Leaving Lawson Street: lessons learned, tips & tricks to reduce moving madness

Leaving Lawson Street - tips on selling property | Image by CATHERINEGRACE | www.catherinegrace.com.au

The first thing you may notice about this post is that it is not called how to have a stress-free move. I am not entirely sure that such a thing is possible, and I can assure you our ‘half-move’ {we have moved OUT of our old place, but still haven’t found our next home} was anything but stress-free.#21 - styling detail - leaving Lawson Street - styling and photography by CATHERINEGRACEHowever I did learn, sometimes the hard way, a few lessons to make the experience a touch more tolerable, so I thought I’d share them with you. I am certainly not a real estate expert, however I have also included ideas that worked for us during the selling process as well as few things I have noticed while inspecting potential homes. Again, I am no expert in this department {we are still without a home!} however I have viewed over 55 houses in person now, and probably upwards of 250 on the internet so I guess I have a little, if unwanted, insight into what makes me want to go back for a second viewing.

1. Street appeal, appeals
One of the local real estate agents told us that many buyers won’t even consider a property that does not look great from the street. We didn’t need to make expensive changes, just tidy up the front hedge and style a little seating spot on the front porch. Never underestimate the power of the first impression.#01 - street front - leaving Lawson Street - photography by Josh Hill

2. De-clutter
I can hardly believe how much clutter we had around our house. Not only does it distract viewers from really taking in the space and seeing how they could live in the home, a busy room also looks smaller… and in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, where we were selling, every square centimetre counts!

We actually decided to have about 1/3 of our personal items and some furniture removed and stored prior to the first open for inspection. We turned David’s study into a light, bright and de-cluttered spare room with a double bed to show viewers how easily a double bed would fit in the room {as the similar sized room in the house was dressed as Little Miss’ room and therefore only had a toddler bed}.#19 - spare bedroom - leaving Lawson Street - styling and photography by CATHERINEGRACE#20 - spare bedroom detail - leaving Lawson Street - styling and photography by CATHERINEGRACE3. Keep even hidden storage neat and tidy
This might sound pedantic, however, when viewing houses one of the things that turns me off is piles of toiletries or other bits & pieces jammed into drawers. I like to open and shut built-in robes and drawers in kitchens & bathrooms; not snooping, I promise, I only look in furniture that will be staying with the house when it is sold. When the drawers and cupboards are absolutely packed with the homeowners items I immediately think there must not be enough storage in the room {even if, in reality, there is}.

To combat this, we did a big sort out – we threw out all medications that were out of date, toiletries we no longer use, took canned goods and kitchen staples next door and organised cooking utensils in drawers. I slimmed down my wardrobe and put some less used items in storage prior to the first open for inspection. It was also the perfect opportunity to either throw out, donate or pass onto family many items we felt we no longer needed.#23 - walk in robe 1 - leaving Lawson Street - styling and photography by CATHERINEGRACE4. If your selling your home as a finished home {as opposed to a renovator} make sure it really is finished
We recently viewed a really lovely house in Randwick, on our first inspection we thought it was fantastic – bright, light and airy with everything we needed. It was going for the very top of our budget so we would essentially have nothing left over for fix ups. This seemed ok – they had literally just repainted all the walls prior to the sales campaign so nothing needed to be done, right? Wrong! During our second inspection, we took a closer look and there were lights that didn’t turn on, the fan/heater in one of the bathrooms didn’t work, insect screens were buckling and sliding doors no longer slid; drawers in the kitchen didn’t open or shut properly, built-in storage in the living room could practically not be opened. Of course, none of these things are absolute deal breakers and could all be fixed relatively easily with a weekend trip to Bunnings followed by some elbow grease. The problem for us, aside from the fact that David is not around many weekends due to his work schedule, is that they would all cost money, just a little for each issue but a fair bit in the long run and it was money we didn’t have and didn’t want to spend as this house was being presented and sold {and therefore priced!} as a ready to move in, completely finished product.

Our Lawson Street property was to be sold as “finished”. Prior to the first inspection, we consulted our selling agent who gave us guidance on what details would be worth the money spent to attend to them. An electrician ensured all lights and other electrics were working, we washed all the external windows {this made a HUGE difference, it is amazing what you get used to living with!}, painted the hallway {which due to its high traffic had not held up as well as the other parts of the house} and fixed all door knobs and other bits and pieces so there was literally nothing the purchaser had to do when they moved in.#02 - living and dining - leaving Lawson Street - photography by Josh Hill#03 - living couch - leaving Lawson Street - styling and photography by CATHERINEGRACEObviously if you are selling a renovator don’t worry about any of this – in that instance the purchaser is looking at the space, the quality of the external build and the location. If you know its going to be renovated I would not even bother adding fresh paint – psychologically it always makes me think it is such a shame the vendor has wasted their money painting when the place is about to be a building site! Follow your selling agent’s advice as they will know what the market in your area expects. Which brings me to…

4. Pick your selling estate agent carefully
You, your partner, or both of you will find yourself on the phone to your real estate agent a lot, and I mean A LOT – especially if he or she is a good agent and keeps you well updated. Of course, choose an agency with a solid track record in your area and who you trust to get you a good price. However, I also recommend choosing someone you can talk to, and relate to, on a day-to-day level – the last thing you need during the stressful selling process is real estate spin. #04 - living close up - leaving Lawson Street - styling and photography by CATHERINEGRACE5. Move out completely during the open for inspections
I completely understand this will not be possible for everyone, and we feel very lucky that we did have this option. If you are able to move in with friends or family during the {usually 4 week} period of the open for inspections, and perhaps even the week prior to the first inspection, then this can really help reduce the stress of the situation. We were extremely fortunate; we were able to move into David’s parents’ house a few days before the photos for the marketing campaign were taken, which gave us about a week out of the house before the first open for inspection. For me, this offered many anxiety reducing benefits and the slight decrease in stress was worth the extra effort of packing bags and moving temporarily into another home with a toddler.

Firstly, as I had Little Miss {and DW!} out of the house prior to the marketing photos being taken, I was able to style each space that was being photographed prior to the day of the photos without fear that little hands would undo my good work. After the photos I then had almost a week to tweak the rest of the house and fully de-clutter so the house was then ready to go for the inspections. #10 - master bedroom detail 1 - leaving Lawson Street - styling and photography by CATHERINEGRACESecondly, after a hard day of getting the house all ready for the photos and then the final tidy up prior to the first open – a dusty, dirty and at times emotionally draining job {I did not expect to find a Christmas card from my friend who passed last year} I was able to come back to a fresh house, with a few of our own items and the freedom to play Lego with Little Miss all over the floor!

Finally it made life a lot easier during the inspection period. Rather than a frantic tidy up twice a week and trying to rush Little Miss out the door before the morning inspection, I just needed to pop in prior to the twice weekly inspections to sweep, vacuum and freshen up the flowers. It also meant that our estate agent could essentially bring potential purchasers through anytime for second viewings, building & pest inspections or for any other reason.#14 - nursery detail 1 - leaving Lawson Street - styling and photography by CATHERINEGRACE6. Choose a good lawyer with property experience
I know lawyers get a bad wrap – they are expensive and if everything goes right you wonder what on earth you paid all that money for. You pay them for their expertise which will really only become apparent if anything goes wrong! Buying or selling a property will be, for many people, including us, the biggest financial decision you make. Without a competent lawyer who specialises in the sale and purchase of property you may be left in a very difficult position if something doesn’t go to plan. Property selling is nerve-wrecking enough, the last thing you need is the added concern that you may have entered into a contract that is not in your best interests.

I am a lawyer, I am even a contracts lawyer and David and I still chose to outsource the review of the contract for sale to a qualified property lawyer.#13 - nursery - leaving Lawson Street - photography by Josh Hill#16 - nursery detail 3 - leaving Lawson Street - styling and photography by CATHERINEGRACE7. Have professionals help pack up your house
Ok, so you have now sold and it is time to pack up the house. I don’t know a single person that enjoys packing up a house and moving. If you can, and again, I understand this may not be possible for everyone, have some professionals help pack up the house. This took a very large load off my shoulders, especially as David was not available to help with the packing. We hired a professional packing service to help me pack the whole house up which meant we could do it almost all in one day. We budgeted in the cost of this service into our sales marketing / moving budget and therefore the cost of the service has come off what we can spend on the new house, however for us it was worth it.#17 - ensuite - leaving Lawson Street - styling by CATHERINEGRACE photography by Hannah Blackmore#18 - ensuite detail - leaving Lawson Street - styling and photography by CATHERINEGRACE8. Use the same team to remove and store your furniture
If you need to store your furniture and personal items for a period between selling one house and moving to another, or while you complete renovations, then I strongly recommend that you use the same people to remove your furniture as you use to store it. As we don’t know how long we will be between houses it made sense for us to have our moving team bring the storage container to the house and pack directly into the container. This not only reduced the number of different companies I had to deal with {at a time when I was already dealing with multiple parties}, it also enabled the movers to work with the storage containers they were used to using. Our movers were able to {just!} fit all our belongings in the one storage container – if we needed two containers it would have doubled our storage costs.#06 - living study - leaving Lawson Street - styling and photography by CATHERINEGRACE9. A smile, a thank you and a cup of tea with biscuits is perhaps your best tool
I honestly think that the best currency you have when moving is a big smile, countless thank yous and leaving the kettle unpacked! Grab some take away cups with lids {Officeworks sell them}, a packet of biscuits, some tea bags, instant coffee & milk and leave the kettle unpacked. Being able to offer everyone helping out a cup of tea and a biscuit ensures everyone remains on-side. It may seem old-fashioned, however you will be surprised the extra effort people will go to to help you out during a difficult time, if they have had a little tea break. Oh, and if anyone is helping as a favour, it is always a good idea to have pizza and wine for everyone at the end of the day!#01 - Toddler bed - childrens interior design - styling and photography by catherine and grace - copyright 201410. And now, a few observations from a buyer’s perspective… 

  • Remove most of your personal photos – I had heard this before and thought it was a ludicrous suggestion. However whoever passed down this wisdom earlier was correct. I recently viewed a property with almost every wall covered in beautiful, professional photographs of the family. The photos were stunning, however all I saw was the lovely family that already lived at the house; I couldn’t see our family living there.
  • If its is a hot day, open the windows or turn the air conditioning or fans on; if it is cold, turn a heater on – make your home a welcome respite from the weather outside.
  • Fresh flowers really do make a difference – I always feel a house is more inviting with fresh flowers.
  • Try as hard as you can to keep your home smelling fresh. A scented candle can help divert the buyer’s attention from any musty or animal smells.

#07 - living detail 1 - leaving Lawson Street - styling and photography by CATHERINEGRACEAnd finally, take a deep breath! Selling {and buying} a property is not for the faint hearted! Watch this space as we try to find our new home.

In the meantime, stay tuned, I will shortly bring you The CATHERINEGRACE Little Blush Book {property selling edition} – all the companies and people we used to help us sell the house and remain sane at the same time.

xx Catherine JPEG




These posts do not, and should not, take the place of appropriate and individual financial, legal, real estate or other advice that directly takes into account your particular circumstances. These posts are designed to highlight issues that may affect you and encourage you to delve deeper and seek out the correct advice in relation to the issues that will affect your life or business.

Images in this post are all styled by me, photographed by At DuskHannah Blackmore for Adore MagazineJosh Hill Photography for our sales campaign with Phillips Pantzer Donnelley or me!

2 Comments on “Leaving Lawson Street: lessons learned, tips & tricks to reduce moving madness

  1. Fantastic notes well written. Having just moved twice and sold and bought another house it all sounded like good advice. Xx

  2. Pingback: The Little Blush Book {property selling edition} | catherinegrace

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