IT’S Saturday morning, the kids are grizzling and you would rather be at the beach. But if you are in the process of buying or selling property, chances are you are hitting the open house circuit or cleaning the house in preparation for one.
On both sides of the sales fence are cliched tips for a successful open-for-inspection, but there is a lot more to a successful open house than scented candles.
Vendors Joe Abboud, sales manager at McGrath Edgecliff, says house-hunters want three main boxes ticked: location, space and light.
“You can’t do much about changing the location, but you can do your best to make a property appear spacious and well-lit,” Abboud says. “Every ounce of sunshine is critical.”
There is no single rule in how vendors should present their properties, according to Abboud, but the first step is to clear out the clutter.
“Buyers love an honest home,” he says.
“I’m a fan of great presentation but a home also has to be honest. Some people say you should de-personalise completely but my rule is that unless you’re nervous about your privacy, then you can leave some family photos around and a few toys in the bedrooms.
“You just need to understand the psychology of the buyer you wish to attract.”
He says the biggest change to open-for-inspections in recent years is the boom in the property styling business.
“Once only prestige properties were styled, but today it has become much more common,” Abboud says.
Justine Wilson, principal stylist and director of Vault Interiors, offers a property styling service and says making a home, whether a small apartment or a large family-friendly house, attractive to potential buyers is all about space and light.
“It’s about having the bare minimum on show, even if you have to hide items of furniture in the garage,” she says.
With any luck, Wilson says your open house will draw in large numbers of stickybeaks – both serious buyers and the odd tyre-kicker.
“You need to create better circulation so that people can come in and explore the space,” she says.
Wilson, whose styling packages start from $1500 for a six-week hire term, says for maximum impact homeowners need to think about their property from the front door out to the yard or balcony.
“At this time of year the outdoor room cannot be ignored,” she says.
“Think about every detail, from painting the front door to make it look inviting to hiring potplants if needed and even getting the barbecue cleaned.”
After a few weeks of house hunting, one could be forgiven for thinking almost every vendor in Sydney has the same coffee table and chocolate-coloured lounge suite.
But Veronica Morgan, seasoned buyer’s agent and host of the LifeStyle Channel’s Location, Location, Location and Relocation, Relocation, says it is easy to look beyond highly stylised real estate and ask the hard questions.”
“We’re always seduced by the way a property has been presented and it’s only normal that a clever vendor will tart a place up before sale,” she says.
She says savvy buyers should look beyond the styling and consider what may have been covered up on purpose.
“If a property has been freshly painted there is a good chance things are hidden, such as possible cracks or mould,” says Morgan, who runs property buying service Good Deeds.
“Also, if a home hasn’t been lived in for a while, any problems in the kitchen or bathroom, such as leaks or damp issues, may have dried up. What that means is that even if you get a building inspector in, their damp meter isn’t going to get a reading.”
Morgan says buyers should also be aware of agents advertising a new floor, as it may have been replaced to cover up damp or termite problems.
“You don’t have to be suspicious of everything, but just be aware,” she says.
“Make sure your inspector can access all areas, and be with him at the end of the inspection so you can find out what he could and couldn’t get access to. If a building inspector won’t meet with you on site, then pay extra and get one who will.”
Morgan says most agents today are transparent in their marketing but buyers need to pay attention to clever wording.
“An agent might advertise a house as north-facing, but do they mean that the front faces the north?” she says.
“How much family entertaining do you do at the front of a house? Take a compass — most smartphones have them – and test the aspect.”
Morgan says the flooplan at the open-for-inspection is important.
“I find my clients, especially young couples who haven’t started a family yet, don’t think about the practicality of the floor-plan,” Morgan says.
“They don’t realise that they’re going to want a bath, or a kitchen needs facing out to the yard, or living room so the parents can keep an eye on the kids.’
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
* Take a compass and check the orientation of the home.
* Grab a floorplan and think about everyday life in the home, not just the lovely furniture.
* Do a practice run to the office or school during peak hour.
* Drive by the property on a Friday or Saturday night. Is there a loud pub nearby?
* Note all the storage spaces — is there enough for your growing family?
* In a highly styled unit or tiny terrace, have they included all the necessary pieces of furniture? Where will the TV fit? Is there space for a fridge?
* Look at how many other homes are for sale in the neighbourhood. A mass exodus should set your alarm bells ringing.
* Do your homework on your neighbours. Are they about to rebuild or renovate your view or access away?
* Hiring a storage unit during the sale period could help your home appear uncluttered and inviting.
* Be prepared to have your agent offer private viewings even if you’re at work and they need to wash up the breakfast bowls.
* Paint over that bold feature wall you created in the 1990s. Neutral is better.
* Think about the bare minimum for each room.
* Have music playing and get the agent to hand out bottles, lollies or balloons for the kids; after six opens on a sticky day, buyers will remember the hospitality.