Sell with Confidence
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By Jessie Stewart

The real estate market is increasingly competitive; buyers are savvy and often unprepared to compromise. In many cases, they’re looking to buy not just a home, but a lifestyle. An open house is your chance to showcase your home at its best, sell the ‘dream’ to potential buyers, and secure a top-dollar sale.

Depending on the current state of your house, you may need to begin preparations a couple of weeks before you fling the doors open to the world. Final touches will be done on the morning of the inspection. Industry insiders say this is a time to think of your house as a commodity rather than a home: here are their tips on how to put together a look guaranteed to tug at buyers’ heart-strings (and purse strings).

Spruce up the garden

  • When you’re selling your house, first impressions are everything: “When people look at a photo of a house or drive by, if they find the outside is not appealing they often don’t even bother to come inside,” says Amanda Beibei Li, a property stylist with Uplift Interiors.
  • The front yard is your first chance to make a good impression, and it’s worth investing some time to get it looking its best, so you don’t lose a single opportunity.
  • Mow the lawn, rake dead leaves, sweep pathways, weed garden beds.
  • Ensure the front fence and gate are clean, and that the gate swings opens easily.
  • Remove garden waste, children’s toys and gardening equipment.
  • Carefully position and arrange any outdoor dining furniture.
  • Plant feature pots with colourful flowers.

Declutter the entire home

Think minimal: clear crowded shelving units, keeping only a few key pieces on display. Magazines, papers, toys, phone-charging cables – move them along. You’ll be amazed at how clearing all the horizontal surfaces can transform the look of a room.

Tip: The Marie Kondo method sounds brutal, but could be a great way to declutter when preparing to sell. The idea is to keep only items that ‘spark joy’. This means you’ll throw away an awful lot of stuff, and (theoretically) you’ll be left with only your most beautiful, open-home-worthy pieces. Or, you could just shift all non-essential bits and pieces into storage while your home is on the market.

Place furniture wisely

In an open-plan living area, your furniture will define the different spaces and how they are used. Group the couches together to create a cosy, inviting sitting area; make sure people can see how a TV fits into the space (this is an important consideration for many), and place a rug under the dining table to help zone it off.

Also consider traffic flow: on open-house day, there may be several groups of people moving through your home at any one time. Give them room to move about by ensuring furniture is positioned to allow easy thoroughfare. Removing any extraneous shelving, side tables and chairs will help prevent bottlenecks as people walk around the house, and has the added bonus of freeing up floor space and making the room look larger.

Style the kitchen

Any real estate agent will tell you, kitchens sell houses. So in the lead-up to your open house, lavish yours with attention. The main things buyers are going to be looking for in a kitchen are storage space and bench space.

  • Remove everything from the benchtop: dishcloths and detergent, salt and pepper, utensils and large appliances. Soften the look with a beautiful oversized bowl or platter, or some cut flowers.
  • Visually maximise the storage by removing excess items from the cupboards, leaving ‘just enough’ behind.
  • When cleaning, pay particular attention to the cooktop, oven, sink and tap.
  • Hide your daggy old tea towels.
  • Clean the insides of cupboards and drawers.
  • Empty the bin. Empty the dishwasher so people can look inside.
  • Take photos and notes off the front of the fridge.

Style the bedrooms

The decluttering mantra continues into the bedroom. As you’ve done in the rest of the home, clear all surfaces and remove personal (and valuable) items. Make the bed the focal point of the room, dressed up in its ‘Sunday best’ bedlinen, with pretty cushions and throws to make it look even more inviting. Have matching lamps on the bedside tables, and put them on to create a soft glow in the room.

Children’s bedrooms are a different animal. If a room has a single bed, and looks cramped with lots of bookcases and shelves packed with toys, it’s often better to pack the whole room away, then put in a double- or queen-size bed and a pair of bedside tables. Presenting it as a double bedroom rather than a small single bedroom creates the maximum illusion of space.

Obliterate odours

You don’t want potential buyers to be able to smell your pets, last night’s roast, or a pile of damp washing. Bad smells are a massive turn-off in any home – and some, such as mustiness, can indicate problems with damp and will set alarm bells ringing. However, over-deodorising the home with chemical air-fresheners isn’t the answer. A thorough cleaning (particularly of carpets) is the best way to tackle ingrained odours. In the week leading up to your open house, keep the windows open as much as possible to air the house out. And right before opening time, light a few gently scented candles to diffuse a pleasant aroma through the rooms.

Put away any pet food bowls and beds, give the floors a quick once-over, get the washing off the clothesline, and clear off. Now it’s time for the real estate agent to take over and find your house a new owner.


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