Thursday, June 3, 2010

Trimming The Trees

One almost unbroken rule with buying property in New Zealand is that Kiwis love sunlight. While Aussies like to throw big verandahs up and Europeans seem to prefer tinted windows, net curtains and keeping curtains closed to stop furniture and carpets from fading, Kiwis like to see the sun streaming in. Maybe it's just that we don't care if our furnishings fade, or is it because so many of our houses are badly insulated, or maybe its because we are from the land of the long white cloud. Who knows? One thing I do know though is that a house that is not sunny is a deal killer.

Usually the first question Kiwis ask is, "where is North" and then they start looking at how the house is situated in respect of the sun, how big the windows are on the sunny side, what the layout of rooms are and if there are any trees or buildings blocking the sun. As a seller, don't underestimate how important this is. A buyer may love everything else about the property, but if it feels cold or dismal, it will put them off. Remember, you may get 20 to 50 people looking at your property before it sells. Of that group, maybe 2 or 3 might be seriously interested. If only 1 of those is put off by the light factor, that's cut your potential buyers in half, and cost you the opportunity to play one buyer off the other. How much is that worth? $20,000, $50,000, maybe more?

Ok, so if it the one thing that might mean the difference between a good sale, a hard sale or no sale at all, why not deal with it now. The first thing to do is to go out your drive, and walk back in as if you were the buyer. Look at your property with new eyes, as if you'd never seen it before. Or ask a workmate or someone who hasn't seen your place before to have look with you. Have the shrubs and trees grown over the windows? Are the trees stopping the morning light from coming into the kitchen. Is part of the garden dark and gloomy?

In this example, only a branch or two of the overhanging tree would need to be removed to let light flood into this little cottage. Not much work for a large benefit.

If you can't do the pruning yourself, or you are a bit of a butcher with the chainsaw, get a professional in; the cost is low compared to the potential loss. It only takes a couple of months for most trees and shrubs to bush out again, but in the meantime they can look a bit tragic if they've been hacked about.

In this example, a scraggly citrus tree is blocking all the Northern sun from this deck, and it is also an eyesore that will take years to get right. Just remove it altogether and the place will look much better.

Trees on the neighbours side are a bit more of a problem. In most cases, anything hanging over the boundary can be pruned back and this is carefully and tastefully done most people won't a problem with it. However some people are very particular about their trees, so if in doubt, seek further advice. A good article on this subject can be found at the Neighbourhood Watch website.

Dealing with the building aspect, room layout and windows is a bit more of a problem and potentially more expensive. Keep in mind the potential return though. A good example of this was the house we are in now. Its an old bach that has been added onto, modified and generally hacked about. One of the reasons buyers were being put off was the dark kitchen that was originally on the outside of the house, but ended up in the middle with all the additions. For approximately $1,500, we had a skylight put in, which completely transformed that part of the house. Another relatively easy fix is to change a small window for a larger one, or even a ranchslider or bifold doors.

Another easy fix is to change the layout of the house. We've been in several where it was easy enough to swap a double bedroom for the lounge, or turn an office into a bedroom and vice versa. Remember that even though this layout might not suit you, you're hopefully only there for a few more months, and the buyers may love the new layout.