Presentation Tips

To follow is a fairly exhaustive list of ideas I've collated over the years. Whilst this may not be everything you'll need, it's a great place to start.

 

Declutter

Identify the problem areas. Remove excess items of furniture, knick knacks, trophies and pictures of family. A cluttered home leaves the buyer feeling like they could never fit their things in. They can't see how much space there is, kind of like white noise for the eyes, if that makes sense. If your photos are up they will most likely feel they are intruding in your home. You want them feeling as if it's theirs all the way through the inspection. Usually these are in places where you have not been in a while and are covered in dust, piles of items that you cannot even identify how old they are!  For example, piles of newspapers or magazines, little bits of odds and ends all over the bench-tops etc.

Reward yourself for a job well done. Find something nice you like doing to treat yourself with after you’ve done battle with the clutter and are satisfied with the results. Whatever it may be, just reward yourself so that you feel inspired to keep dealing with it on an ongoing basis until your home is sold.

 

Cleaning

I haven't yet met a buyer that walked in and was moved emotionally to pay top dollar for a dirty home. I mean picture this: Marjorie walks in and says to Burt (in a cockney tone is the way I imagine it in my head), “oh Burt, what a lovely filthy home. I can really see us rolling up our sleeves and spending the next 6 weeks cleaning it from top to bottom.”  I can only begin to imagine Burt’s response and I just don't think we can write those words here unless I want to totally offend some people.

So when I say clean, I'm talking about almost hospital grade clean. Windows and sliding doors you can walk into because you can't even see the glass etc. Taps polished and so on. Tiles and grout looking as if just laid. We are looking to impress here. When was the last time you went to a car yard and saw an untidy car presented for sale as a general rule. Let's face it, they would go out of business pretty quick. A dirty house makes the buyer feel as if there is a massive amount of work to do and this will most definitely put them off paying top dollar even if by some stroke of luck they decide to buy it.

A clean and tidy home impresses even dirty people and reflects well on the upkeep of the home in the buyers minds. They will have more confidence to proceed believing the home to be well maintained and therefore unlikely to be a money pit in the future.  Wash and put the dishes away, stow away the washing basket, make the beds and clear all surfaces. Ensure all surfaces gleam and keep away anything a potential buyer might not want to see or touch. No toothbrushes left out, kettles and toasters etc.

 

Re-arranging, removing and/or replacing furniture

One of the critically important aspects of presenting a home for sale is making sure that the way it's furnished speaks well of the home. This means make your furniture look it's best.  If it's tired, torn etc then don't keep it or cover it with throw rugs etc. If it's stained then clean it. If too far gone then replace or remove it depending on your budget.

 

Make sure rooms are furnished as intended. The best way I can describe this is through the following example.

I've displayed thousands of homes and the one thing you can count on for clues if you choose to listen for it is the buyers comments as they walk through the home.  People often adapt rooms in a house to suit their lifestyle, you may have even done this yourself. This can be turning a lounge room or games room into a bedroom or turning a dining room into a study. If your home is like this then change it back before you go to market. Countless times I've heard buyers say, "that's a strange place for a study" or something to that effect. They cannot for some reason see past how it's furnished now and therefore will miss the opportunity to see themselves utilizing that space as it was intended.

You may consider renting furniture although this can be a very expensive option. The key is to choose the most appealing, quality pieces and arrange them to give each room a stylish and welcoming feel. Even the oldest furniture can come to life with a throw rug and some decorative cushions and some good positioning.

 

Let there be light

Natural light should be featured predominantly as much as possible in the staging of your home. Open your curtains, blinds or window coverings to let it in.  It gives the room a fresh, airy and wholesome atmosphere.

To create a warm impression, down lights, lamps and studio lighting can be used. If the home is dark then you have to use the lights to solve the problem. Make sure globes are high powered and illuminate the room well.

 

Organising

Have the contents of your walk-in wardrobe, drawers and pantry neatly arranged. Some buyers are nosy enough to want to look inside, partly to ensure a lack of wear or damage, but also to ensure there is enough room for their stuff. A well organised linen press or pantry shows off storage space. This is usually high on every woman's list.

If you are going through a relationship status change then think carefully about making sure that you leave some clothes and signs of the opposite sex in the home. I had a buyer mention to me once that they look in the wardrobe to see if there's his and hers clothing or an abundance of space where another person's clothes might have been. Now clearly they aren't doing this because they want to pay top dollar.

 

Gardens

Leave Your House/Home:

Buyers don't want to feel intimidated or restricted when it comes to asking questions and thoroughly inspecting the house/home. It is at all times advisable to step out or be away especially if an agent is taking care of the sale. If they in any way feel inhibited by your presence, then it doesn’t augur well for a sale at best price, if at all. You might also have a dis-advantageous urge to want to demonstrate your home and hence give off the impression of being desperate to sell.

Landscaping:

Green makes buyers keen. Well maintained and healthy gardens are usually the buyers first impression. As the old saying goes you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

If your lawns are in poor condition then you absolutely must do something about it. A quick and cheap fix can be fertilizing and then top dressing with yellow brickies sand (not the soil booster the garden centre recommends as the colour looks unclean and will reverse the effect you are going for). The yellow sand contrasts beautifully with green. Even whilst the lawn is coming back it will look good. Mulch and replant where necessary, trim back but make sure there is plenty of big lush greenery.

I can't tell you how many buyers have bought homes that have awesome gardens and paid a premium price because of that and then they proceed to destroy the beautiful garden through a lack of care over the next two or three years. Most people want a beautiful looking garden but not everyone is capable of keeping one.

 

Repairs

Make sure bathroom and kitchen fittings are all in great condition. Even old bathrooms and kitchens can benefit from new tapware which is relatively inexpensive.

Grout to be restored by professionals usually. This will lift the appearance of old and dated tiles.  Shower screens that are cracked should be replaced. This can quite often be claimed on your insurance.  Doors and windows need to be operational and sliding cleanly.

 

Paint and flooring

If any walls have chips and/or if you painted yourself and there's paint bleed at the edges, you need to either fix this yourself or get a professional in otherwise the buyer is likely to assess repainting as being required. They will typically cost this at two to three times the normal amount when negotiating. If carpets are worn, stretched, heavily stained, vinyl damaged or wood flooring badly scuffed this all needs either repair or replacement. This should be the first place you go and only work back from there if budgetary constraints dictate otherwise.

Some of my many clients have sought the easy way out by saying that people might not like their choices so they are better off letting the buyer choose their own colours. Please understand that if we thought that we wouldn't suggest it to you. There's a big difference between some buyers not liking your colour choice and all buyers thinking they will need to replace the flooring or paintwork as the case may be. The whole idea therefore is to understand that supply and demand are the key drivers for price. Therefore everything you do needs to accommodate the idea of increasing demand. I might add that I've had people that still buy the home even when they don't like the colour with the intention that they'll change it in a couple of years. This now can't be used at the negotiating table and they know it, coincidentally so should your agent.

Homes that are well presented command a higher price because they inspire a positive emotional response from the buyers. Conversely if you fail in this area you ultimately pay the price of an eroded negotiating position.

 

Dogs and Pets

Dogs are best kept away from the property during an inspection just in case the buyer inspecting is allergic or does not like dogs or pets in general.

I remember once fairly early in my career I took some buyers to a property that had two tiny little lovable dogs that I thought would be ok. I had met them many times and they were very friendly and cuddly.  So here I am, I've opened up, delivered a opening script and now I am letting them absorb the home. The buyer was a young man that came with his mother to view. This by the way is always a fairly serious opportunity to make a sale when they bring family along. They are seeking confirmation that this decision is a good one but won't take family to everything just the properties they are seriously considering.  Earlier in the day the owner had said on the phone "are you sure you don't want me to come home from work early and take the dogs out" and I said "no". What a mistake that was!

Things are going pretty well, the mother has asked me a couple of questions, to which I’ve delivered carefully thought through answers that's she's very impressed with. The son is off having his own little wander and it's all looking pretty good I must say.  Next minute he's out the back and through the kitchen window and blinds I can see a shadow of a person with his arms going up in the air at different times like some sort of weird dance and I'm thinking oh how cute the dogs are playing with him. I can hear them barking so this is also all adding to my assumption as they don't sound like they are being vicious.

As the seconds go by it appears that there may be something wrong though as the pitch has changed now and there are sounds of distress coming from him. I step outside and there they are, these cute little fluffy and friendly white dogs tag teaming an attack on him. One would go in from one side and bite him then whilst he was distracted fending off one, the other had a crack. This was going backwards and forwards quicker than I could process what was really happening! Now today this is hilarious when I picture it in my mind but at the time I was horribly embarrassed and a little concerned for the poor bugger. I stopped the dogs and we take him inside, mum's there by my side at this point, and he has tears in his jeans and blood has been drawn.  Needless to say he was put off buying that house and we never heard from him again. As my 13 year old would express it on Facebook, #Rookielessons!

 

Welcoming Touches

Vases of fresh flowers and freshly baked biscuits tend to invite the potential buyers inspecting the home in. They make them want to linger and imagine themselves living there.

Fresh flowers, ventilation, light and good smells are simple details that matter quite a lot in home staging. It also helps in creating the good first impression that might very well influence the buyer to invest in your home. However there's a school of thought I want to dispel straightaway. Years ago, I believe one of the lifestyle programs (maybe ‘Bugger up my house sale’ or at least it should have been called that) there was a bright spark that told people to lay out place settings as if they are inviting you to a dinner party. Seriously the most epic fail ever. Now you might say to me “ yeh I've seen that and thought it looked great."

Here's what really happens. I was doing a home open and a buyer walks in, they've had a look around and have engaged in conversation with me about the home. During the chat I was asking them about others they had seen to get a feel for where they were at. They proceeded to tell me about a home they saw down the road and how the owner must have been desperate to sell. Now I'm keen, as a student of human behaviour, to understand why they made that assumption. It turns out that the people had set the table with place settings for a dinner party and they observed this as being a sign of desperation. Wow, I bet that wasn't in the plan.

Now if that's not enough reason not to do it, I'm selling another property a few years later and the owner informs me that the mother in law is going to help her stage the home. I'm feeling a little uneasy and explain why it's not a good idea. This is promptly dismissed as the mother, who had sold at least ten homes in her life, (I've at this point only sold about 500, so what would I know) is seen as the expert. We go to market and as a professional I'm not going to let my opinion on that affect anything.

What I observed over a period of five weeks marketing is that we got a lot of people, who appeared very interested, come to the home open but then they never spoke to us again. This obviously can just mean that the interest had waned or that they have found something else. Alternately it can mean they are waiting to see the property come down in price because they believe it will for whatever reason.

The owners had bought another home so they were at this point starting to pack and move into their new home. Most stuff apart from some boxes and small items had been moved and we weren't intending on opening that weekend until I got two buyers that were keen to see inside. Obviously there was no staging of dinner party invitations at the dining table because there wasn't one a table anymore. Both parties negotiated to buy the home that weekend and more importantly engaged in their negotiations out of a fear of loss. This prompted them to pay higher than the asking price and we got a sensational offer for them.

Now we will never know for absolute certain whether they would have behaved the same way if the dinner party thing was still happening but putting together two pieces of evidence my assumption is more probable than not that the previous buyers sensed the desperation and were waiting for a price reduction before coming forward.

What this business is about is minimizing the risk of the buyer feeling any position of advantage. If there is the slightest chance that even one buyer will deem they have an advantage then it's a risk not worth taking. Taking care of the little details is vital. It's the very small differences that can quite often be the difference between winning and losing. The fastest man on the planet is Usain Bolt and yet no-one I've ever spoken to can remember the second fastest on the day he made that record, who incidentally was only slower by a fraction of one second. The tiny details do make a difference, make sure you look after them.

This doesn't mean don't present the home well, just that the place settings thing in particular can be viewed as a sign of desperation so under no circumstances do that.

 

Check Regularly

If the property you are selling is a vacant property then attending weekly to give a sweep, vacuum and gardens tidy up etc is important to not send the message that this property has been on the market forever.

 

In summary

With over 2000 property transactions now under my belt I can say with a great deal of authority that how much work you put in at the beginning will pay off always in the sale price. The answer therefore must always be to find every little detail and do as much as you can or as much as your budget will allow. As I've said before think about all the jobs that you've been putting off and add them to the list.

Many a time I meet people that have found the home of their dreams before actually getting their home ready to sell. This always results in a panicked and often times clumsy preparation of the home for sale and therefore ultimately a lower sale price. Not nearly as much is done as should be and therefore this results in the home not looking its best and buyers feeling in the advantage position. Buyers may quite often assume that if there's something obvious that you haven't attended to, then there may be some financial challenges that are stopping you from attending to it.