As lockdown restrictions lift, a crop of property listings is likely to come to market for keen vendors.
Put in the preparatory work now, says Property Editor Tommy Barker, who swapped his desk for a ladder when doing up a place for a work colleague.
It's a proven fact, one easily appreciated: getting a house, home or apartment at its shining best before going to market pays dividends, in terms of presentation, in viewing numbers, in bidding and in a higher end sale price.
But, the scale of what needs to be done, and at what cost, can be ‘a moveable feast.’
I know, because in a bit of bravado, I bit off nearly more than I could chew.
Giving a bit of advice at the start of last year to Irish Examiner colleague Catherine Shanahan, who was about to sell a home she had rented out for a number of years after a trade-up move with growing family, I stressed a full décor overhaul, a garden clearance, and a bit of staging. Standard advice.
But, man was I taken aback at a quote she got for doing some basic pre-sale preparatory work for her sound, but ‘gently scuffed’ and a bit tired looking, 850 sq ft early 1900s terraced city townhouse.
The quote came close to €4,000, before VAT at 13.5%, with sanding and varnishing one floor, and a new stair carpet, adding another €800 plus VAT to the estimate, which noted there was nine days’ work in it.
I think it was when I saw €420 quoted for painting the outside (see size, above!) and €180 down for the exterior paint, I baulked, even feeling offended, on her behalf.
Stupidly, I said I’d do it myself: she could pay me and I’d save her thousands.
I booked a week’s holiday, and rounded up the rollers, brushes and tools, the ‘pretty’ bits to finish it all off with, along with the garden assault weaponry: it was a jungle down there.
I won’t be rushing to do anything so rash again, going off-piste, pretty much solo.
I overestimated my ability for the switch from keyboard tapping to heavy enough work, and underestimated the time it would take.
The job was two-thirds done when the week’s holiday ran out: it was a case of hours more then each night, for another week, to complete. We both, vendor and amateur, got more than we bargained for.
Doing the 100’ long, steep garden was subbed out to my nephew Aaron, who doubled its area by cutting back the boundaries so diligently.
The old shed at the far, lower end was sodden, 90% water and filled with as-wet furniture. It all got sorted in two long days, which he bookended with trips to the gym. Show off.
It took three skips, though, at a cost of €530, while labour was less than than the €600 the ‘pro’ handyman had quoted, estimating one skip.
Separately, Catherine’s partner Phil rowed in on a day off, and her dad came up to do some necessary electrical work.
The house, a lucky No 7, had loads in its favour, and a lovely feel once cleared back too.
But, as the work progressed, more jobs suggested themselves: the old varnished kitchen units got painted; the back yard was powerwashed, painted and planted up, given as how two rooms looked out upon it.
Then the wall and pillars around the off-street parking set-back was painted to match the front wall of the house for a clean, tended look that hadn’t really featured before.
The redemptive power of paint worked its way over every wall skirting board and door frame, radiators and most doors, bar the three old pine ground floor doors and stair handrail that Catherine had painstakingly stripped back herself in the early 2000s.
Biggest change? Simple. Replacing the yellow mottled glass over the front door with sandblasted glass for a modern look.
It got rid of the almost Dickensian, urine- yellow pall that the tinted glass had cast over the hall.
The front sitting room got four coats of cream floor paint; way easier that sanding back the heavily marked old pine boards.
Catherine took some convincing. It was done anyway, doubling the light in the room: its new owner will probably sand it back in the future.
Lots of ‘nice’ stuff was dredged up and dragged in, from art work, prints, rugs, to ceramics and, of course, stuffed fruit bowls and vases placed ‘just so.’ It ain’t rocket science.
Low-watt light bulbs were replaced with brighter ones; new light shades and a funky living room rug were bought. Windows shone. Cheap fairy lights flickered in the two fireplaces, and the tiny back yard ‘borrowed’ a chiminea and chairs for ‘the look’.
The kitchen smelled of coffee and candles, cliches, for sure, but better than a smell of damp, or just-dry paint.
After the two-week whirlwind, it was ready for professional photography, and its spring 2019 market debut.
Selling agent, Gillian McDonnell with Sherry FitzGerald, is a big advocate of getting a property as well presented as possible – after all, it makes an auctioneer’s job far easier.
She recommends to would-be sellers to “put yourself in a prospective buyer situation and to look at your home in their eyes.” However, she also acknowledges that “while the majority of vendors do follow our advice and recommendations, sometimes works could be curtailed due to financial or other reasons,” and often ex-rentals get presented ‘as-is.’
“Vendors can spend anything from €1,000 - €5,000 and maybe more dependent on the house. On this one, I would have assumed somewhere in the region of €2,000 and €3,000. The staging works generate more viewings and generally they do see a return in the house price at what it is ‘sale agreed’ at, versus if the staging wasn’t done,” she notes.
Work here came in above the €3,000, but well below what was being professionally quoted for the painting and garden clearance, while a whole lot more got painted, fixed up, smartened up and shown to its best.
This went to market at €240,000, had dozens of viewers and six bidders. It went ‘sale agreed’ not once, but twice as one bidder pulled back late in the day.
The work revealing the garden’s potential paid handsomely, as the eventual buyers wanted a garden, and having off-street parking tidied up also was a bonus.
It sold for €265,000.
Other costs on top of auctioneers’ marketing fees of €750 included €165 for a BER, €369 for a planning exemption cert for a small bathroom extension, and solicitors fees of €2,500.
A sting was having to pay €2,000 for missing the first year of a €200 Property Tax. All other years had been paid: “I had a new baby that year, I blame baby brain for failing to pay,” says Catherine.
“I could have put the house on the market without giving it a makeover. It wasn’t in a shambolic state, but all the advice was it would fetch a better price if I invested a bit to make it more attractive. After all, first impressions are lasting,” she says.
This entailed a gap between the tenant moving out and being ready for market: “it meant we were paying two mortgages and had to take out a loan to do so.”
“However I would say the decision paid off. The first offer came in within a fortnight. Although that fell through, the final sale price was €10k higher again. It was also €10k higher than a neighbouring property that had sold in the weeks leading up to me deciding to sell.”
VERDICT: Leave it to the professionals.. if they are not taking the mick with prices!