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Being sucked in by “free help” ... Biggin & Scott chief executive Paul Stoner says vendors should be “wary of companies offering to help you for free”.

He says there’s been a surge in TV and radio advertisements with online companies claiming to find you the best agent, get you the best price and save you money – and it’s all for free.

“They don’t save you any money, they don’t find you the best agent and they don’t operate for free. If you have a closer look at what they actually do you’ll see they farm out leads to about 15 agents and recommend one who agrees to pay them about 40 per cent of the commission. They don’t actually do anything; the agent does all the work for a lot less. Some real estate agencies refuse to work with them,” says Stoner, whose company has 35 branches in Melbourne.

Stoner advises people to find the best agent themselves “before making a decision to sell”. “Get to know who your local agents are and see how they operate. It won’t take long to find out who the hard workers are, and which ones get the best results.”

Underestimating the impact of presentation

Stoner says: “Look around your property and do all the jobs you know you should have done. Take your agent’s advice: he or she wants to obtain the best possible price and they’ll let you know what needs to be repaired, removed, painted, cleaned or cleared. You want an agent who challenges you – don’t hire an agent that does what you want him/her to do, hire one who knows what to do.”

Hiring the first agent you meet

Buyers’ advocate Janne Sutcliffe, of Change of Address, has been sourcing Sydney properties for a host of Hollywood stars as well as local families for the past 20 years. She says vendors should meet with “at least three real estate agents” before selecting one. “Ask each of them the same questions to establish a consensus on price, fees, what pre-sale improvements are needed, the best way to market the property and the cost of advertising.” Sutcliffe advises against selecting the agent who provides the highest price estimate: “They might be talking it up to get the listing,” she says. “Instead, pick the agent who calls it as it is.”

Listening to laymen

“The minute someone decides to sell their home, the entire family and all their friends and neighbours become experts in real estate,” says Jane Schumann, partner in the Schumann Sands team of Di Jones Real Estate in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.

“Suddenly everyone and sundry will give them advice on what they should and shouldn’t be doing. Remember, your agent is the expert and they are on your side. If you don’t have confidence in your agent, then you’ve chosen the wrong one.” Not knowing the true value of your property, in the eyes of a banker, a vendor should have a well-informed idea of their property’s value.

The general manager of retail banking for St George Bank, Ross Miller, says: “In our experience, a vendor can avoid making a big mistake by knowing the true value of their property. To get an accurate estimate, do your own research but also obtain professional appraisals from local real estate agents as well as an accredited valuation.”

Miller says his opinion is supported by the recent findings of St George research. The study, commissioned by St George and conducted by Pure Profile in 2016, surveyed 1000 Australian first home buyers who had purchased a property between January 2014 and January 2016. It found 57 per cent of subjects said the most difficult part of the house hunting process was “evaluating what properties provide good value”.

“What we take from that is this: if a vendor is unrealistic about the price they want and set it too high, they are deterring first home buyers. By scaring off a huge section of the market, you’re going to miss out on a lot of opportunities,” says Miller.

Neglecting maintenance

Miller says most home buyers are put off by signs of neglect such as faults, filth, clutter, peeling paint, cracks, rotting timber and overgrown gardens.

“It gives the impression the house hasn’t been properly maintained and needs repairs. Contrary to popular opinion, many home buyers aren’t necessarily looking for a property to renovate or repair.” Dodgy works by unqualified tradies. Registered builder and director of Melbourne Property Inspections, Joe Noto, has uncovered all manner of “defective and dangerous” work when conducting pre-purchase property inspections.

“Property owners should always check the qualifications of anyone they employ to conduct work on their property and ensure they provide the necessary certificates of compliance. This is particularly important with electrical or plumbing work – not only can it result in a buyer pulling out of the sale, it can be dangerous, even deadly. Any plumbing work must have a certificate of compliance and electrical work must have a certificate of electrical safety. It’s also vital to ensure extensions have building permits. These documents confirm qualified people carried out the works and relevant inspections were conducted. All these documents should be included in the Section 32.”

Noto says vendors should check they have all the right paperwork before they put their house on the market. He’s seen many sales fall through because of sub-standard work.

“One that springs to mind is an extension in the western suburbs. The original house was only 10 years old and the extension two years old. External claddings had not been rendered, flashings were missing, structural connections were sub-standard and water was entering the wall cavity. Not surprisingly, the vendor didn’t have a permit for the extension and the buyer withdrew from the sale.”

Story (Oct 26, 2016 - Alice Archer)

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