The property market is alive and buzzing in spring, with an abundance of buyers and great weather for home inspections. That said, many properties will inevitably make their way onto the market, which means you’ll have a bit of work to do to ensure your investment stands out. The experts are also predicting vendors may have to work a little harder this year, with pressure from interest rate rises and a federal election creating instability in the marketplace.

Groom your property for its grand entrance onto the market. Take advantage of the season and give the dwelling a once-over before hitting the ‘for sale’ board. Read on as two experts share their top tips for preparing your home for a successful spring sale.

The home makeover expert

Home makeover specialist Liz Hayde is the senior designer of Gold Coast-based company Insighted Home & Garden Styling. Liz specialises in cost-effective property makeovers on a budget. Visit www.insighted.com.au

  1. Tidy the garden

    Spring is when everything is starting to burst into life, so it’s the best time of year to capitalise on what nature has already provided. If your garden is overgrown, and if you’re not inclined to get out there in your overalls, then it isn’t expensive to get someone in to give the garden the once-over. Plant some colourful spring flowers near the front door and repair or repaint front fences. Kerb appeal is important, as a lot of people make up their minds about a property before they even enter the house.

    Cost: Around $20 per hour for a gardening service

    Estimated added value: From $2,000

  2. De-clutter outside areas

    Remove any things lying around in your backyard – they’re either things you want to keep, so give them a new home; things you don’t want but someone else might, so give them away or sell them; or they’re rubbish, so get rid of them!

    Cost: Nil

    Estimated added value: $2,000–5,000

  3. Refresh outdoor entertaining areas

    People often forget that an outdoor entertaining area is an extra living space, like another room. If your outdoor furniture is in poor condition, replace it. Remember that you can always take it with you to your new home. If necessary, repaint the deck and repair cracked concrete. Tiling or decking over cracked concrete is usually a more cost-effective solution than trying to patch up the problem.

    Cost: $1,000–5,000

    Estimated added value: $5,000

  4. Paint interior walls

    It’s amazing how much a new paint job can refresh a home. Remember that even if you like bright colours, this isn’t a good selling point. Feature walls are a great idea, but try to keep them in the earth tones – this will appeal to the widest number of buyers and is more likely to suit a potential buyer’s furniture.

    Cost: $2,000–5,000 (or just the cost of the paint if DIY)

    Estimated added value: $5,000–10,000

  5. Clean the roof

    This is one of the first things people see when they drive up to a home – and something a lot of vendors forget about. Does your roof need pressure cleaning or repainting?

    Cost: $700–5,000

    Estimated added value: $15,000–20,000

  6. Update your kitchen and bathroom

    Kitchens and bathrooms are major selling points and if people can see a lot of money has to be spent in these areas, it can put them off buying. Often the carcass of the kitchen cabinet is fine, but the facade is dated. It’s amazing what new cupboard doors and handles can do. Bathroom wall tiles can now be sprayed instead of being replaced and will cost about half the price.

    Costs: Kitchen: $500–1,000

           Bathroom: $1,000–3,000

    Estimated added value: Kitchen: $6,000–8,000

             Bathroom: $4,000–6,000

  7. Update appliances

    It’s worth spending the money updating appliances that are going to stay in the home, such as stoves and ovens. A potential buyer could be put off if they see all the appliances need replacing.

    Cost: $1,000–3,000

    Estimated added value: $10,000 (for an outlay of $3,000)

  8. Replace worn furniture

    Replace tired furniture where possible, keeping in mind that you can take it with you to your next home. Prospective buyers can’t always visualise what a room could look like, so you have to make it look as good as you can.

    Cost: $1,000–5,000

    Estimated added value: $20,000–30,000 (for an outlay of $5,000)

  9. Replace old carpets and floor coverings

    Tired and worn carpets won’t sell a house. New floor coverings will give everything a lift – it is money well spent.

    Cost: $3,000–8,000

    Estimated added value: $25,000–30,000 (for $8,000, full house replacement)

  10.  De-clutter your house

    Store your personal items out of sight. You’ll have to pack them up to move house anyway, so why not get a head-start? If you have small children, get large, stylish boxes to put all the toys in on inspection days.

    Cost: Approximately $25 per box

    Estimated added value: Up to $30,000

The buyer’s/vendor’s advocate

Frank Valentic is the managing director of Melbourne-based Advantage Property Consulting and was awarded the REIA Australian Buyer’s Agent of the Year Award in 2010 and REIV Victorian Buyer’s Agent of the Year Award in 2009. Visit www.advantageproperty.com.au

  1. Add a skylight

    A skylight is a great way to add natural light to areas of the house that miss out, such as entrance hallways and south-facing rooms.

    Cost: $500–1,000 per skylight

  2. Engage an interior designer/stylist

    Always start the process by organising to get the experts in. A qualified interior designer will give you advice on de-cluttering and presentation. You can also consult experts like vendor’s advocates/sales advisors and real estate agents.

    Cost: $150–300 for an interior designer/stylist

  3. Hire furniture and accessories

    Remove bulky furniture to create the illusion of space. An interior designer can give tips on replacing or adding modern hire furniture and accessories, such as rugs, mirrors and other knick-knacks. More suitable furniture and accessories will help present your property like a display home. If the property is vacant, it’s wise to invest in furnishing the entire house, including throw cushions, lampshades and colourful bathroom towels.

    Cost: $1,000–3,000 (depending on furniture hired)

  4. Upgrade the garden

    The garden is often one of the most neglected areas of a property. It’s essential to mow or re-lay the lawns with instant grass, trim hedges and plants, and manicure the gardens as this all forms part of a buyer’s first impression. A qualified landscaper or gardener will give you professional advice on what’s required to cosmetically improve the gardens, eg new plants, bark and paving. Make sure you also upgrade nature strips and driveways and pick up any litter. Create a resort-like atmosphere in your backyard with feature walls, an outdoor shower, shade-cloths, etc.

    Cost: $1,000–5,000 or the cost of materials if DIY

  5. Paint walls and add new carpets/blinds

    If carpets are looking tired and walls have scruff marks, a small investment in some cans of neutral white paint and some ‘off’ carpets purchased at wholesale auctions can present your property as fresh and inviting again. Nothing will make more difference than a fresh repaint, new smelling carpets and new blinds. Remove unfashionable curtains and replace with blinds that let in natural light and add value to the property.

    Costs: Painting: $2,000–10,000 (including labour)

          Carpet/curtains: $2,000–10,000

  6. Improve the floor plan and amenities

    Assess the current floor plan and decide whether there are any opportunities to add value through alterations. Is it possible to add a second shower to the laundry? Can you remove a wall to create a more functional open-plan living area between the kitchen and lounge room? What about adding extra amenities such as a study nook in a cupboard or a courtyard with French doors? A small bedroom can also be transformed into a functional home office to appeal to busy professional couples. Take a look at the property and see where you can add value without too much expense.

    Cost : $500–3,000

  7. Improve security

    Feeling safe is a very important emotional factor that purchasers (especially females) rank as being important. Look at ways you can cost-effectively improve the property’s security, for example extending fence heights with lattice or brush fencing, installing gates and security intercom systems or alarms.

    Cost: $400–2,000

  8. Hire a handyman

    Walk around the property with a handyman and a notepad and list all the defects that need to be rectified. This includes patching cracks, fixing loose fittings, sealing leaking taps, putting in stronger voltage lightbulbs and fixing doors that don’t close properly. Hire a professional cleaner to go through from top to bottom, inside and out, including all windows.

    Cost: $200–1,000

  9. De-personalise your home

    Remove personal artifacts and photos as much as possible. You want to allow the purchaser to fall in love with the home and see themselves and their families in the property – not you and your family. You might need to patch up some of the holes or put up some other photos or prints.

    Cost: Nil

  10. Make the property feel homely

    Try to appeal to the purchaser’s senses of smell, sound and sight, and tap into their emotions. Add some fresh flowers, brew some coffee, bake some homemade bread or cookies, burn some incense and put some relaxing music on.

It’s imperative to do everything you can to present your property in the best possible light without over-capitalising and investing too much money. There’s a fine line between adding value to a property and over-capitalising.

Cost: Nil

Estimated value added: Frank estimates that by following all of the above suggestions, sellers can add up to 10% to a property’s sale price.