What improvements maximise value?When it comes to selling your property, you get one chance at achieving a premium price. Most owners realise this, so well before they get anywhere near running open homes and well before they get to their moving date, they start asking questions like:

“What do I need to do to get the best possible price when I sell?”

“How far do I need to go with renovations/improvements? Can I sell my home as-is?”

“Will I over-capitalize if I do ‘x’?”

In the initial planning stage, most of our conversations with owners centre around finding the answers to these all-important questions. At relatable, we have been through this process a few times, having sold more than 600 Wellington houses during our combined careers. As a result, we have a feel for what matters to buyers, what adds value and what will help create a bidding frenzy for your property.

In our experience, there are 5 key areas to focus on that will provide you with the best possible return on time and money invested when it comes time to sell. No matter what kind of property you own…

1. Painting

You should paint bathroom ceilings if they need it. Paint kitchen cupboards if the colours are dated. Consider changing the handles as well. This is a very inexpensive way to modernise your kitchen and most cupboard handles are a standard size so they are very easy to change. Usually, all you need is a screwdriver.

These are the ones I personally use: Sylvan Chelsea cabinet handles at Bunnings.

sylvan door handle

Consider painting hallways and rooms if the existing colours are very dark. Use light, neutral colours at all times.

Resene “black white” is a safe colour choice for any interior walls.

Any of these should be fine as well: Top 20 Resene paint colours. Go for lighter shades where possible.

Paint your front doorway to improve a buyer’s first impression. Go for a bold colour that fits the exterior colour scheme of your property. A dark red front door looks great next to grey weatherboards, for example. Re-staining decks can also be a fairly simple job without too much prep work involved and can also make a big difference to the overall appeal of your home.

Be aware that re-painting entire exteriors can be expensive, especially when scaffolding is involved so call us for advice before going ahead with a total re-paint! We sometimes advise against this. Often small touch-ups or just painting window sills and doorsteps will be sufficient.

Don’t miss a single step in the process. Fill in your details below and download our:

“41 step preparing for sale checklist”

2. Gardening


You want your garden to appear as low maintenance as possible. If you present a section that is well maintained it will give buyers confidence that you have taken care of your property. Make sure any trees and hedges are not coming into contact with the house itself. Make sure paths are clear from overhanging branches or leaves and above all, trim anything that is blocking the sun. Be ruthless.

Mulch/compost or bark chips can be your best friend – providing attractive ground cover over bland areas once you have cleared out tall grass and weeds.

Don’t have a section? It’s a good idea to place a few healthy green plants inside your home or at your front door to add some life and colour and counter-balance the lack of green space outside.

3. House-Washing


Sometimes all that is required to make a massive difference to the presentation of your property is a good, thorough house wash. When these are done professionally they can cost a bit more than you might think but they are worth every penny. Be sure to also wash gutters, paths and driveways too.

Tip: We recommend James Butler and his team: http://www.clearwaterblasting.co.nz/  They do a fantastic job and are a pleasure to work with.

4. Cleaning

When you are just about to sell you need to clean as if the local health and safety inspector is coming for a visit. Buyers will poke around and inspect every nook and cranny so your usual Sunday afternoon whip-around really will not do. Hire some help if you need it. Clean all those surfaces you don’t normally bother with – like the top of the range hood, inside your pantry, behind toilets, in high corners were the cobwebs live and inside wardrobes.

Wash curtains if required, or have them dry-cleaned. Buyers love looking behind curtains to see if they can find spots of mould (and owners always forget to look there first). Clean as if your mother-in-law is coming to stay and you should be on the right track.

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5. De-clutter

Firstly, take out everything you absolutely don’t need for daily life.

Now take out some more.

When you visit a show-home the first thing you notice is that they have a ridiculously small amount of furniture. They do that on purpose. The more you take out of a room, the bigger it will feel to a prospective buyer. Leave prints and paintings on the wall and a selected few personal photos to make it feel homely (but not too many). But clear any surfaces like the tops of bookcases, the front of your fridge, the entire kitchen bench and dining tables, desks etc.

Hire a storage unit if you need to, and feel free to use your garage for storage. As long as buyers can walk into your garage and see how big it is, it’s ok to fill it with boxes and some furniture. A garage is a garage for most people.

Now you can dress for success!

Dress for success - 51B Rajkot Tce, Broadmeadows

Borrow nice furniture from friends and family if you can. Invest in new curtains if needed. Buy a new shower curtain if you have one. New duvet covers are essential too. Keep it simple and neutral.

If your property is empty, invest in the services of a home staging company to present your home at its absolute best. With attractive, well-placed furniture buyers find it easier to picture themselves living in your home.  That means they are more likely to develop an emotional connection to your property which will have a positive impact on the price they are prepared to pay. 

Empty houses, on the other hand, feel cold and unwelcoming.  If staging your home gets you just 1 extra offer, that added competition should help you recoup your investment and a whole lot more.

Common owner questions…

Do I need to change the carpet?

New carpet can make a huge difference and can be reasonably cost-effective. In our opinion, you will usually get a good return on your investment here so if you have the time and the ability to move furniture around (or better yet, an empty home) then go for it. Just bear in mind that you only need to do this if your existing carpet is in pretty bad condition. If it’s half decent, we wouldn’t recommend changing it.

While you are thinking about flooring – sometimes the better investment is to replace vinyl or lino floorings in kitchens and bathrooms. These tend to get a lot of wear and tear and a small investment here can really pay dividends. Plus it can usually be done without moving much furniture.

Should I renovate my kitchen and/or bathroom?

It’s a well-known fact that kitchens and bathrooms sell houses. It’s also a well-known fact that they cost a lot of money to update! If what you have isn’t functional, then we recommend getting it fixed. If what you have is dated, but working, we would usually recommend leaving these areas as-is and focussing on the easy wins outlined above unless you have special talents in these areas (or a brother/sister who is a plumber). Kitchens and bathrooms are often areas where you can spend tens of thousands of dollars to recoup the same amount of money. Meanwhile, the 5 steps outlined above will pay massive dividends often 5 – 10x the investment required.


When meeting with prospective sellers we usually don’t recommend more than painting, gardening, cleaning and de-cluttering. More extensive renovations like upgrading kitchens and bathrooms take time and energy and you will usually be doing well just to get your money back when you come to sell. The exception here would be if you have the skills to complete this work yourself or have family members/friends who can do it on the cheap. If so, lucky you! Make sure you stick to as simple a plan as possible to keep a limit on costs and focus on the key areas, which are: Kitchens, bathrooms and ground-level decking.

Wondering how much will it cost to sell your home?

Click here to request a no-obligation quote online.

Andrew Duncan

What’s next?

Don’t miss a single step in the process. Fill in your details below and download our:

“41 step preparing for sale checklist”