Tips from a Pro

Buying or selling, real estate is likely to be the biggest financial decision most of us make... take the time to get it right!

In my 30+ years in the real estate industry, I've learnt a lot about making buying and selling real estate stress free.

I've seen the common mistakes people make. Follow these few simple tips so you don't make them!

Tips for Buying

  1. Write down what you need before you start looking!

    Making a list is a surprisingly powerful tool! Write down what you are looking for in your new property, and put the list where you will see and revisit it over the coming days. All the family should help putting this list together in their own way.


    • Where do you want to live?

      Proximity to work, schools, recreation, family. Remember these things may change over time. Particular to Far North Queensland is the climate. You want to live in the rainforest, but do you know the really high (and very testing) rainfall zones? Do you know where it floods? Get some good local knowledge.
    • What do you need to live comfortably?

      Number of bedrooms and bathrooms, size of the kitchen, size of the land, sheds, storage for caravans and boats. Be realistic about what you need now and in the medium term future.
    • What do you want to spend, what can you spend?

      Work out a realistic budget and stick to it. Factor in some fat for some unexpected surprises (like Stamp Duty). Use the range of online tools to see what will happen if interest rates rise or fall and make sure you can cope with that. Get your paperwork done so you can move on that property when it comes available.
    • When do you need to buy?

      Few good decisions are made in haste! Making sure you are in a positon that you'd like to buy, rather than you need to buy now is clever, but not always possible. Consider how the market you are buying into is behaving now and likely to in the near future.
  2. Start looking

    Make use of the great resources available today to search for the property that best fits your now established criteria. Mark the properties against your list. Don't forget to go back and revise your list as you gain more knowledge through the search phase.

    Consider engaging a Buyer's Agent. This is where a Real Estate Agent works for you, not necessarily selling you a property. A good agent will have accurate and up-to-date market and local knowledge. They will also have contacts across the region, and will often be able to source properties that suit your criteria, even those that may not be on-the-market. Further, they really come into their own in negotiating the contract for your purchase, providing objective, informed and hard-nosed advice that is very difficult for you to provide, especially when buying your family home.

    A Buyer's Agent will save you lots of leg work, and generally their fees are paid from the sale commission and do not cost you anything. You do need to make sure you engage a reputable and trustworthy Buyer's Agent however to get the best deal for you.

    I can help you find your perfect property, either just with assistance in the search or acting as your Buyer's Agent. Please contact me to discuss this clever approach.

  3. Get good advice

    The importance of a good conveyancer or solicitor cannot be overstated. They can help you avoid really serious problems that could end up costing you a lot of money or missing out on a property, including:

    • Illegal renovations or additions to buildings that are not council approved and could potentially be dangerous or very costly to fix
    • Questions over ownership of property and title deed irregularities
    • Complications with clauses and fees for strata titles
    • State authority rights to the property pertaining to zoning and/or future developments to the area that could seriously affect the property‚Äôs value

    Your legal representative will also review the contract of sale and mortgage agreement to ensure these legally binding documents protect your interests.

    It is a good idea to approach several conveyancers or specialist property solicitors before you find your perfect property. That way, you can form a relationship with them, understand their information needs and timelines and thus be ready to move quickly and professionally when that property is found. A good start is ensuring they are registered, licensed and certified practicing conveyancers.

    I have dealt with many conveyancers and solicitors in my property dealings, both privately and for my clients.

  4. Do your research

    There are many, many tools now available on the web to help you to find and research your property. These include listing sites like Domain and for listings, but also great tools like Google Earth. If you do have a little more computer savvy, the Google-Earth add-in Queensland Globe opens up a wealth of property information for free, including flood data, property valuations, cadastral information and more. If you don't have this computer savvy, conscript a teenager!

    The local Council website for your property-of-interest will also have a great range of information, and well worth a look. This includes the Tablelands Regional Council, Mareeba Shire Council and Cairns Regional Council.

    Up-to-date market and local knowledge is a bit harder to both define and come by. In FNQ and especially on the Tablelands, the climate should play a big part in your decision about a property. Distances as small as 20km can mean a big difference in the livability of a property, as can exposure to the predominant winds, access or even re-sale values. This is where I can help. Please contact me to assist.

  5. Negotiate the best deal

    Once you have found that property, its time for cool heads and steady hands. The important points include:

    • To support your market research, have a think about the asking price. If it seems too high, consider getting a valuation. If it seems too low, ask why that is. If it seems to good to be true, it may well be.
    • Having followed all the above pointers, you will have a good idea of the market. Use that information to guide your approach in negotiation.
    • Refer back to Point 1 - know your limits. Our instinct is to look at the top of our price bracket and then go just a little further. This may be a good decision for the right property, but make sure the decision is well founded. Buy with the head, not the heart even for your family home.
    • In your dealings, be fair and reasonable remembering that the seller is most likely just like you. Don't take undue advantage of other people's misfortune, make serious offers when suitable and play by the rules.
    • Use contract deposits and sale terms to your advantage. Your solicitor is best placed to give you good advice here.
    • Lastly, do not take too much on face value, go in with your eyes open in every aspect of the contract. Listen to your Buyer's Agent, your conveyancing team and solicitor's advice.

Tips for Selling

  1. Decide why you are selling

    Selling up and moving your life, or turning over an investment property is a big decision. It sounds obvious, but it's important to decide why you are selling. This will then drive how fast you need to sell and how you will market your property. You may find there are several reasons.

    Write them all down, and then prioritise them.

  2. Consider the alternatives first

    Have a think about the reasons you have listed and see if selling is the most sensible alternative. Some good examples may include:

    • "Our teenage children need their own space"

      - Consider an extension, convert another space to a retreat. While these days your children are likely to be at home much longer than your generation, remember that in a few years they will move out. Empty-nesters with a bigger house will then likely need to move again.
    • "We've been in our home for 25 years, it needs a major make-over"

      - Consider the cost of a comprehensive renovation against the costs (financial as well as emotional) of selling up. Include in this consideration is the premium you will pay in selling your tired home as a renovator, but also be very wary of over-capatilising your existing home. Contact a reputable builder to get some ball-park costs so you can make an informed decision of the relative merits.
    • "The market is hot right now, it's a great time to sell."

      - Consider that it will by default also be a poor time to buy into that same market. Realising the value in your investment property or home is a great idea, as long as you consider the full life-cycle (buying and selling).

    At this stage, its a good idea to get some professional advice. I can help, with a no-obligation discussion about selling your property, and giving you some advice on alternatives. Please contact me at this stage to have a chat.

  3. Engage Your Agent

    Once you have decided that selling is the best-fit for your situation, contact several Real Estate Agents and discuss this with them. Consider what each agent has to offer in assisting you, the costs and relative merits of their approach. A good agent should ask you the above questions as a first step.

    Make sure you consider the relative merits of the agent's suggested approach in marketing and selling your property - an exclusive agency? sale by auction? Multiple Open homes? What market sector would your property be best suited to, and how will the agent approach this? For example, if your property is best suited to a couple retiring from the south, is a spend on advertising in the local papers a good investment?

    Be wary of a factory-standard approach being rolled out for your property, and remember value is more than just the cost of the agent's fees.

    I can help you with the sale of your property, and bring my 30+ years of experience to your team. Please contact me to discuss an approach that will be right for your circumstances.

  4. Prepare Your Property

    Once you have settled on an Agent, and a marketing approach, set a date that you will list. This sounds obvious (now!), but you need to factor in several things especially in North Queensland.

    • What preparation do you want to do? From relatively minor works such as tidying up the garden, cleaning out the gutters to a new coat of paint, talk with your agent about what would represent good value and improve the sale price. We use and recommend Tableland Property Maintenance to assist with these tasks that you cannot do yourself.
    • What time of year is best to sell? Selling your property at the height of the wet season may not be a smart strategy. If you have the luxury of time, choose a time that shows the best features of your property. Again, your agent with good local knowledge will be able to assist here.
    • Consider professional Photography to support your listing. The vast majority of your potential buyers will come via the internet, and the main thing that leads to more buyers is attractive photography to show off your property. These days there are amazing tools available to make virtual tours a viable reality, and at costs that are affordable for any property. We use and recommend Chowchilla.