Brisbane's sales market, Real Estate Marketing

Selling your property for a $115,000 premium: One home owner’s experience

Let me start by saying this: We don’t have a magic ingredient and we don’t have all the answers. And sheer good luck had a big part to play. A huge part. But this is the story of how we sold a house we expected to be worth somewhere around $750,000 for a cash contract of $860,000.

People expect agents to be boastful of success stories like this, but the truth is I’ve procrastinated for weeks on writing it. Because the house we sold was owned by my wife and I. And I can’t emphasise enough that the moons were completely aligned to get us this result. They do say luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, so here’s the things we did to give ourselves the best of opportunities.

1. Presentation. We moved out of the house. We painted, we freshened gardens, we cleaned, we fixed all those things we’d been meaning to fix. Then we spent more than $6000 to fully stage the home, with every room furnished and decorated in a modern and fresh style that appealed to our target market. The place really did look better than at any time we’d lived there. And then before each and every inspection we vacuumed, we cleaned and we swept every leaf and twig from driveways and paths. Many sellers do this the first couple of times and the challenge is to keep it up throughout the campaign.

Take a look at how property developers and home builders sell stuff. They have sparkling fresh displays that draw you in and engage you by appealing to the senses. They look, smell and sound good. So did our house – at least after we moved out and were ready to sell.

2. Commit to meeting the market. It’s human nature to be defensive about the value of your home. To be fearful of selling for less than the best possible price. To want more than most people will want to pay. So we tend to ‘fight’ the market by setting a high price, keeping our reason for selling a secret and generally withdrawing into a ‘protective fortress’. We see the sale process as a battle of sorts.

There’s one big advantage to being a real estate agent selling your own place – you have to take your own advice! So we committed to selling and engaged with the market. Our bank manager told us we couldn’t afford to keep the house, so that became part of our ad’s headline. We laid ourselves bare, showed the market we had a genuine reason to sell and this gave buyers good reason to get off their couch and come for a look. When 16 of them turned up to our first Thursday night open home we had a good idea we’d done the right thing.

Guess which ads generate best enquiry and often the highest prices? Deceased estates, mortgagee sales – any that give buyers confidence they can buy well. They’re busy and won’t spend time on half-serious listings that are just testing the market. Many sellers fear being this open but time and time again we’ve witnessed the strong results it achieves.

3. Resist the temptation to defend the property. Home buyers know what else has sold recently – they’re more informed than ever. And as a seller you and your agent can argue why this property is better than others and you should if it is. But also talk about the ones that are worth more and admit to their advantages. Buyers love to hear that a seller is informed and willing. So we openly talked about the local sales for $680,000 and $725,000 and $759,000. And the one at $800,000 that was in a better spot. Wherever the market, we told buyers we were ready to meet it. Of course what we wanted to do was stretch all buyers to their absolute limit, to maximise “market value”, and that’s what every real estate agent should do.

4. Promote it well. High quality photos including a dusk shoot for some sex appeal (are we allowed to say that about houses anymore?!) A floorplan, classy brochure, upgraded listings on the web portals, a small presence in the Courier Mail classifieds. We did enough but not too much.

5. Create some competition. The best prices are achieved when buyers feel there’s others interested as well. It gives them confidence this is a place worth buying and, after they’ve hopefully made some emotional investment in the home, they will push themselves to the limits of their budget. We were able to ensure that at each and every inspection we had more than one group of buyers there at any time. Yes we had lots of enquiry but we also limited the number of inspections. There was always a buzz around the place.

If we’d followed all of the steps above it could have counted for little if we hadn’t auctioned the house. And I’m not recommending every property be auctioned because it’s not the right solution in every case. But with a well presented and promoted property, a seller ready to meet the market and a number of buyers tired of shopping and ready to act, this was the perfect competitive environment to maximise the sale price.

Once we got to auction day and 17 buyers registered to bid we had a good idea we might exceed our expectations. But the recent local sales said low to mid $700,000’s was probable. (We later found out one buyer’s valuer had assessed the property at exactly this.) So we set a reserve price of $745,000.

The sun was shining and the front yard was full of ready home buyers with paddles in their hands. The auctioneer was one of the best. The mood was positive. When the bidding opened low and slowed to $10,000 rises at just $685,000 it looked like we might stall below the reserve. But it steadily crept along to $770,000. And then a new bidder weighed in – these buyers who would eventually go on to own the home – and everyone else stopped bidding. Except one other who battled on against them.

So you might say that all our good tactics and planning got us to $770,000. It would have been a great result. But as we said, good fortune had a big part to play on this day, and from then it was sheer luck that two buyers were committed enough to push to the final sale price of $860,000.

How do you repeat this for yourself? Firstly of course you need to hire us to sell your property! Each and every sale has its own twists and turns but there’s some easy tips here for anyone wanting to give themselves the best chance of a “lucky” result.

Please share your tips for selling by commenting below.