Home and garden - sell your home

5 things you must do before you sell your home…

This article was featured in the January 2020 edition of ‘Your Home & Garden’ magazine.

Thinking of selling? These 5 steps will provide you with the best possible return on time and money invested when it comes time to sell your home:

1. Painting

You should paint bathroom ceilings if they need it, paint kitchen cupboards if the colours are dated. Consider changing the handles as well – a very inexpensive way to modernise your kitchen and most cupboard handles are a standard size so they are very easy to change (all you need is a screwdriver).

These are the ones I personally use: Sylvan Chelsea cabinet handles at Bunnings.

sylvan door handle

Consider painting hallways and rooms if the existing colours are very dark. Use light, neutral colours at all times.

Resene “Black White” is a safe colour choice for any interior walls. Personally, at home we use Dulux “Oponini Quarter” for our interior walls.

Any of these should be fine as well: Top 20 Resene paint colours (July 2014). Go for lighter shades where possible though.

Paint your front doorway (and front door if required) to improve a buyer’s first impression. Go for a bold colour that fits the exterior colour scheme of your property – A dark red front door looks great next to grey weatherboards for example. Re-staining decks can also be a fairly simple job without too much prep work involved and can also make a big difference to the overall appeal of your home.

Be aware that re-painting entire exteriors can be expensive, especially when scaffolding is involved so call me for advice before going ahead with a total re-paint! We sometimes advise against this. Often small touch-ups or just painting window sills will be sufficient.

2. Gardening


You want your garden to appear as low maintenance as possible. If you present a section that is well maintained it will give buyers confidence that you have taken care of your property. Make sure any trees and hedges are not coming into contact with the house itself. Make sure paths are clear from overhanging branches of leaves and above all – trim anything that is blocking the sun! Be ruthless.

Note: Mulch/compost or bark chips can be your best friend to provide attractive ground cover over bland areas once you have cleared out tall grass and weeds.

3. House-Washing & Cleaning


Sometimes all that is required to make a massive difference to the presentation of your property is a good, thorough house wash. When these are done professionally they can cost a bit more than you might think but they are worth every penny. Be sure to also wash gutters, paths and driveways too.

Tip: I personally use James Butler and his team at Clear Waterblasting: //www.clearwaterblasting.co.nz/  They do a fantastic job and are a pleasure to work with.

How clean does your home need to be?

When you are about to sell your home you need to clean as if the local health and safety inspector is coming for a visit. Buyers will poke around and inspect every nook and cranny so your usual Sunday afternoon whip-around really will not do.

Hire some help if you need to and clean all those surfaces you don’t normally bother with – like the top of the range hood, inside your pantry, behind toilets, in high corners were the cobwebs live and inside wardrobes. Wash curtains if required, or have them dry-cleaned – buyers love looking behind curtains to see if they can find spots of mould (and owners always forget to look there first).

Clean as if your mother-in-law is coming to stay and you should be on the right track.

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4. De-clutter

Firstly, take out everything you absolutely don’t need for daily life. Now take out some more. When you visit a show-home the first thing you notice is that they have a ridiculously small amount of furniture, but they do that on purpose. The more you take out of a room, the bigger it will feel to a prospective buyer. Leave prints and paintings on the wall (and a few personal photos to make it feel homely), but clear any surfaces like the tops of bookcases, the front of your fridge, the entire kitchen bench and dining tables, desks etc.

Hire a storage unit if you need to, and feel free to use your garage for storage. As long as buyers can walk into your garage and see how big it is, it’s ok to fill it with boxes and some furniture. A garage is a garage for most people.

Now you can dress for success! Borrow nice furniture from friends and family if you can, invest in new curtains if needed, and buy a new shower curtain if you have one. New duvet covers are essential – keep it simple and neutral.

Staging can be a worthwhile investment…

If the property is empty, invest in the services of a home staging company to present your property at its absolute best.  With nicely presented, well-placed furniture buyers find it easier to picture themselves living in your home.  That means they are more likely to develop an emotional connection to your property which will have a positive impact on the price they are prepared to pay.  Empty houses feel cold and unwelcoming.  If staging your home gets you just 1 extra offer, that added competition should help you recoup your investment and a whole lot more.

5. Now that you are ready to sell your home, decide which will come first: Buying or Selling…

This is a biggie. Owners often can’t conceive of selling their first property without securing another home first. “We don’t want to be homeless!”. This is completely understandable, especially for families with young kids and pets where renting would be less than ideal. The problem with this approach is it often means that when you find your dream home you need to make your offer subject to the sale of your existing property. This is a sure-fire way to lose out in a competitive situation.

Think about the market you are planning to buy in. Are you going to be competing with multiple cash buyers? Or is a little slower, a little quieter, is it common for offers to be accepted ‘subject to sale’? As a general rule of thumb, the further you move out of a main City, the more likely you are to have success with ‘subject to sale’ offers.

In a hot market, if your offer is subject to the sale of another home you simply don’t have much of a chance when competing with cash buyers. If you do get your offer accepted in competition it is highly likely you have overpaid for your new home – since your offer would have to be way above the next highest cash offer for it to be considered by the owner.

To get around this there are 2 options…

Option 1: Secure bridging finance.

Often a bank will approve you to own 2 homes for a short period of time. Thus you can be a cash buyer on your new home. Hopefully, you can secure a long settlement when you buy, then sell your current home before you move in. If you are fortunate you may be able to get the settlement dates to align and never actually need to use the bridging finance. The key here is to get a long settlement on your new home so you have time up your sleeve. This may sound quite scary but it is more common than you might think.

Read: Bridging finance – What you need to know…

Option 2: Sell your home with a long settlement.

This is actually the most common solution. It’s also the one that involves the least amount of stress. It is quite easy to find buyers who will settle in 3-4 months time, especially if you are selling a first home type property where your target market is likely currently renting or living with parents (meaning they can often be quite flexible on settlement date).

“Sell my home without somewhere to move to? You must be crazy?”

Yes, it is daunting to sell your home without knowing where you are going to move to, but the benefits are huge. You can focus on getting the best price, you are under no pressure whatsoever to accept any offer that comes in and you have no impending pressure from the thought of having to potentially cover 2 mortgages. If it doesn’t feel right at all you simply don’t have to sell. This is a very powerful negotiating situation to be in! If you secure a 4-month settlement then you essentially have 3 months to find your new home, followed by another month to settle and arrange the move.

Could you secure a new home in 3 months if you were a cash buyer?

In Conclusion:

When I talk with owners who are planning to sell their home, I usually do not recommend more than painting, gardening, cleaning and de-cluttering. More extensive renovations like upgrading kitchens and bathrooms take time and energy and you will usually be doing well just to get your money back when you come to sell.

The exception here would be if you have the skills to complete this work yourself or have family members/friends who can do it on the cheap. If so, lucky you! Make sure you stick to as simple a plan as possible to keep a limit on costs and focus on the key areas, which are: Kitchens, bathrooms and ground-level decking.

Need help specific to your situation? Book a one-on-one consultation online.

For more info, check out:

Read: How to add value to your home on a budget

Should you be using a mortgage broker?

Negotiating tips for Sellers, part 1

The book I am enjoying right now:
If you donate to charities (or plan to in the future) you should read this book. It has changed my outlook on which organisations to support and has given me ideas on how to help reduce global warming.
  1. Hi Andrew. When selling by Tender or Deadline does the vendor has a legal right to accept the best offer. I mean what if the offered price does not suit? Also is it a good idea with a Deadline sale to mention that early offers can be accepted? Will this be likely to attract a lower offer? And how many weeks should be allowed for presenting offers? Thank you.

    1. Hi Andrew, thanks for your comment. When selling via Tender or Deadline sale the owner is not obliged to accept the highest offer (they can turn them all down). Sometimes they will even accept the second highest offer – if it has better conditions or a preferred settlement date.

      Is it a good idea to advertise that early offers can be accepted? Not in my experience. During my selling career, the best prices have been achieved by the owners who chose not to look at offers until the closing date. It is a powerful negotiating tool to allow buyers only one chance to put in their offer.

      I would recommend a 3 week process for most properties (from going live to opening tenders). For rural or high-end properties I would recommend 4-5 weeks though.

  2. There are very important post that you share in your blog.After reading this article I learn more information that you make.That was excellent post.
    Thanks for sharing this article…

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