Just over a year ago, we successfully sold our house privately (without the help of an agent), and purchased our new home privately as well. We've had so many people ask us how we did it, that I thought I should get it all down in a blog post before I forget what worked (and what didn't) for us. This is by no means a legal guide, it is more a light hearted look at tips and tricks that may just work for you too. It may be that you decide to sell through an agent (though please at least consider doing it yourselves), but are having trouble finding one through an agent. However you do it, I wish you luck, it's a stressful, but very exciting time!
* Firstly, I took pretty great photos for a very amateur photographer (Ok, so the one above was professional, clearly better than mine). It may be worth getting someone to help you with these if you feel they could let you down. When I was approached to feature in Your home and garden, I was asked to submit photos of our home, so I'd already de-cluttered and taken the best photos I could. Try to look at the photos through the eyes of a potential buyer, or pretend you're looking at images in a magazine and MOVE CLUTTER! Even if it's all pushed into the hallway (if you have one, we didn't) while you photograph a room, get it out! Your laundry basket and excess toys are not selling points.
* Do your homework. What have houses in your area sold for? How do they compare to yours? You can buy reports through QV and Zoodle in New Zealand. If you have time and don't plan to sell immediately, start going to open homes and follow up by seeing what properties sell for, by asking the agent or looking it up. You could get a registered valuation on your property, if this would give you peace of mind knowing what it is estimated to be worth.
* Get various Real Estate agents around for a free appraisal. Ask them what they think it is worth? How they would market it? Why they would sell your house a certain way, ie. tender over auction. This may give you an insight into your most likely buyer and the best way to sell to them. It may be that you end out listing with one of them if selling privately isn't for you, so it is still worth their time. And... selling privately really may not be for you. I certainly had times I would have preferred to have an agent, but in the end was very glad we'd done it independently. We were unsure of which way we would go and were upfront about this when we had an agent around, and through meeting them this way we had decided who we would list with, should our house not sell quickly privately. They advised not to drag it out too long before listing with them, as it could make it harder to sell. Yes, probably a ploy to get you listing with them quickly, BUT I do believe it makes sense also. How often have you disregarded a house because it's been on the market for a while? I know I have, I've wondered what's wrong with it, price? Gang house next door?
* Write a great advertisement for your listing! List all the things you love about your house, that you think are great selling points. We had a fabulous location, close to town, and this is what we could have written, but we looked up the exact distance and wrote that in our listing. Why put "close to town", when you could put "600m to town". We also left out the size of our house and it's gv. Neither of these were great selling points and people could ask us if it was important to them. We still sold our teeny house significantly over gv. We also bought over gv and were happy to do so as we felt we had a fair idea of what it would be worth if it had been listed by an agent. It's registered valuation proved was inline with what we paid, and expected it to be worth.
* We listed on trademe, which from memory was around $400... that's what our house cost to sell! Plus legal fees, which you still have to pay with a real estate agent anyway.
* Do a leaflet drop in your area. Have it similar to what you may hand out at an open home. A few great photos, say a square collage. You can edit photo's and make photo collages, at picmonkey. Include all the positives you want to mention, contact details and how they can view. Options you may consider are "Viewing by arrangement" "Phone to view anytime" or dates and time of open homes. Have a think about what will work best for you. I liked the idea of open homes, but was very accommodating afterwards for new viewers and especially those wanting to bring friends/family/builders through. Some people may wonder why you'd do a drop for people already in your area, especially if aiming for first home buyers. But, some of your neighbours may be renting and wanting to buy, have friends living nearby that love where they live, family that want to be closer, or see the potential for an investment property. I've come across all these scenarios. I think it's a sign of a good real estate agent too, when you receive a marketing flyer in your letterbox for a neighbouring property new to the market.
* We did an open home. After listing our house on the friday night, on trademe, we had an open home that Sunday. As recommended by a real estate agent, we didn't show anyone through prior (they wanted to!) as it creates more pressure/shows the interest when seeing a lot of people at the open home, as opposed to showing them through on their own as soon as possible, when they may get a sense of being the only ones interested. Ours went for 45 minutes and again, if it's not too long, you're more likely to have a busy one. We also needed the Saturday for last minute cleaning, weeding, staging.
* When deciding on the time for our open home, we looked up others due to happen in our area on the same day and overlapped. There was a comparable house about two blocks from us, having one from 1 - 1.45, so ours started at 1.30 to catch the viewers finishing there. We had signs made up with the day and time of open home and our address, with arrows to stick below these details and point them in the right direction. We put one opposite the other open home to direct those viewers to us! Cheeky huh? My Mum has a gallery and we put her big OPEN sign out front.
*CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN!!!
* Remove anything that doesn't help sell it, including in my opinion old cars. We're not big car people (I'd so much rather spend on my home!) and at the time of selling had a couple of real "gets us from A - B" cars, which without wanting to sound snooty, did our house no favours parked out front. We also loaded our old dungers up with extra bits. My husband drove around with a bassinette in his car for a week! Plus my extensive stash of (backbreaking to lift!) interiors magazines.
* You may want to print an info sheet. This can be good for people to have something to keep looking at. We ran out of time (after all the cleaning!) and this actually worked in our favour. People could ask anything they wanted and would get an honest answer from us, or they could obtain information from council, but I feel it may have helped us by not having the negatives (small floor area and low gv) down on paper. They were loving it for what it was (as we'd done for 6 1/2 years!) and placing their own value on it, rather than focusing on negatives, or showing their friends/family who may focus on it, or certainly have something to say about it.
* Fresh flowers. Do I need to elaborate? I love them!
* It's in the details! I do have some lovely white towels (just like in the image above) but... I also borrowed some off mum before the photo shoot, so I could ditch the others, including kids licenced beach towels. It looks far more luxurious, in what was essentially a basic, small bathroom. We also borrowed her lovely outdoor furniture. It's money in your pocket at the end of the day, so the more attention you pay to details and the more effort you put into cleaning and presentation, the more you will hopefully gain, regardless of whether selling privately or through an agent.
* We had a fair bit of interest, so decided to go for a "best offers in by" approach. In hindsight, we hadn't given people enough time to get things sorted for offers. I'm not sure what the best length of time would be, perhaps see what real estate are regularly doing. Somewhere between soon enough that urgency is created, not so long that people change their minds, or find another property.
* We also did a leaflet drop to find our current property and got extremely lucky. There weren't a lot of houses on the market at the time and there seemed to be a scrum for anything in the location we wanted, so doing a drop in our area meant we avoided this. In a dream world we wanted an extra bedroom, still to have a studio/sleepout, a garage would be nice, and we really didn't want to leave our area... or extend our mortgage too much to stay. We got all of the above, two blocks away. Sure, we need to do a fair bit of work and I compromised on my beautiful back yard, but we still got so much of what we wanted, all by going for a walk around the neighbourhood one evening. We made a simple flier, young family looking to purchase in your area, blah, blah, blah.. and got a phone call the next morning. Voile!
*We didn't get it for less than it would have been marketed at (real estate quotes littering the house assured us of this), perhaps we could have, but we had good offers on ours, were elated to find what we were looking for and really wanted to secure it and keep everyone happy. In my experience a bit of politeness goes along way. I would be much more inclined to negotiate with someone I liked, than someone who may have picked holes in every aspect of our home. Buying privately means you'll meet the owner, so bear in mind it would pay to have a pleasant relationship from the offset, for what usually becomes quite a stressful ordeal. Owners know their homes flaws and (usually) price accordingly, if not, at least remain polite when negotiating. Remember, it is their home, odds are there will be emotions involved in selling it.