Tips on Selling Your Melbourne Home


I recently interviewed Steve Tickell. Steve is an icon in the Melbourne property market and has some fantastic advice for those looking to prepare their Melbourne property for sale.

Steve Tickell’s tips for getting a property ready for sale

Presentation of your property is critical!

Andrew: Steve has just joined us. He’s a bit of an industry expert around the Bayside area,Tips on Selling Your Melbourne Home Articles and has had experience in and around real estate of over 25 years. Steve is one of the key principals of Hocking Stuart. As we enter the spring selling season we are going to talk about some of the important things for people especially vendors in preparing their properties for sale. So, I’ll hand it over to Steve. Steve is a licensed auctioneer and sells property every day of the week. He will be able to point us in a much better direction that what I can! Steve?

Steve: Thanks Andrew. Yes, it’s that time of the year of course. We’re now in late August. We’re just about to enter into spring. It goes without saying that this is the time of the year where people start to get the sun on their back and start thinking about selling houses – if that’s the mode you’re in. So one of the obvious questions people ask us is ‘Why is it that two properties – virtually the same might sell for very different prices? Much of this gets back simply to presentation and how the properties are being presented, and the preparations gone into in the lead-up to that property being sold. We’re pretty busy right now. Where people are thinking of selling probably in late September – maybe October, even into November – and they are starting to think “right it’s time to put some thought into how we are going to present it..”

Andrew: I agree with that. Our enquiry levels have increased just in the last couple of weeks as well which is cyclic isn’t it?

Steve: It is – very much.

Andrew: Like you said, the sun on the back – the footy finals, everything is coming….

Steve: That’s right.

Andrew: For those who don’t know if their team is in the footy finals they have to have something to do! So, properties and a passion for Australians, isn’t it?

Don’t be afraid to call in the experts!

Steve: That’s right and look, what’s important I think is if you are thinking of selling – look a lot of us are pretty right…. we know what we need to do to prepare a property for sale. Some people have lots do and some may have very little to do but I think it’s important to get your agent in. Agents aren’t the only people that have expertise in this area though no doubt having been in this industry over 20 years now and having helped thousands of people sell their home and prepare them for sale I’d like to think that we have a fairly vast amount of experience in helping people prepare and do the right things. Having said that, there are also people who specialize in interior design and presenting homes. Your home may need a lot more work and what’s important is to get those people in whether it is us or your interior designers.. Get them in early. Don’t get them in when they’re thinking about doing it two weeks before you’re due to start the campaign.

Andrew: The amount of work can depend on the client’s motivation to cant it? Depending if they’ve been there a long time or a short time… upgrading or selling – you know, if they need to sell or they have to achieve a price because they’ve got other things in mind. Those motivations depend on how you may or may not present the property.

Steve: Correct. And not only that, you know, the style of the property that it may be. Maybe its an investment property? You may be tenanted and your managing agent may say “look, your better off probably to exit the tenant – if obviously it’s on a month to month tenancy or the lease is expiring soon, you may be better to exit the tenant if you are intending to sell the property because you may be able to present the property far better obviously by exiting them and having it presented with furniture and dressed up well to sell and the bottom line is, the way it presents can add tens of thousands of dollars depending on the price range – tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands at the very upper end of the price range just to the value just by the way you present it.

Prioritise where you will spend money on your home or investment property

What’s all important is getting your agent or getting your advisor in early because it’s not only what you do – it’s the things you may intend to do you don’t need to do. A lot of people will set about the tasks of preparing fences or doing plumbing or doing things that aren’t necessarily going to change the value of a home.

Andrew: they’re important but they’re not going to give you any extra bucks in your pocket.

Steve: Exactly right. So it’s important if you’re on a budget to – we’re all on budgets these days.

Andrew: Yes. Absolutely.

Steve: It’s important to spend your money – invest your money wisely. Spend it where it counts and there’s all the golden oldies, things that we’ve done for many, many years that you know, are important and we talked about this as an example on our site. This isn’t a plug but it’s a great thing we do offer at Hocking Stuart. If you look at our Hocking Stuart site, at the very top of the actual website, on there’s a little segment there that talks about selling your property and if you just simply click on that and go 3 steps down, there’s a little thing there that talks about how to present your home. There’s a 16 page booklet there effectively.

Andrew: And I think it’s a fantastic pdf and it’s something that if we can make available, we’ll certainly look to maybe tweeting or putting on facebook and trying to get a link maybe even on our website so that people have got that information. There’s some great tips. It’s not rocket science but there are some terrific little pointers in there.

Use emotion to your advantage when selling your property

Steve: Exactly and for example there’s a page that talks about the power of emotion and that’s what we were just talking about before. In presenting your home there can be two identical properties but simply by virtue of the way they are presented, it can actually have a vast difference in the price you ultimately achieve and emotion is something that’s – we all have emotions of course and some things can be hot points for people –maybe not hot points for others but there’s certain things we know work..

Andrew: It’s what you auctioneers thrive on isn’t it! The emotion!

Steve: We do! And atmosphere and ambiance. Things like fresh vases of flowers. When you’re presenting a home and people walk in the door the first thing they see is a big bunch of flowers and that going to give most people a more positive emotion. Classical background music – there’s six senses isn’t there? So one of those is sound. So again, it can be something not in your face but something that creates a nice atmosphere as you walk into the home. An open fire! It’s still pretty cold at the moment with some of the days were having as we enter into spring, it’s not so vital but we will still have homes where we actually set the fire because the fire creates a wonderful, cozy feel. It might be a room that really benefits well, you know, from having a fire burning away. Things that are obvious. Don’t have your pets in the house when you’re doing inspections because they can be disruptive and can cause problems and some people are simply afraid of pets so that’s another. Things like washing dishes and storing dishes. It might be an obvious one but if it’s a tenanted property, they won’t necessarily do that when there are tenants. So, you need to help them help themselves or help you present the home better and as they say, the old classic things like you know, the aroma of the beautiful smell of aroma of coffee percolating away maybe in the background there and also, a freshly baked cake or cookies, the oven will permeate a beautiful smell of a baked loaf of bread or something similar. So these are things that aren’t obvious….. but they are almost

Andrew: ..appealing to the six senses. It’s more the unconscious or the subconscious. We want to make it feel good and have clients say I can see myself living here.

Steve: Correct. You know, one thing I often say to people too when I first get called in. They’ll ask “what should we do”? I’ll ask the question: What was it that originally grabbed you when you bought it? What was it about the home that appealed to you? Most people will remember that and again, the emotions, the things that were to them appealing instantly. So again, work on those positives. So if it was something regarding the spaciousness of a certain room or the coziness of a certain room. Some rooms are better to feel cozy around an open fire with beautiful furnishings.

Andrew: Absolutely.

Steve: Give that some thought and remember back to that – big , wide open spaces in the backyard, beautifully manicured gardens – was that something that grabbed you? For some people that’s important. Maybe spending that few extra dollars or maybe some extra time on the weekend, get out the backyard and get stuck into your garden and really make it the pivotal point. Let’s face it, spring is the time obviously a garden looks fantastic-

First impressions often last when selling your home!

Andrew: Enjoy the sun in your back because we’re all supposedly vitamin D deficient!

Steve: That’s right. That’s the second time I’ve heard that in 2 days! So, again, reading through our tips and our guides on our website. One of the most important things is first impression. It’s the first and last impression people will have of a home. They will approach the property and they step up to it as they walk to the front door. They stand back and look at the home. It’s obviously got to have appeal. We want to be proud of the property we’re going to buy. So put yourself in the buyer’s shoes – just picture yourself being the buyer.

Andrew: It’s the adage isn’t it? First impressions last.

Steve: Absolutely.

Andrew: It’s property and it’s people; it’s potential partners; it’s a book; it doesn’t matter – it’s everything you look at. It’s that first impression.

Steve: Dare I make an analogy? If you are walking on to a lot to buy a car the cleanest, glossiest most beautiful looking car that’s sparkling clean is going to appeal more to you than one that looks a bit dirty and grubby and dusty. You’ll rarely see a successful caryard that has dirty cars. They will always be gleaming clean – they clean them almost every day. Houses are no different, you know. These days people expect the best and if you’ve got the opportunity to make your home sparkle in every sense – well, that’s what you do. I know it sounds obvious. Yeah but some things aren’t always so obvious to us all. We’re busy and we have busy lifestyles.

Andrew: And it’s funny you say that because it’s often the little things that make the big, big differences. We might take it for granted because we both deal in it but people out there who like you said are busy and got other things and you know, you let a little thing go. Well, it might be the difference. It might just be the difference.

The best way to furnish your home when presenting for sale

Steve: That’s right. And again as people, when they walk through homes as I mentioned before about the six senses. A lot of the things that are in people’s minds as they wander through a home. Is it what I’m after? Is this what I’m looking for? Maybe subliminal. An example of subliminal… what I’m looking for is something that will help me make a decision as to whether it’s right or wrong. I don’t actually know….

Andrew: Can they visualize themselves living there?

Steve: Correct. And if they enter a room without even realizing have to walk around furniture. This is quite common where you have 2 rooms that are joined.. you’ll get people who will maybe pop a long lounge suite that backs onto an open area and rather than having a lovely open feeling as you walk through the 2 rooms that are joined, they may actually put a long sofa in the middle you have to walk around. That element of the openness is taken out by having to walk around it. Now, the buyer doesn’t probably – as I walk through there, think about it but in the back of the mind – something in the back of their mind is saying “…this is crowded. This space is crowded..”

Andrew: Or I wouldn’t have done that or…

Steve: And you may ask as they go outside, you know, did you feel, did you sense a great feeling of space in that home? Well, actually no. I tended to feel that I was walking around furniture all the time. And you know what? Nine times out of ten of homes we sell have too much furniture and it’s sometimes about what you have to take out, not what you have to put in.

Andrew: Yeah. I’ve bought and sold for many, many clients – and it’s all about decluttering and making it look open and airy. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big place or a small place. It seems to be the common goal that I’ve learned over my journey is that everyone says ‘declutter it, get all the stuff out’. If you’ve got young kids, that can be difficult but get the stuff out of the way. Make it look livable and open and spacious because that’s what people want whether it’s a 40 square meter little studio apartment or a mansion. The same principles apply.

Make sure you have some furniture in the property – no furniture = no good!

Steve: And that raises a really important point. People have the impression that by clearing the home out, having no furniture makes it feel more spacious. In fact, it actually has the opposite affect. When a room has no furniture, it looks smaller because all you see are the walls. The eyes only go over the walls and they go to the defects and problems which may be very minor – either you know where furniture set against walls. You might get little marks.

Andrew: A scuff or two.

Steve: Correct. Scuffs on carpets. I can only go to those imperfections. When you have furniture, your eyes take you away from those imperfections. So, and all you see is beautiful furniture.

Andrew: You look at it being livable rather than four walls and a roof.

Steve: And look, again, furniture actually makes rooms feel bigger. Believe it or not. For example a master bedroom, typically 5 x 5 or maybe bigger than that. Once you actually get a king sized bed in, it actually makes you realize how big a room is. Until then, it actually doesn’t look that big because as we stand there and all we see are the walls, the walls seem to come in rather than go out. So again I think furnishing the home is critical. When you look at the context of things, a house in Bayside could be anywhere from 1 to $1.5 million these days. The context of that is if you may need to spend 2 or 3 thousand dollars on furnishing a property. We’ve got at least a couple of people who we can send you off to. We can highly recommend it and most of these people are local and are available for a very competitive sum. They can decorate and furnish the home and you won’t believe the difference it can make to the home that it was prior to that.

Using a checklist helps to take the emotion out of your property purchase decision

Andrew: Absolutely. I think there’s some really good people around who do that. Just on that, we have on our website at under “handy tools” a house inspection checklist. Often, people – especially if they’re doing a number of properties on a day and, you know, grab the real estate brochure and look at the size of the house and things like that and again, your job is to present the property really well with its photography. Sometimes the houses can look different in real time and things like that. Being able checklist it and then go home – you can rank the rooms and rank the things you could improve or how would you like it. We strongly encourage using the checklist because it gives you a database. Even if you don’t get that property. It really gives you a great database of thoughts and processes that will help you rationalize where you think you’re at. Doing that and trying to detach a little of the emotion enables people to really make that informed decision. Sometimes it’s still the right place and they’re willing to pay and that’s okay. There’s no right or wrong. But as long as it’s informed. Those little checklists we find are a great tool. Most of our clients really love that and they can download it for free off our website any time.

Steve: We have the same thing. As people go around, we can give them one of those. Is that what you have got? Probably very similar?

Andrew: Yes

Steve: And you’re exactly right. To take the emotion out of it and actually look at it from a subjective point of view and as you walk through a home, you actually rank the elements of a home. Does the house suits your needs? When you get home with the clear light of day because you might have got one thing that really grabbed you and yet, for practical –

Andrew: The smell of coffee or a baking cake.

Steve: And then when you get home in the clear light of day, you look at it and say look “that actually ranks as a 9 out of 10 or 95 out of 100 where it was only weighted 67. For some reason, I was emotionally caught up in that home. What was it about it?” Well is that one wonderful room with the cozy fireplace – actually, nothing else was really quite right. If I can create that cozy, warm feeling in the one that ranked 9.5 for me, you know, then I’ve actually got the home that I want!

Andrew: That’s not a house. It’s a home in a castle style, isn’t it?

Steve: Correct. That’s exactly right. So-

Andrew: There have been some great tips and we’ll try and make that pdf available for people to also download and have a look at. We would encourage you to do that because really, it’s all about the information that we can give our clients or people who are out there thinking and considering. It’s all about information – the resources, that is what everyone is after

Resist the urge to over do it on the renovations before you sell your home

Steve: I could site here and give another dozen tips, but I think it is best to have a plan. Get your agent or your adviser in early to give you tips on presentation. Ask him straight up – what are the things we need to do? You may have some things you need to do or considering doing. Tell the agent or whoever that person is what those things were and they will tell you whether they think if they should or shouldn’t be done. One example is when people have major works they’re about to embark on thinking they need to do that. I’ll give you an example. One I went to a few days ago. I’m in Brighton you know, and it’s a home that needs major renovations. So, it’s a lovely period home but at the end of the day, it’s probably the back half of the home is going to be taken off and it will probably be totally renovated and extended again. A portion of that extension – it was done in the 1970s – is the kitchen. The vendor was thinking maybe I should actually improve or renovate the kitchen. My concern was in doing so – that was actually a portion of the home that will ultimately go. So that actually wont add value to 99% of the buyers who are going to buy that home. So that was –

Andrew: Someone does something to it thinking they’re doing the right thing and they’re doing it with their taste and someone else will walk in and say ‘I wouldn’t have done that’. Steve: That’s exactly right.

Andrew: You’re better to leave it untouched.

Steve: Correct and particularly, renovated or unrenovated homes – once you start, it’s very hard to stop. $2,000 becomes $5,000, 5 becomes 7, 7 becomes 10 because once you do a bit of painting around your doors and windows all the other things start to come up. The window furnishings – they look old and dusty and out of date. You then replace them. This makes the carpets look as if they need replacing and on it goes to a point. You’ve suddenly added your own taste and flavour – when whoever comes in is probably going to want to do their own thing. So, there’s so much you can do but there are little things that you can do to make it more salable. You only get one shot at it so make sure you do it right!

Steve’s advice in summary

Steve: Your query was what are some of the tips – my tips are:

  • Get your advisers in early
  • get online – get and grab the tips. Not only ours but I’m sure you’ll find any major agencies on the website will have an area that refers to tips on presentation and what you should and shouldn’t be doing
  • Then set about the task and have it planned. Set your date on where you would actually like to be hitting the marketplace and work back from that date.
  • Be realistic about it. Don’t think “I’m going to start in 3 weeks” if you’ve got tradesmen to employ. Tradesman are very busy through this time of the year as we get into spring and you’ll find that they’ll already be booked up for 2 or 3 weeks in advance. So don’t expect you get someone in within 5 days or so. You’re probably going to have to book in 2 or 3 weeks ahead.
  • If you’re considering selling for example in October, now’s your time. Now is your time.

Andrew: Some really great tips there. I think the most important and the one I’d like to reiterate is “Have a Plan”. I think that’s the real key. You set down you goals. You set down what you want to achieve and then you allow advisers and professionals out in the field like Steve guide you through the process and go from there. Thanks for your time today Steve.

Steve: Thanks Andrew, Glad to help.

Andrew: To everyone out there – good luck to all buyers and sellers! We hope the information we provided to you can certainly help achieving a great buying outcome or a great selling outcome. Thanks Steve.

Free stuff:

  • Feel free to get stuck into ourhandy tools which include the checklist that I discuss in this week’s podcast
  • You’ll also see on the left hand pane of our homepage some free PDG guides, Home Buying Essentials and Property Investment Essentials. These are great resources!

And always feel free to let me know if you’d like to discuss your situation regarding home loans, property investment

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