Fitzroy Place is one of the prettiest streets in Hobart and Carlton House, an 1835 Georgian cottage, is one of the prettiest houses on that street.
Yet when owners Lynn and David Hemmings decided it was time to sell, they knew their home of 20-plus years might only attract a small pool of buyers.
“About 10 years ago we pulled down the old garage to put a tiny townhouse there as an investment property,” Lynn Hemmings says.
The townhouse and main home are on a strata title, making the property an unusual proposition. “We thought about selling them as two separate properties but decided to put it on the market as one.”
After interviewing three agents, the couple engaged Kim Morgan of Charlotte Peterswald For Property to conduct the sales campaign.
“We felt that Kim understood the house and the sort of buyer that might be interested in it,” Hemmings says.
“We felt he genuinely liked the house and was sympathetic to the style. The other agents were nice but we didn’t feel they had the same connection with the house.”
Morgan says it was an interesting property to appraise.
“I had to look at it a little bit sideways because of the separate cottage and strata title,” he says. “It didn’t have a lot of land. The greatest challenge was conveying the message of the opportunity the property presented.”
Morgan decided to look at comparables for each of the two titles and came up with a price guide of $1.85 million-plus.
“You had a little cottage that any day of the week would be worth $600,000 to $700,000 on its own,” he says. “The principal house was worth $1.2 million to $1.3 million. And when you break it down to a rate per square metre, it also valued up around that area.”
The couple spent a leisurely six months getting the property ready for market.
“It was an old home and it was renovated but we weren’t sure if we should redo the bathrooms and kitchen,” Hemmings says.
“In the end we decided not to, but we spent a lot of time doing little things like squeaky floorboards and chipped paint. We decluttered and got rid of surplus furniture and we reduced the clutter in our cupboards.”
Charlotte Peterswald sent their stylist to provide some advice.
“She came through and made a few suggestions to make [the home] look more spacious,” Hemmings says.
“They were just little ideas that didn’t cost us any money and that was very worthwhile. They’re seeing it through the buyer’s eyes, objectively, so it’s good to be open to that and not be too precious about your home.”
The couple wanted to sell in spring when the garden would be at its best, and Morgan believes this decision paid dividends.
“When we had it photographed and had all the material coming in, that was a highlight – the place just looked so good coming to market,” he says. “They spent so much time getting it ready and it seemed to be the right time of year for the property. They had lovely plane trees and a beautiful garden at the rear.”
The Hemmings chose a private treaty campaign.
“I definitely didn’t want an auction and Kim was happy with that,” Hemmings says. “An auction wouldn’t have suited our personalities – too stressful. And it wasn’t an urgent sale.”
The couple were downsizing after many happy years in the home.
“We’d been in the house for just over 20 years and it had been a really lovely home for us but it was getting a bit too big,” she says. “Our daughters had both left home and were married with kids.”
In a strategic move, they had deliberately avoided looking for their next house.
“We had done that before where we had fallen in love with a home and then felt we had to sell,” Hemmings says.
The couple had a holiday home in Penguin and decided they could base themselves there should they need to post-sale.
Showing buyers through by private appointment, Morgan says the campaign got off to a slow start.
“There were a couple of moments where I was thinking it would be lovely if we were getting more inquiry,” he says.
But the Hemmings were pragmatic.
“Kim had been very honest from the outset that there wasn’t going to be a big market for this home,” Hemmings says.
“For $1.9 million [in Hobart] you could buy a big home overlooking the water that’s brand new. But we knew it was a character sort of property and somebody would love it.
“We were still optimistic that it was desirable and we always had good rental return on the townhouse of $550 to $600 a week.”
Despite this optimism, the Hemmings were dubious when Morgan rang almost six weeks into the campaign requesting a meeting to discuss the first offer.
“We were shopping at Woolies and Kim rang us and said ‘Do you want to come back? I’ve got an offer’,” Hemmings says.
Without knowing the offer, the couple convinced themselves it wouldn’t be enough.
“We felt awkward – we were preparing for a tricky conversation to say no,” she says. So the couple were unexpectedly delighted with a very satisfactory offer of $1.9 million.
“I believe Kim put in the hard work with the buyer so they would actually give us an offer that was going to be acceptable to us,” Hemmings says.
“He understood that we didn’t want to go back and forth. It was a good, fair price and both parties were happy.”
The buyers wanted a long settlement – “a bit too long” for the Hemmings, but they were happy to go along with that.
Hemmings says she has no regrets about the process and is inclined to “look ahead” rather than back in life. She says having completed three previous property sales definitely assisted with the big decisions on this sale.
“I think one of the ways it helped was being realistic about our emotional attachment to the home that other people don’t have,” she says. “Also not wanting to get into a price war, to be really honest about what we wanted.”
It didn’t take the Hemmings long to find their next property – an apartment in the Salamanca precinct, also listed with Charlotte Peterswald.
“When we first moved to Tasmania over 20 years ago we lived in that block of apartments, so we’ve come full circle,” Hemmings says.
This is part of a series looking at how Australians sold their homes. For more advice, read Domain’s ultimate guide to selling your home.