Walking past a local cafe, I was alarmed to see it being renovated yet again. For the third time in 18 months the tarps have gone up and the tradies have moved in. With every new business owner comes a need to start again and make it their own. I’m not talking about a lick of paint , but more of a strip down and rebuild from the bricks and mortar. The wasteful cycle did make me feel physically sick, but it made me think about the house selling cycle and the escalating preparations we subject these buildings to. The upside of my cafe experience is it has made me write my first blog in about three months. This is the first of two blogs (get me, I’m on a roll). This first blog is about preparing your house for sale and recognising when enough is enough. The second will talk about the fabric of your home and how you need to experience and feel it to do it justice in any future changes. Hold off with the bull dozers.
Real Estate in urban Australia is something else. It’s light years ahead from what I ever experienced in the UK, it’s so vast and so fast paced. The Australian Bureau of Statistics social survey indicates that 43% of Australians have moved house within the last five years. That’s a lot of packing boxes. Clearly, your stage of life affects your tendency to move shell. How often people move also tends to depend on whether they rent, mortgage or own their home outright. This living arrangement also affects how they move.
When it comes to selling, regardless of why or when you need to relocate, you want to make sure you get the most for your property. The whole ‘getting ready for sale’ in the residential market is huge business. Homes are showcased like display homes, everything clean, fixed, neutralised and styled. You have to walk along a tightrope as you balance the need to attract attention and stand out from the rest, set against the threat of alienating potential buyers with lurid styling or grot. You also need to find the balance in de-cluttering and de-personalising your home. It needs to be done, but not to the point that it is stark, cold and unwelcoming.
In an effort to connect to budding buyers, you can prepare rooms to enable them to see the potential your home holds. But in an effort to maximise that sale price many sellers are open to pushing harder. If you google ‘house sale preparation’ the results are plentiful. Many sites state the obvious, such as spring clean, de-clutter, fix broken items, paint the walls neutral, remove furniture to create a sense of space. But some sites go further. Suggestions of installing cabinetry to show storage potential of a dead space; re-tiling outdated wet areas, changing tap fittings for a more modern look, improving lighting, installing new carpet to freshen the space (and remove odours), retrofit your kitchen with new fronts. The list goes on.
The sale preparation to-do lists are getting bigger, more involved and more costly as they move from redecoration to renovation. We are increasingly seeing the cafe renovating cycle move into the domestic scene. Worse still, it’s happening on both sides of the ‘home exchange’. People are renovating to sell it. People are renovating it when, or soon after, they move in. It’s a double renovation conundrum.
It’s also a potential, resource-sucking, vicious cycle that we need to be stop. At a time when many inner suburban homes are being leveled to make way for townhouses, or even medium density apartments, it seems nonsensical, both financially and environmentally, to be undertaking small scale renovations to make your home look its best. Even if its not ‘development’ potential, if you renovate your house for sale, you risk doing it in a style that is objectionable. I’ve seen a perfectly functional and beautiful bathroom installed in preparation for sale being ripped out two years after it was installed. Two years. All because the new owner didn’t like the style. My question to the buyer here is: if you didn’t like the bathroom, the main resource heavy room in the house, why buy it? This avenue will be explored in my next blog. But as a seller, if a space needs renovating why do it before you sell. Surely it’s best for the new owners to do that their way.
As soon as you start renovating, you’re subjecting the fabric of your home to ‘nips and tucks’. Holes drilled here, noggins removed there, material put in and material taken out. If you’re doing it to sell and they’re doing it when moving in, it’s doubling up the intensity. A few cycles along the way and the fabric of the home is resembling Swiss cheese. The constant nipping and tucking doesn’t do anyone any favors in the long term, least alone the building.
Knowing what to do (and what not to) starts with knowing your potential buyer. It begs many questions. Many of which you need to be asking your real estate agent if you’re going to understand your target audience. Is your home in a zone that allows for site redevelopment? Who is buying into the area? Who does your home appeal to? What are they looking for? What are they not looking for? How should undefined rooms be set up? (i.e. should one bedroom be a study or vise versa?) What do they see as being the key selling point of the home?
Other questions you can ask yourself: What made you buy the property? What features really show the best of each space? What features / issues don’t show the best and how can they be camouflaged? What elements of the house really work? If the new owners are going to make your home their own, then what could you do to it to help start that process? What should you leave for them to do? In my humble opinion in addition to spring cleaning, de-cluttering, fixing anything broken, painting the walls neutral and removing furniture to create a sense of space, you basically need to -
Make it feel like a home, so you appeal to the heart not the head.
Appeal to all of their senses, especially touch. Get texture in there.
Control where people walk and what they see to emphasize those awesome features.
Use smoke and mirrors to disguise, camouflage or hide the features that aren’t great.
I’ve always really appreciated beautiful spaces, so I’m all for getting your home looking its best. But what is essential is knowing how far you should go to achieve this and knowing when to stop. Besides, if you make your home look too splendid you will have second thoughts about selling it.