As expected, the Reserve Bank lifted the cash rate to 3.35 per cent last Tuesday, with the impact on households being an increase of 60 per cent in mortgage payments in the past nine months.

This impact goes far beyond existing variable rate mortage holders, there are 800,000 borrowers whose fixed-rate loans will flip to variable rates during this year. Approxiately $38 billion in lending.

This is the elephant in the room, and I think the point is lost on both the federal Treasurer and the Reserve Bank. These rising rates are hurting the lower socio-economic demographic more than middle or high income earners. People on lower incomes have less flexibility and will be forced to look at downsizing or selling.

So, if you are unfortunately forced to downsize, what can you do to maximise your sale price? As a valuer for 20 years, I have walked through many thousands of homes and analysed thousands of sales, and this has given me a good grasp of why people will pay more when buying.

The first thing to think about is the simple stuff: tidy up the yard, declutter the house, clean out the garage, establish a few garden beds, put down some wood chips or mulch. To show something off, you need to be able to see it, and give that first impression of a great looking house.

Internally, look at what you can do yourself that doesn’t require a huge investment:

  • Get those small repairs done
  • Replace those dead light bulbs
  • Fix up the holes in the wall
  • Grab some modern (cost-effective) blinds or drapes
  • Steam-clean the carpets
  • Repaint one room at a time each weekend and when selecting paint colours, look for fresh white colours that reflect light and make spaces feel bigger, and
  • Maybe get a quote to repolish the timber floors

The main areas of importance for buyers are the wet areas; kitchens, bathrooms, laundries and ensuites. Without going overboard, put a bit of attention into these rooms: replace a basin with a more modern one, replace the toilet bowl or update the tapware. These things can be done cheaply and make these spaces look great.

Kitchens are probably the most impactful room that impress a buyer and spending money on the kitchen is usually always money well spent. Consider buying some modern appliances plus updating the benchtops, there is now a huge range of low cost laminate benchtops that look as good, if not better than stone.

Artwork and staging the internals of the house are also important, the right artwork in the right place can make a room stand out. Perhaps chat with a local internal designer to see what you can do with what you have, supplemented with some good online bargain hunting. Staging your home for sale is all about demonstrating a lifestyle to the purchaser. But beware, staging can be a trap, don’t overdo it – at the end of the day they are not buying the furniture.

Externally, alfresco and decks are a great advantage and can positively impact your sale price. Decks are not hard to build (or repair) and our research shows that there is a notable increase in value for properties with good outdoor entertaining spaces. A deck is often low cost and can be impactful, with an investment of $15,000-$20,000 resulting in buyers paying more for those spaces than they cost to build. Paving is another easy win, you can do it fairly cheaply and it can lift the outdoor look and feel. Also, fill these spaces with appropriate outdoor furniture to show how the space is used, but again, don’t clutter it.

Finally, the most important decision in selling your property is the timing of the sale. Agents will be quick to push you to sell as soon as you speak to them, but bear in mind that they are currently starved of listings, down 31 per cent on last year. The easiest thing to do is to get online and have a look at what is for sale in your immediate area and go for a bit of a drive past. You are looking to get an idea of what is for sale, at what price and which agent is getting results. It is also worth establishing how many similar properties to yours are on the market. If there are five others like yours listed, perhaps wait a few weeks for them to sell before you look to list your own home.

Hopefully we are not in the position where people are selling because of mortgage repayment pressure, but if so, I hope this has been helpful.

This article written by Gareth Kent appeared in the Geelong Times on 17th February 2023.