First impressions count

When talking about presenting a property to the available marketplace in its best possible light, the phrase “You never get a second chance at making a first impression” could not be truer when it comes to the impression a property can make on a potential buyer at very first sight.

As well as its structural condition and level of basic maintenance, the way a property is presented and styled will also have a huge impact on the perceived value of the home.

It is natural for buyers to look around a property and look for discounts; things that they will need to do to the property for them to feel happy with their purchase, and to see themselves living there. These things start adding up, and they do so in the form of perceived discounts –  costs that are factored in to any eventual offer. Some examples could be:

“The home needs a bathroom makeover… that’s $30,000 I can negotiate off the price guide.”
“The home needs new carpet… that’s $10,000 I can negotiate off the price guide.”
“The home needs fresh paint… that’s $8,000 I can negotiate off the price guide.”
“The home needs a modern front door… that’s $2,000 I can negotiate off the price guide.”

When it comes to negotiating with this particular buyer type, if they haven’t already been turned off the project altogether, they have most certainly been given the leverage to negotiate south of the asking price. If you find yourself in this position as a seller, don’t be offended – haggling or finding common ground is a natural part of the negotiation process, and it happens across all categories. Cars, boats, business… heck, we’d haggle with the menu at McDonald’s if we knew we could. Everyone wants to feel as if they got ‘a win’, but if you have a proven negotiator on your side, you’ll be okay to a degree.

In mentioning this, if you are considering selling your most valuable asset, it is critical that you discuss whether your home is ‘market ready’ with your agent prior to listing it for sale. They are, after all, your local property expert. Being familiar with the market, comparable property sales, and the behaviour of buyers in your price point, you can work with them to proactively minimise possible objections. Even if it means you wait a few more weeks before listing for sale (in order to complete your checklist) it will be time well spent.

Perhaps you can afford to get the checklist done in its entirety. Maybe you can only tick a few things off the list – every tick helps.

There’s always a chance that you might only financially ‘break even’ having done these improvements, but even breaking even and making that money back is better than having to negotiate south from your asking price.

There are agents in most marketplaces whose hallmark is essentially ‘Don’t renovate before you sell, any agent recommending this just wants their marketing campaigns to look better at your expense.’ Ummmm okay. These agents play on the emotional attachment that most people have to money, rather than focusing on things that can make the owner more of it. The fear of loss is a strong one, so be mindful of an agent who will try to leverage that fear to their advantage.

An un-renovated, unmaintained property will result in low offers, low competition, and a low sale price. Easy work for the agent when all they have to do is deliver bad news and wear you down. I’d rather the contrast – deliver the agent a beautifully presented property and give them every reason to get you the best price.

Like anything, the best results are arrived at via competition. The fewer things ‘wrong’ with your property, the higher the likelihood of it appealing to more buyers in its price bracket. It will photograph better. Better photographs will lead to more enquiry. More enquiry will lead to more inspections. More inspections will lead to more bidders at your auction. The numbers game. Your agent’s ability to get you the best possible price in the current market is greatly influenced by the property’s ability to make a lasting impact. Be ‘that property’ the buyers keep coming back to.

Around 18 months ago I was scheduled auction a house. I ended up being booked to auction it twice, for 2 different agents.

The owner and been renting it out, and the first time around they showed it as an empty, soulless, rental property. No investment into styling, no care for presentation. Unsurprisingly, it passed-in at its first auction after failing to reach its reserve. 8 weeks later and with its second agent, the owner had invested $8,000 into styling, had the driveway pressure-washed, and the gardens tidied up. The property was sold pre-auction for $65,000 higher than the reserve price just 8 weeks prior. Spend $8,000 to make an extra $57,000? Sign me up!

If you can’t see the value of investing in your home, you can’t expect buyers to, either. Like most things in life, you get out what you put in. Style and present your property as best you can, heed your agents’ advice, and give yourself the best opportunity at achieving the highest sale price you can. Trust me, it’ll be worth it.