It’s a seller’s market in most of the larger centres in New Zealand, with limited listings and demand outstripping supply across the North Island and in large swathes of the South Island.
Are you ready to make your move and sell your property? Here are 10 steps to get your home ready to command a great price and find a new owner.
1. Choose a real estate agent
New Zealanders aren’t huge fans of real estate agents in general – only car salesmen, sex workers, politicians, and telemarketers were less trusted in one local survey – and certainly there are a few seriously unethical characters.
But there are around 13,800 active real estate agents and licensed salespeople in New Zealand; most of them do a good job and some of them do a fantastic job.
One of the best ways to find a good agent is to go to open homes and talk to agents who are selling other houses in your area. Look for an agent who follows up with a phone call when you’ve been through their open home.
Ask the agent plenty of questions: does the agent badmouth the vendor or run down the property? Talk to other people who have used their services. Remember the agent works for you, the vendor – they are supposed to follow your (reasonable) instructions.
You can negotiate on the agency agreement, too; check the REAA’s guide for more information.
2. Agree on a marketing campaign
Your agent will come to you with a recommended marketing campaign, and a good one will generally cost between half to one percent of your property’s value, according to Natasha Patel, salesperson at Ray White Mission Bay. So if you’re selling a $500,000 house the marketing package might be $5,000, while a million-dollar plus house could be $10,0000.
“It’s usually a bit less than one percent in the end depending on the vendor's situation – but if you’ve got a stunning house with sea views you need to spend a sensible amount on marketing.
“It gets the property in front of more buyers and also gives the scope and scale to show everyone how great the home is.
3. Start thinking about your house as a product
When you’ve lived in your house for many years and filled it with memories, it’s hard to see it as just a product on the market. But you need to try to look at it with fresh eyes, or ask someone else to do it for you.
Often homeowners do some decluttering and tidying, then feel very proud of themselves – not realising there’s another skipload of stuff to come out of the property before it will start to look presentable.
Your idea of ‘character’ or ‘personality’ in a home isn’t necessarily going to appeal to other people – don’t let your nostalgia limit your pool of potential buyers.
“When I stage a house I do it in an extremely different way than how I’d have my own house,” says Emma Bell, director of Homestaging Wellington. “It’s all about making space and having it clean and tidy.”
5. Declutter and clean
The most common issues Bell sees when she arrives to stage a house?
“Too much clutter, too much pattern, too busy, too much furniture – and the furniture’s often too big, like huge La-Z-Boys in tiny rooms.”
People need to move around in your property at the open homes, so hire a storage unit if necessary and put away anything that’s making the house feel more cramped.
“Hide all your stuff in your cupboards and under your bed,” Bell says. “Limit yourself to three things on each surface. So on the coffee table we might put a plant, magazines and a candle. On the bench, a fruitbowl, teacup and food canisters.
You want to depersonalise it a bit, but keep some photos – when we stage an empty house we bring in a few family photos.”
6. Take a long, hard sniff
Bad smells are probably the most effective and quickest ways to seriously repel most buyers, whether it’s due to heavy smoking or pets.
Pets are a surprisingly common cause of horrible smells. If you’re an animal lover, you may not notice that faint whiff of ammonia in the laundry, or the hair that’s adhered to every surface. Ask a friend, or ask your agent, how the house smells.
You may need a new carpet if a repugnant smell is really ingrained, but it would be worth the expense. Malodorous houses are so notoriously hard to sell that astute property investors love them because they know they can get them below value and quickly fix the problem.
“Make the house smell yummy – fresh flowers are great and lots of candles. Keep it really, really simple, not too busy,” Bell says.
7. Be ready for nosy neighbours
Open homes are a magnet for a wide range of people, including your nosy neighbours and people who just love going to open homes.
Those people, and the genuine buyers, will open all your wardrobes, peer into your shed, rifle through your medicine cabinet and look under your bed.
Don’t leave personal items (or dead bodies) where viewers are likely to find them.
8. Spend your money wisely – street appeal takes priority
You will certainly want to get a new carpet if the cat pee smell just won’t go away. But in general, it’s best to be careful about spending your money on the right items.
Forking out $7,000 on carpet won’t add much to the value if the house looks unkempt from the road because buyers may not bother coming in to admire your plush flooring.
You might have been better off spending $5,000 on the front garden and leaving the old carpet in place.
“People sometimes do get carried away with replacing carpet and painting walls; once they start then find it hard to know when to stop,” says Patel. “It’s easy to end up spending too much and then needing more for the house to cover the costs.
“Sometimes you'll recover what you spent and sometimes you may not. That is why it's so important to pick the right agent so they can guide you as to what to invest in and what to avoid.”
Crucially you need to address the front of the house: letterbox, driveway, front garden – whatever the buyer is going to see when they drive past or peer at your house from the street.
“First impressions are really important,” says Bell. “Get all the gardens done and have it looking tidy – the entrance way is really important too, because people make up their minds in the first 20 seconds.”
9. Approve the photos and the copy
Photos of a property have an enormous ability to attract buyers – there’s a whole blog dedicated to terrible photos from real estate listings.
One property photographer has a great example of how improved photos helped sell a house in eight days that had languished on the market for eight months.
Even if you’re selling your home privately, your iPhone photos will not pass muster. Professional photographers will make your house look its absolute best, while agencies often make use of drone photography to highlight a property’s location or section size.
As well as photos, you’ll need to check the text that describes your property. It doesn’t have as much impact as the images, but make sure you highlight the major selling points up front.
10. Know what you want
Presumably you already have a fair idea about what your house is worth, and the feedback from open homes, along with any offers, should have shown you what the buyers think.
It’s not all about the price, though.
Do you want a long settlement date so you can hunt for another house, or a short settlement date because you’re taking a new job in another city?
Talk to your agent so he or she can explain any relevant aspects of your situation to buyers, who can then tailor offers that will work for you.
And don’t forget to have your lawyer lined up and ready to go when your property sells.