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How it sold for $200,000 above reserve

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OpenAgent staffer Ben Major recently sold his four-bedroom house in Sydney's Inner West with plans to relocate to regional Victoria for a lifestyle change.

It wasn't all smooth sailing but, through careful preparation and agent selection, Ben and his family were able to secure a dream result, with a rapid-fire auction driving the eventual sale well above their reserve price. 

Here's how Ben was able to achieve such a fantastic outcome.

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About the property

6 Dougan Street in Ashfield is a four-bedroom, three-bathroom, single-level Victorian house with a generously sized garage on a typical suburban street.

Ben and his wife purchased the property in 2019 for $1.69m and undertook some major renovations in 2023 including extensive works to the home's interior and garage as well as the addition of an in-ground pool.

The plan to sell would only come in 2024, though, and while the house had been given some substantial upgrades, more work could still be done to get the property in sale-ready condition. 

Finding the right agent proved to be critical

After making the decision to sell, Ben reached out to three local agents to appraise the property and get their input on what should be done to prepare the home for listing. 

"One of the critical questions for us is how much work do we still need to do before this house is fit to go on the market," Ben said.

What followed was somewhat of a Goldilocks scenario. 

One agent recommended more large-scale renovations including a whole new kitchen and fully retiling the bathrooms. Another said not to touch a thing and list the property as-is. 

The third hit a middle ground that seemed to make the most sense, suggesting cost-effective improvements like freshening up the bathrooms with a new shower screen and vanity.

"We weren't really in a position to spend a lot of money on the house," Ben said. "Even if we thought that was a great idea, we just didn't have that kind of money to do two bathrooms and a kitchen."

The agent advocating for the middle case presented the most logical argument and also happened to be the top-selling agent in the suburb, giving Ben the confidence they were the right choice to take the listing. 

“We really liked his approach to interfacing with us. He was very thorough and very attentive in his communication, allowing us to do a fair bit of the talking. We thought we'd feel comfortable talking to this person every day for six weeks.”

"You speak so frequently and it's stressful at times, so it was nice to have someone who we were confident was completely on top of what was happening in our property transaction all the way through."

Preparing to list — a big but worthwhile effort

After deciding on the most appropriate timeline for the campaign to avoid disruptions like school and public holidays, they got to work on bringing the property up to a listing-ready state. 

That meant painting walls, fitting new shower screens and vanities, working on landscaping, and decluttering to maximise space throughout the house — all in the space of around three weeks. 

"We decided to have the property ready for photos the day after the Easter long weekend with a first private inspection for people who were on the agent's database to get some pricing feedback" Ben said.

"It was an enormous amount of work. We'd start work at 7am and still be working under lights at 9pm. It's always more than you think," Ben said. 

But, it was worth the effort. The photo shoot turned out brilliantly and they were ready to do their first off-market inspection ahead of the four-week auction campaign.

The campaign delivered some mixed messages but ended in success

Initial feedback was positive and there was a lot of upfront interest with around 30 groups queueing down the street at the first open home. 

"We opened the house two to three times per week over the course of the campaign to give us the maximum chance of getting repeat visits and attracting attention," Ben explained. 

But, while attendance was strong and listing portals like REA and Domain indicated there was superior engagement on the property, there were no clear signals of a genuine buyer three weeks into the campaign. 

"We had no pre-auction offers or contract amendments requested until the final week. Only one group purchased the building and pest inspection right before the auction. 

"So we had this long period of four weeks where we had a load of interest in the house but no signs that anyone was actually serious about coming and bidding for it which was quite nerve-wracking."

The agent was adamant that it wasn't time to panic and he was right. Come auction day there were five registered bidders and the whole street turned up to watch. 

Bidding started strong at $2.9m and quickly breezed past the $3.1m reserve price as a buyer's agent and a phone bidder duked it out, with the buyer's agent striking the winning blow of $3.3m.

"We were hiding in the kitchen and my wife just crushed my hand for 10 minutes," Ben said. "It was super exciting to see it go flying past that number."

Flexibility was key to achieving a top result

There were some important takeaways from the experience, flexibility being the most crucial. 

While the house was open for public inspections twice per week, Ben said "every week we opened at least once or twice more on request."

As it turns out, the winning bidder was one of the people who requested a private inspection.

"It's a pain in the neck when you've got two people working, a kid in school and a dog. Keeping a house this size and age show-ready for a whole campaign is really tough. 

"But we did it, and I think that was the right call. So don't leave anything to chance for the sake of convenience. It's a grind, but it's important to make it easy for people to see."

They had also received a number of contract amendment requests which Ben described as "slightly eyebrow-raising," but they said yes wherever possible. 

Again, the two competing bidders were among those who had requested contract changes. 

"In the end, the result probably depended on us being flexible. Make it easy for people to buy your house, that's the lesson."