Should you live in your property while it’s on the market, or move out during the sale period?
Real estate agents generally recommend vacating the property and styling it before sale. That’s not always an option for every vendor, but there are alternatives.
Move out and send the stylists in
Having made the decision to sell, 70 per cent of Amy Chamberlain’s clients move out and let Chamberlain and her sister Sara, co-founders of The Real Estate Stylist, work their magic.
The Melbourne-based duo and their team have been styling homes since 2012 and say the demands of living in your house while it’s on the market can be exhausting.
“I lived in my house for the sales campaign and I would never do it again,” Chamberlain says.
“I was flat out every Thursday and Saturday doing a full clean, everything from the bathrooms to the shutters, to make it absolutely sparkle so we could ensure a top-dollar price. I also have a toddler so it was a constant battle of ‘don’t touch!’ ”
Chamberlain says next time she sells she will style her home then lock the door and walk away for the duration of the campaign. While this can be a costly exercise, Chamberlain estimates that for every $1000 you spend on styling, you can expect a $5000 to $10,000 return on investment.
“Unstyled my property was valued between $700,000 and $750,000,” she says. “After styling and fresh paint, the agent said it was worth $850,000 and we sold for $1 million.”
Chamberlain concedes the sale took place in 2017 when prices were still on the rise, but says styling is equally if not more important in the current market in order to give people a reason to fall in love with your home.
An added benefit is that agents working with a vacant property can enjoy 24/7 access to your home to show potential buyers through.
If you’re having your home fully styled, most stylists request sellers to move out to avoid wear and tear on the furnishings.
“You don’t want to feel like you’re living with furniture you can’t touch,” Chamberlain says. “It’s best to let us do our job and make your home shine.”
Where to live if you’re moving out
It’s not unusual for friends and family to have a guest room, self-contained studio or second living space that can be made available for the period of a sales campaign.
“The number one place people run to is family and friends,” says Duet Property Perth agent Michelle Kerr. “I’ve also suggested trying Gumtree and community sites to look for housesitting. That can be a really inexpensive option because someone might be going overseas for two to three months.”
Chamberlain says other options include serviced apartments or short-term rentals like the kind you’ll find on Airbnb.
“You might be able to get an Airbnb closer to town or amenities that make a bit of a holiday out of it,” she says. “You can keep your stuff neat and tidy in the cupboards at home and just take your valuables with you.”
Belle Property Balmain agent Monique Dower says if you’ve already bought your next home, you may be able to move straight in, even if that means renting from the seller until settlement.
Stay put and partially style your home
Kerr says while having a vendor move out for the duration of a sales campaign is an agent’s “lovely utopian dream”, the reality for most families is that they’ll need to stay put.
“I’ve worked with a number of families who would love to move out and fully furnish their home but the overall cost of that is prohibitive,” she says.
“Selling your home already comes with a range of costs and the additional cost of short-term accommodation on top of styling can become an overwhelming financial hurdle.”
Dower agrees, reporting that most of her Sydney vendors end up living in their home while it’s on the market.
“Predominantly sellers end up staying in the house with partial styling,” she says. “A lot of decluttering occurs and a lot of items go into storage.”
Kerr says her team do a property assessment after listing to “pick the eyes out of the client’s furniture” and add in some special pieces of furniture, art and decorative homewares to supplement what they’ve already got.
“We end up not far off the look of a fully staged home and the family doesn’t have to move out,” she says.
Kerr says apart from saving money, this option also avoids creating a generic look that may fall flat with buyers.
“More and more often we’re getting comments from buyers that all homes are starting to look the same,” she says.
“One of the biggest trends across the world is that people are looking for authenticity and transparency with what they’re buying. Yes, they want a beautifully presented home, but when it’s pared back too much the home has no soul.”
Kerr says it can be nice for buyers to see a few bits and pieces around that say “this is a family just like me”.
Long settlements and renting arrangements
Dower says Belle is doing a lot more sales with four or six-month settlement periods, rather than the customary six weeks.
“It’s because the seller wants to have a good amount of time to look for the next property,” she says. “It can also be desirable if the buyer needs more time to sell their home. You want to allow as much flexibility as an owner can have.”
In Perth, Kerr has noted an increased number of expat Aussies in the market who are requesting extended settlements while they pack up their life overseas. Alternatively buyers are renting their new home back to the vendor for 12 to 24 months.
“Because prices have softened in these key areas, expats are using the dip in the market to secure a home and move back in one to two year’s time,” she says. “It’s not uncommon for a beautiful home to sell and a rental arrangement to be included in the sales contract.”