Sold on good advice

[comment caption=What are your tips for preparing a house for sale?]If you plan to sell your house in spring, now is the time to do all that maintenance you've been neglecting. Kim Dungey talks to the professionals about selling your home in a depressed market.

As house prices fall, many of us are wondering what we can do to get top dollar for our property.

Much is out of our control - we can't change where our house is or who our neighbours are.

But experts say presentation can make a difference - especially in the current market when many houses are sitting for long periods.

Michelle Ferris, of home presentation company PREZCO, says maintenance, street appeal and cleaning should be the priorities.

Many potential buyers do a "drive by" before deciding whether to attend an open home so how your house looks from the street is important.

"You only get one chance to make a good first impression.

"And if you want to market in spring, now is the time to look at whether there are holes in the roof, rotten weatherboards or lights not working - general maintenance things that you can do now and that will mean you are not rushing at the last minute."

Fixing those things may not be expensive and may avoid the situation where buyers, seeing work that needs doing, try to discount the price.

Ms Ferris suggests walking across the street and looking at your home through the buyer's eyes.

Trim back any bushes that are blocking windows, waterblast paths and if the ground is not soggy, weed the garden.

Inside, she says, touch up paint, remove mould or mildew and "clean, clean, clean".

"When we go in to do a house, we clean above windows, above doors, lightshades, everything . . . Not everyone will notice if those things are dirty but some people will."

Decluttering is important but something people often find difficult, she says.

Many are not only used to living with their clutter but think that by clearing it away, they will be throwing away memories.

"We say to look at it as packing for your next house. Pop it in boxes in the garage, under a bed or in storage. That way it can't be seen but you know you've still got it."

Each room should have a defined purpose, she adds.

"A bedroom should be a bedroom, not a bedroom-slash-office, or a dining room [should be a dining room not] a dining room-slash-office unless there's absolutely no other option."

That goes for spare bedrooms too.

"If you have a four bedroom house and one of the bedrooms is used for junk, it won't be seen as a four bedroom home. It will be seen as three bedrooms and a junk room."

For the same reason, more people are dressing empty houses with hired furniture.

This helps buyers define areas and to gauge how big rooms are.

Vendors want to appeal to as broad a range of people as possible so it also helps to "de-personalise" spaces to some extent, though if you are selling a family home, it should still look like one.

In many cases, Ms Ferris' company simply rearranges the existing furniture to make rooms appear more spacious.

"We don't encourage people to spend money they don't have," she says.

"Make a budget and stick to it. Prioritise the things that need doing . . . then work out what you can and can't do yourself."

Real Estate Institute Otago president Stephen Johnston says paint is cheap but effective, so long as it is not just "slapped on", and money spent tidying gardens can also be worthwhile, "but leave large and expensive renovations to the new owners."

The best times for an open home are between 11am and 2pm on Sunday.

The market generally improves in spring with longer daylight hours, warmer weather and homes and gardens at their most presentable, he adds.

"Traditionally, this leads to an increased variety of properties on the market."

Mr Johnston says it is critical for homeowners to get the pricing correct.

Starting too high can lead to drawn-out marketing campaigns, stale listings and the often false assumption by buyers that there must be "something wrong" with a property.

To ensure correct pricing, seek a competent agent's advice and, for extra peace of mind, consider having a registered valuation done before or just after putting the property on the market.

The best selling method at present appears to be "by negotiation" for the first week or two, or a set price from day one.

Listing with several agencies is not a good idea, he adds.

"An exclusive agency provides you with accountability and a salesperson who intimately knows you [and] your property, and every single person who has shown interest in it."


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