Ten important inspection steps to help you get buyers thinking like owners.

Your home may be your castle but it’s not always as regal as you think. When it comes to selling, it pays to play up its best attributes and bury the ugly truth about domestic life. Let’s be clear – the following steps are not designed to trick potential buyers. It is about facilitating that magic moment when the stranger walking through your home stops thinking like a buyer and starts thinking like an owner.


Despite the brave new world of bicycle lanes, the sad truth is that people still have cars and want somewhere to park them. So if you’re a car household here’s a tip: a few minutes before the inspection, move all your cars away from the house so that your potential buyers can have a ”look at that, a spot right out the front” moment. It’s the same if you have a car in the garage – move it out and put up a sign saying ”Please park here”. The fact is you’re not going to sell your home if people can’t get close enough to inspect it.


There are two types of styling to avoid – overstyling and understyling. Deborah Faulkner from Solutions – Living in Harmony says getting the balance right requires subtlety. ”When you’ve styled professionally it should look like a home, it shouldn’t look like a styled house,” she says.

”Rather than trying to create a showcase of furniture and furnishings it’s really about drawing on the character of the home.”

OK, so selling a house is already an expensive ordeal without hiring a stylist, but those in the profession will tell you that styling is not an expense, it’s an investment.

Faulkner says: ”A very clever exercise of styling can at least get you a $10,000 return on your money that you may not have spent.”


Pets are great, if they’re yours. To some buyers, however, they may as well be flea-bitten, disease-riddled monsters trained to attack children. When inspecting a home, people don’t want to feel like they are on someone else’s territory and dogs mark their territory in an obvious way. Pets should be put into professional care or dumped on friends during your campaign. Fido might not like it at the time but he’ll thank you when he has an even bigger backyard to defecate on.


Nothing causes a potential buyer to go cool on a property like hearing neighbours lose their cool with each other. Even worse is overhearing their 14-year-old practising on a drum kit.

Have your neighbours over for coffee, hand them a schedule of your inspection times and politely inform them of how relative values work – if you sell well, they sell well.

Handle your tenants

OK, this is a tricky one because most tenants will work out pretty quickly that if you sell the house, they’ll get the boot. Nevertheless it’s important to get tough on your tenants to keep the house clean and disappear during inspections. For one, the only smell wafting through the house should be from lavender, gardenias and other legal plants.


On that note – do not, under any circumstances, stay in the house during inspections. If you were buying a second-hand car, would you want the previous owner staring at you from the passenger seat while you take it for a test drive?

That new-house smell

The idea that you have something baking in the oven to give your house a homey aura is passe. It’s also dangerous if you follow the previous step. What is timeless is the scent given off by a fresh coat of paint – it’s the ”new-car smell” for houses. So even if you already have a great colour scheme going, it may be worth repainting one wall just for that fresh-paint smell.

The garden

A landscape architect from Good Manors, Hugh Burnett, says the garden can make all the difference to a sale – unless you overdo it.

”As a cost factor, definitely go for soft works … planting and a nice lawn are very cost-effective ways of filling a space and making it look good,” he says.

”If you go for paving and any building works, it ends up being a bit more expensive.”

Buying flowers that are in season is also important but don’t stress if you’re not a green thumb. It can be as simple as going to a nursery and picking whatever is blooming on the day.


This means thinking about both natural and electronic lighting. Don’t let your agent’s schedule determine the timing of your Saturday inspection.

The aspect of your house determines the time of your inspection. Think bright but not too warm.

For evening inspections, your lighting should welcome people from the street like a warm hug. To get that incandescent look, use a mix of lamps and overheads. Cold fluorescent lighting is fine for a dentistry but not a home. Who wants a hug from their dentist?


The age-old question – Saturday or midweek inspections? Well, if you have a good property to sell, the answer is simple: both.

The only reason you might opt for one over the other is if there is something about your property you want to hide.

For example, if your home is difficult to get to during peak hour, keep it to Saturday inspections. Or if your house is south-facing and remains shaded even at high noon, perhaps get your lighting effects in order and open the house at night.

The director of Ray White Unlimited, Ron Bauer, says most potential buyers expect homes to be open on the ”traditional” inspection day – Saturday.

But what time on Saturday depends on what type of property you are selling.

”For a first-home owner-type property you might aim for an earlier time,” he says.

”Whereas perhaps a family home you might open a little later for when they’ve perhaps dealt with the kids’ soccer and done the run-around in the morning.”

Research pays

Before you open your house for the first time, spend a couple of weeks inspecting properties that are similar or nearby to yours. Take some notes, have a sniff around and put yourself in the buyers’ shoes. Keep in mind that some of the people inspecting those properties will probably be walking through your home in the weeks to come, so you’ll have a real edge if you don’t make the mistakes made by other vendors in the market.

Posted by Toby Johnstone – Domain (Fairfax Media) on 17th November, 2012