Getting your home ready to sell

Selling your home can be stressful – there’s so much to consider! We spoke to three experts –real estate agent Matt Bolin, interior designer Luisa Volpato and horticulturalist Jonathan Bentz –about the best ways to beautify your house and garden without breaking the budget.

If you’re looking to sell your place it’s only natural that you would want to make sure you get the best possible price. But how? There are a few small, easy and inexpensive changes you can make to your home that will improve your chances of getting a good price.

Matt Bolin is a real estate agent and Director of Ray White Turramurra and Wahroonga. He works closely with a team of interior designers and landscape designers to help prepare homes for sale. “Eighty per cent of the homes we’ve done full preparations on have been the homes that have achieved street records and have exceeded our initial vendor’s expectations on the outcome,” Matt says.

“Just a small investment of time or money can make a difference of anywhere between $50,000 and $100,000,” he continues. “And the reason buyers are likely to pay a higher price is because the work’s been done.”

There are major modifications serious vendors can perform to maximise their chances of a higher price come sale time – anywhere from cosmetic alterations to full-scale renovations – but there are also smaller changes sellers can take care of themselves if they’re looking to bring out the best in their home or garden.

First impressions

First, step outside your home and try approaching it as a prospective buyer. This will give you an idea of how your property will appear to an outsider, and exactly what you’ll need to work on to add extra appeal. “Essentially when a property’s going to market, we start by looking at the outside, the exterior, which is the first impression,” says Matt. “Sometimes you can soft wash a house if it’s a bit dirty. We normally do that first and determine whether or not the property needs a repaint on its exterior.” The entrance is equally important. “If it’s the entryway, try adding little blocks of colour,” says Jonathan Bentz, a horticulturalist, landscape designer and owner of Sunrise Strata. “A nice potted plant will add a little bit of cheer as you’re coming in. If there’s a big lawn in the front it’s really important to get that up and looking a million bucks. That adds a lot of value, I think, to have a really nice lawn,” says Jonathan.

Lounge room before and after

Inner workings

Next, we have the interior approach, which is particularly important when you’re preparing for an open home. “The first thing is to declutter,” says Matt. “You want to try and show off as much floor area as possible so buyers can see the size and space of the rooms and then the size and space of the rooms look the best in the photography as well.” But you can go one step further – styling the rooms and furniture to maximise their attractiveness to buyers.

“If you’ve got particularly dark or bulky furniture, replace that with some items that just make better use of space,” says Luisa Volpato, a Sydney-based interior designer. “Glass tables and chairs with open backs are perfect for this because you can see through them and they just help give you the illusion of more space.” Mirrors can also help with this. “Essentially you’re reflecting both space and light into a room by having a mirror,” she says. “They really help open up a room and give a sense of more space and light – whether that’s natural or artificial. People want a home that has lots of natural light, and if it doesn’t, look at adding some floor lamps or table lamps to be able to have some ambient light in the room.”

When it comes to your possessions, you’ll need to take stock and clear out non-essential and personal items. “Clear and clean surfaces,” says Luisa. “And remove anything particularly personal like family photo frames and big wedding photos. You want people to walk into a home and envisage themselves living there – you don’t want them to feel like they’re intruding.” Luisa also recommends cleaning windows and getting a professional cleaner in if required.

“If the walls are looking tired or dirty or yellowed, a new coat of paint in a light neutral or a fresh, warm white will instantly give the walls a facelift.” Avoid bright colours when you’re painting, as you’ll be able to add colour with plants, soft furnishings and décor items, and ensure you don’t have too many blank walls. “Dress these up with mirrors and artworks,” says Luisa. “Also inside wardrobes and cupboards, declutter because if it’s full it’s going to look like you don’t have enough storage.”

In the kitchen or bathroom, it’s possible to make a change without hurting your hip pocket. Start by washing tiles until they gleam and clearing sink tops and countertops of clutter. “If a kitchen looks dated, replace the door handles or you could repaint or respray the doors white if you have an old timber kitchen,” says Luisa. “That will instantly help your kitchen look a whole lot more modern without having to change the cabinetry. Or if a splash back is old you could always retile it to give the kitchen a bit of a facelift.” Bathrooms can benefit from similar small cosmetic renovations. “In bathrooms you might change the fittings if they’re old, or you can also have the tiles and the bath resprayed,” Luisa continues. “You can also distract people with really nice towels and accessories. Little changes can really give an older bathroom new life without doing a whole renovation.”

Kitchen before and after

Your backyard

Heading out the back door, Jonathan has loads of advice when it comes to creating the perfect backyard to appeal to buyers. “The most important thing is definition in your edges,” he says. “There needs to be a clear definition between your hard pathways, between your garden beds, and between your lawn. It adds a real formality to your yard so it doesn’t just blend together and you have really specific areas. It just makes it look really tidy and really neat.”

Then get to work pulling up weeds pruning your hedges and shrubbery and sprucing everything up. “Mulching is also really nice because it hides bare dirt, it hides little weeds, and it hides holes,” he continues. “People are a little bit nervous nowadays to do moderately hard gardening so if it looks really maintenance friendly and really very easy to maintain then they’re a lot more likely to consider purchasing the house.” And Jonathan’s final piece of advice? “It’s always really nice to have a little outdoor area, like a little entertainment area,” he says. “To make buyers see that they could be comfortable and be able to come home and enjoy a really nice oasis away from all the craziness of the rat race. That’s what I try and create.”

Final flourish

Once you’ve finished preparing your home, it’s time to open your house up to buyers. “It’s like setting a scene for a film,” says Matt. “You want the right atmosphere so add some nice ambient music and a subtle smell, like vanilla,” he continues. “Sometimes it’s a good idea to put a candle on half an hour before and blow it out at the beginning of the open so the smell doesn’t overpower the stage that you’ve set.”

If you’re looking to fix up your home before you sell, though, there is one final, key piece of advice – perhaps the most important one of all. “Make a decision about how far you’ll go and how much money you’re willing spend to get the most impressive visual impact without overspending or overinvesting,” Matt says. “You need to make sure you don’t minimise your overall return by spending too much.”