlement-agent and download the pdf.
The importance of a building inspection
How to prepare for a property inspection
This is not the time to polish, and clean, and fluff the towels. However, we do appreciate you picking up the dog mess from the garden, as well as providing easy access, and a safe workplace.
It does make life a bit easier if there is less clutter, but we can work around this. Please do not try to “hide” a crack behind a random piece of furniture. There is nothing to worry about, so it is best to be upfront and let the building inspector perform a fair assessment of the property. As a seller, you will be given the option to fix up anything the inspector is not happy with, and this will be noted in the report, so that the buyer knows they don’t need to worry either.
Are you ready for a building inspection? Book it now with ProConsult.