If you want to sell your house early in the new year, the Christmas break is the ideal time to prepare.
While the property market traditionally takes a break over the holidays, there are plenty of jobs you can cross off your list with a bit of forward planning and some elbow grease.
This checklist will help you take the first critical steps towards selling your home in 2019.
The property market can be a fickle beast, so it’s important to have a good understanding of what’s happening in your area before you list your house for sale.
Mark Newell, director of housePro, a company that guides clients through the process of buying and selling property, says one of the easiest ways to get a handle on your local market is to observe at least one campaign cycle.
“I’d like to think that you’re observing the market for a minimum of six to eight weeks, although three cycles is even better,” he says. “Knowledge is everything. Once you’ve seen properties come on the market and hopefully selling in that period, it will give you an idea of what those properties are selling for and what you can afford to buy.”
You can also use online tools like Home Price Guide to analyse recent sales data.
While browsing online will give you some good insight, you’ll also want to get out to physically inspect properties so you can see how your home compares with the stock available to buyers.
Matt Walther of ClearHome, a company that helps clients get their property ready for sale or rent, says this is the best way for would-be vendors to learn about the competition.
“Go and have a look at what else is on the market, because ideally you’ll want your property to match or exceed the standard of what’s already available,” he says.
Attending open homes also gives you the opportunity to see the local agents in action. Take note of their communication style, how they interact with buyers, whether they proactively point out features of the property, whether they can answer questions about the property, and whether they make a follow-up call.
Agents typically take a break between Christmas and mid-January, so if you’re hoping to kick off your campaign in January you’ll be wanting to book interviews with your agent shortlist as soon as possible.
Newell recommends inviting three agents to do an appraisal back-to-back on the same day.
“By getting them all in on the same day you can run through the same questions, and it’s much easier to compare them while each agent is still fresh in your mind,” he says.
Newell also suggests using these interviews to ask agents what they believe needs to be done to the house before it’s listed in terms of repairs and presentation.
A pest and building inspection report will highlight any major issues with your property and give you the option to deal with these before you start your sales campaign.
“It’s a way of finding out for yourself what is wrong with your property so you can fix it up before selling,” says Newell. “These could be key features that will be identified by buyers. If you get them repaired, you can ask the inspector for a top-up report to include with your sales documentation.”
Decluttering comes hand-in-hand with moving house, so if you’re thinking seriously about selling there’s no better prompt to get rid of unwanted belongings.
“When it comes to selling, less is more,” says Walther. “The less that’s in the house, the better the place looks.” Walther suggests listing surplus belongings for sale on eBay or Gumtree, donating to charity or simply throwing out items that have passed their use-by date.
“Most sellers can’t put a buyer’s head on their shoulders,” he says. “Because they’ve lived in it for so long they want to show off what the home has given to them, but it’s irrelevant to what a buyer wants.”
Once you’ve completed the decluttering process it’s time to give your property a top-to-toe clean, so that it not only looks good, but smells good too.
When deciding how much money and energy to throw at your home before selling, Walther suggests asking yourself the question “Why would people not want to buy my home?”
“You want to find out what the deal-breaker is,” he says. “Most vendors are on a budget, so they need to use their money effectively. Tackle the deal-breakers first and the rest comes second.”
Walther also cautions against painting one room and leaving the rest of your property untouched. “By painting only one room you may leave buyers wondering what you’re covering up,” he says.
Vendors aiming for maximum return should consider fresh paint and flooring right through their property, according to Newell.
“The walls and ceiling make up 90 per cent of what you’re looking at in a property, so if you do that it basically looks new,” Newell says.
You could also use the holiday period to price home styling options and decide if it’s worth the investment.
Both Newell and Walther emphasise the importance of great street appeal.
“When you walk up to a house you need to be impressed,” says Newell. “Those first impressions are lasting impressions.”
You might like to use the holiday break to wrangle an unruly garden into submission, repair fences or front gates or paint the front door.
You can also use the holidays to read through agent contracts, check in with your local council for any requirements like pool compliance or Section 149 certificates, and to contact solicitors or conveyancers for quotes on preparing a sales contract.