The media is awash with reports of hot auction success stories.
Tales abound of the run-down two-bedroom cottage that sailed $100,000 above the reserve, or the inner city apartment that attracted more than 100 people and at least six bidders.
Then there are the reports of the ever-increasing median prices of homes in our capital cities, with Sydney topping $1 million and Melbourne hitting $755,000.
With all of these champagne-popping property stories, the average punter could be forgiven for thinking that selling your home for a huge sum of money is as simple as knocking up a “for sale” sign on the front lawn.
But here is the thing: you must apply the same scrupulous logic and undertake the same detailed research whether you are selling in a hot market, a cooling market or a downturn.
You may think your home is wonderful — and I am sure it is — but if you wish to stand out in a crowd and present a polished façade you need to tick some boxes along the way.
By this I mean spending a bit of money (where appropriate, I will come to that later), sprucing up the house and researching the right professionals to work with.
Here are a few of the important things to consider if you want to be fully prepared for the selling process.
1. Your agent
You want the best person in the business representing you and your property.
Make sure you interview at least three agents — maybe even more if there is a wide range to choose from in your area — before you decide on which one to go with.
Rather than let them give you a real estate spiel on how well they connect with buyers, people, the world in general, make sure you have a list of questions to sort the talkers from the top negotiators.
Always ask them what their style of negotiation is, what they consider to be at fault with your property and how they would overcome those flaws when talking to buyers.
Ask them to provide sales reports on similar properties.
Have they sold properties like yours in the past?
Do they know your area, and the buyers it attracts?
Don’t be afraid to ask an agent what they will do if things don’t go to plan.
What if no serious buyers emerge during the crucial first few weeks of the campaign?
You want to make sure you are dealing with an agent who can handle the down times, as well as take the wins.
Next, ask them for a price guide for your property and then get them to justify it in detail.
How did they come up with that figure?
You may be tempted to go with the agent who quotes you the highest potential sale price but I would strongly advise against this.
Go with the one who is the most qualified to sell your home — this may or may not be the agent “quoting” the highest sale price.
And finally, a word on agents’ fees.
I would not recommend basing your decision on the agent who is charging the cheapest sales commission.
Some poor-performing agents may knock their fees right down just to secure a listing and that is not the right man or woman for the job.
The cheapest agent is the one that gets you the highest price.
2. Your home
Before your property is listed for sale on the major real estate websites, it is of the utmost importance that you ensure it is looking good.
And by good, I mean immaculate.
While major renovations are usually not necessary — you don’t want to over-capitalise, after all — you want to make sure the garden is free of weeds and looking attractive, that all of the lighting fixtures are working properly, that the door handles are in good nick (people notice these), that all of the little cracks in the walls are patched up and painted over and that the kitchen and bathroom grouting is up to scratch.
I would also recommend asking a friend to drive by your home and to tell you honestly what needs work.
We are notoriously bad at seeing the errors in our own homes, so an objective point of view could really help.
Especially when you consider a lot of home buyers won’t get out of the car if they see something at the front of the house that puts them off.
If your furniture is looking a little shabby consider moving all of it or some of it out in to storage and hiring some staged furniture.
This not only comes up beautifully in the professional photography, but it takes the personal aspects out of the home and therefore makes it more attractive to other buyers who can project their own living space onto the blank canvas.
3. Your finances
Selling your home is an expensive process and some sellers become so fixated on achieving a certain sale price that they don’t take into consideration the costs they will be facing.
In addition to agents’ fees, you will have to pay to place advertisements in local real estate supplements of local papers, to mount a “for sale” sign board out the front of your house, to produce mail outs and brochures and, of course, to list on the major real estate sites.
It is not uncommon for advertising costs to run into the thousands of dollars, so be sure to factor this in.
You will also need to pay a conveyancer or solicitor to compile a vendor statement, or Section 32, and there will also be costs associated with the settlement of the property, such as mortgage discharge fees.
If you are moving somewhere else, don’t forget to budget for removalists costs as well as stamp duty if you are purchasing another property.
4. Your time
Many first-time sellers feel overwhelmed by just how much time is devoted to getting their property ready for sale.
In the lead up to a listing, you can expect to devote most of your free time preparing your home for sale by doing the outstanding jobs around the home.
Expect weekends devoted to painting walls, organising steam cleaning, the removal of any hard rubbish, putting excess kids’ toys into storage, and constant weeding.
When the campaign starts, your home will be open for inspection at least twice a week (sometimes more if certain buyers can’t make designated inspection times) and this will mean ensuring your home looks as good as it does in the photos.
It also means vacating your home, sometimes at a moment’s notice, to show prospective buyers through.
If you have a stressful job with minimal flexibility, my advice would be to take some time off work to help prepare the property for sale.
Even better: prepare the house for sale and then go on holidays interstate for a few weeks.
The house will be kept clean, the agent will have free rein to show the home to as many people as possible, and you can simply receive updates on the campaign via Skype or email.
5. Your well-being
Selling your home is a stressful process, and anyone who asserts that it is a walk in the park is lying (or has never done it before).
It does not matter how much you end up selling your home for, or in how quickly a time frame, the sheer act of listing your home on the market is an anxiety-inducing occasion, especially if it’s your first time.
Which is why I suggest doing a bit of self-examination and asking whether you are cut out for certain sales methods.
You may be in a hot auction area, and the agent may be pushing for this type of sale, but if it is going to cause a stomach ulcer then there is no point putting yourself through it.
A good agent will still be able to set-up an auction-type scenario among the keen buyers behind the scenes to get you the best price possible.
Finally, keep your stress levels down during this time by taking part in activities that fully absorb you and you lose sense of time in.
That may be exercising, playing with the kids, cooking or reading.
You may feel like you are too busy during this period to indulge in such pleasures, but it is of the utmost importance you keep a clear head to make the best decisions about your home as possible.
Your blood pressure will thank-you.