I recently sold our property privately. We’ve sold to a lovely young family who will fill and appreciate our house as we did when we moved in with small children. I enjoyed the experience of meeting potential buyers and think the individual viewings kept the tyre kickers away! It’s demoralising to think of strangers, who have no intention of buying my home, going through the kitchen cupboards and wardrobes in the melee that Open Homes have become.
The reaction of many family, friends and strangers was surprising – everything from “Why?” (not in a good way!) to “you’re very brave” and looks that indicated I’d clearly lost my mind. There was the odd “good for you”, but most thought it risky and unwise.
For many of us the family home is our greatest investment. Perhaps because of this we’ve allowed an aura of mystery to surround the buying and selling of our major asset. The thought of selling one’s home without the assistance of a middleman has evolved into a daunting task. Yet the reality is selling your house is no different to any other trade. What is needed is a willing seller, a willing buyer and a process to transfer the ‘good’ for an agreed price.
I understand why most people pass the responsibility on to an independent third party, but at heart I’m a skeptic about the real independence of someone supposedly acting in the best interests of both a buyer and seller of the same product. There is a lot of trust involved in that potentially tangled web. I also like to be an active participant in major projects affecting my livelihood!
So, armed with a lovely family home, a marketing plan, the advice of our lawyer, supporting documents (property valuation, LIM and building report) and the encouragement of a friend who had done this before, I embarked on selling our place.
There are some clear do’s, don’ts and maybe’s, which I’ll come to. I’m pleased to report that it really wasn’t that hard, but you do require patience, a clear plan and a firm bottom line.
- Presentation is key, so spend time and money completing all those tasks you’ve been meaning to get around to.
- Visit your lawyer to ensure you’ve met all your legal obligations and they will assist with tender processes and deeds of sale.
- Think of your house sale as a short-term campaign – research, plan, advertise, market and know your desired outcome – a sale for a realistic figure.
- Make your advertisement interesting. Tell the story of your house – by way of example I’ve added my advertisement to the end of this article.
- Advertise on TradeMe. That’s where people look. There are some private selling sites but they just don’t have the reach to advertise there alone.
- Invest in good photos. Quality sometimes costs a bit more but attracts the right buyers.
- Have a marketing plan that targets the appropriate market. Mine included the TradeMe advertisement, social media, flyers (which I distributed in our suburb and others where school zones are an important factor) and I emailed a brochure to Embassies and High Commissions. Ours is a family home or an entertaining home.
- Social media helps spread the word. Choose your favourite – YouTube, facebook, twitter, Instagram. All are about connecting people and information. Particularly useful for us was a YouTube video that all marketing material linked to, and our suburb’s active facebook page. We had lots of enquiries from both.
- Individual viewings. Families liked looking through the house without having to compete with lots of other people. I offered a tour and this gave me the chance to talk to people, but some like to look through on their own.
- Declutter, declutter, declutter. Buyers need to be able to visualise the place as their own and they can’t if a house is cluttered or messy.
- Have a LIM report and Building report to give to potential buyers. Sellers are obliged to disclose any problems with the house that mightn’t be instantly evident. I had a copy to show people, then sent documents via email.
- Have a list of those who view your property and their contact details – just in case. I wrote a short note about each viewing to remind me what people were looking for. It’s easy to confuse one family with another after you’ve shown several through.
- Be patient. A house is a big purchase and feeling rushed is off-putting for buyers.
- Don’t make people feel pressured. Your house won’t be right for everyone.
- When you’ve decided to sell privately, stick to the plan. Don’t be pressured to change it by Real Estate Agents ringing to “give advice” – they want you to list with them. My first call was from an agent who told me I’d gone about advertising in completely the wrong way and I’d never sell the house! It’s useful to have a firm but polite line for the inevitable calls.
- Don’t be offended when people want to investigate beyond the building report. Undertaking due diligence shows people are really interested in your property and being accommodating gives them confidence the house is sound.
- Don’t forget the outside of the house – sometimes it’s the garden that people fall in love with.
- Don’t forget to tell you neighbours and everyone you know that you are selling. Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool.
- A ‘For Sale’ sign can be a positive or a negative. We didn’t have one because I didn’t want people knocking on the door. However, others are great believers in having a sign. 80% of those who viewed our house lived in our suburb and signs do attract passing traffic. It’s a matter of personal preference.
- Open Homes. I’d hoped to get by without having an Open Home, but had one after 5 weeks of advertising. I had a family member help manage the viewers and had a sign-in list. Our sale wasn’t from people who attended the Open Home.
The best comment I’ve heard about private house sales is: We did it because we’re adults and we can! If you are even a little tempted to do it yourself, I say you should give it a go. If it doesn’t work you can find a good real estate agent to take over the sale process. By trying you lose nothing, have control over the sale and can save a tidy sum. Good luck!
This was our advertisement:
I’M GOING TO SELL MYSELF!
There comes a time when every house needs to make tough choices. That’s where I’m at right now. I want a family and I’m prepared to do what it takes to get one – including selling myself!
I’ve given many years to raising children but they’ve grown up and left me, as they do. I’m ready for a new family. Oh – how rude – please allow me to introduce myself. I’m a house of space and taste. Call me ‘Coops” (My real name is 31 – who the heck numbers their kids, right?)
The memories are vivid. Family dinners round the massive dining room table for 10, the chess and board games and fierce political debates all spilling out in later years onto my new decks on both sides of the house. Countless games of cricket on the back lawn. Public readings from the Economist. BBQs and dinners. Variable quality SingStar.
How could I, you ask, forget the eldest of the 5 kids naming my ground-floor utility area the “Scary Cupboard” – I chose not to take offence. Or one of the girls coming up with so many schemes and practical jokes that the other of my girls always took the blame for? Many a night, I conspired with the insomniac child so he could stay up late to read Tolstoy (yeah, even I thought that was a bit strange but my LED ceiling lighting is up to it). And the youngest boy who loved answering the door bare-bottomed and only wearing a shirt, and sitting on my gas-fired central heating vents. The HRV system has been a god-send with all those people in the house.
Then there was the music. Piano, guitar, violin, mandolin and drums – yes drums – but my insulation is awesome and the neighbours heard very little (unlike me). Luckily, the friend with the bagpipes will leave when you buy me.
I accept that I’m a rarity – a two-storey, four to five-bedroom, two-bathroom Karori house in Wellington College, Wellington Girls and Karori Normal school zones with double garaging plus another two off-street car parks (although one of my internal parks usually featured a full-size table-tennis table and dartboard instead of a car). I was so proud when my current owners gave me a Stephanie Phillips Architect designed makeover in 2007. My family used some of the new space as a zone that they could all be in for work, gaming, homework and movie watching but I think it would also make an awesome home office. And don’t forget the Bosch induction stove-top and oven and F&P fridge with water dispenser and ice maker. The outrageously large TV could also be negotiated to stay in the family area.
Just when I thought I wasn’t loved in the same way anymore, my owners treated me to a full, professional exterior paint job in the last few months. I’m looking sweet – even if I say so myself. Nothing for you to do – just bring me a family to love.