Friday, 16 May 2014

Buy first or sell first?

Question: Do you buy first and take the risk of selling under pressure – or do you sell first and take the risk of being stranded without a home?

 As with most things in life, there is no easy answer here; each strategy involves risk. And in the back of most people’s minds is that when the property market changes, it changes quickly and unforeseen events can trigger immediate effects to market sentiment.

 If you buy first (and you are upsizing) you are taking a considerable risk – if the market changes or your property doesn’t sell easily then it can be a financial disaster.

 On the other hand, if you sell and then nothing comes up that is suitable, you may face the dreaded prospect of having two moves. This can be incredibly inconvenient and of course expensive.

 Second question: What would be worse?

 If you have the stomach to buy first – the key to safety is to be conservative ie. under-estimate the likely sale value and allow for longer time on market of your current property; and overestimate the costs associated with buying your new home.

 In this market, people are becoming increasingly risk adverse and this is largely due to the extraordinary conditions we have experienced of late. However – this is not a normal market and at some point it will change. Stories of people being caught out and having to use bridging finance are rare these days, but it wasn’t long ago when it was a common occurrence.

 If like me, you are a fiscal conservative then I would suggest a different path and sell first. It’s a seller’s market so when you sell you have more leeway to dictate terms – not just on price but also on settlement. The best outcome is to sell with no pressure, secure the best price and elect for a 12-16 week settlement. This extra time gives you certainty on your sale price and ample time to find a new home.

 It might sound like boring advice but I say play it safe.

 David Murphy owns an independent real estate agency in Sydney’s lower north shore – feel free to call on 02 9968 2088 or email with questions

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Beware the building inspector

Buying a house is terrifying. House hunting is difficult in any market but in the current market it’s basically the quick and the dead.

Once you find the right property, you have to perform your due diligence with lightning speed. We all know of stories of people being 99% the way there, another buyer swoops at the very last minute and the property is lost.

The one part of the process that often scuttles a sale is the building and pest inspection. The elation of finding the right home is often met with the horror of a written fault report on your dream home. Inspection reports even on the best homes never read well.

 Building inspectors have a pretty tough gig and the legal exposure for them is frightening. In approximately one hour they have to determine whether a building is structurally sound, if termites are present and if there are going to be any major issues in the future. If you read a report these days, it is basically one very big disclaimer with a few comments thrown in. In many cases the reports are useless. Recently my wife and I bought a house and we didn’t even read the report; I rang the inspector (who I know and trust) and asked ‘if you were me, would you buy it?’ he said ‘yes’. SOLD!

Every house in the country has faults that a building inspector will find. Common things we see are rising damp in walls, inadequate sub-floor ventilation, past termite damage, settlement cracks etc. Often people attempt to re-negotiate an agreed sale price because of these findings, which in my opinion is simply unreasonable.

My advice would be that the things you really need to look out for are major issues like structural problems, live pests and safety hazards. These are the things that can cost a small fortune to address and by addressing them you are not adding value you are simply restoring it. This needs to be factored into the price and I believe it’s reasonable to expect that.

If you are looking for the perfect home, you won’t find it. The best thing you can do is get a good inspector that you can trust and one that will talk to you. We are happy to recommend some – and we do not receive any kickbacks from any of them.

David Murphy owns an independent real estate agency in Sydney’s lower north shore – feel free to call ON 02 9968 2088 or email with

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Proper Management

Property management is a very tough business…hot water systems seem to know the worst possible time to explode and tenants seem to vacate just when everything seems to be going like clockwork.

Everybody has a story about a bad experience with a property manager. Whether it’s a neglected tenant or a landlord that is shocked to find their property hasn’t been cared for. It's never-ending. Now I understand why this is, and the answer is simple - too many properties and not enough property managers.

About 18 months ago we decided to take the leap from being a busy ‘sales only’ office and hired a superb property manager to start a brand new rent roll. Thankfully - and through a lot of hard work - our rent roll has grown fast, and we now have a property management department we are proud of.

The typical agency model however, of having hundreds of properties on a rent roll and one or two people managing it is plain madness. Presiding over a rent roll is like being in air traffic control - lots of things happening all at once and if you miss something it can turn into an absolute disaster. Of course you have to make a profit, but when things go wrong in this business they can go very wrong. And this should be considered when you go to lease your property out.

If you are looking for an investment property or already have one, then you need to be aware of the structure of the business that is managing the property on your behalf. Before appointing a property manager you should ask the agent for references from current landlords. In fact, the best way to do this is to ask for a list of rental properties and select two or three at random.

I’m surprised by how many people tell me they aren’t happy with their property manager but don’t want to move the management because it may upset the tenant! If you are not happy then your tenant is probably unhappy as well.

If you cant find a good property manager, manage it yourself and if you cant manage it yourself make sure you find a good property manager.

 David Murphy owns an independent real estate agency in Sydney’s lower north shore – feel free to call ON 02 9968 2088 or email with questions

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Private property

Recently whilst enjoying a coffee with friends I was asked ‘what is the most important factor when it comes to real estate?’ The first thing that comes to mind is of course location. In a city with very limited land available, that’s a given.

Apart from location there is one other factor think makes an enormous difference to a property’s value – and that is privacy. Put simply, we all want to live near everything but we don’t want it to feel like we do. Location and privacy are inextricably linked; it’s often the properties in the most popular location that have the greatest privacy challenges.

In all my years of selling property, I have to say that one of the most challenging obstacles to overcome when selling a home is when the property is overlooked by another property (or several others). I remember marketing a beautiful multi-million dollar home in Mosman a few years ago that was heavily overlooked by units and when I took the buyers out to the back garden there were people on a balcony listening to music and smoking. This resulted in the buyers asking the dreaded real estate question 'do you have anything else?'

The good news is that if you are thinking of selling, renting or renovating and you have some privacy concerns, there are all sorts of things you can do to counter the issue. In gardens, the obvious answer is landscaping – a nice hedge can instantly change the atmosphere of your outdoor area. In apartments, blinds or frosted glass can keep the natural light coming in and keep peering eyes out.

The key to ensuring you achieve the greatest value for your property is making sure that it appeals to as many potential buyers as possible – and a major part of this is maximising the feeling of privacy and seclusion.

David Murphy owns an independent real estate agency in Sydney’s lower north shore – feel free to call ON 02 9968 2088 or email with questions

Monday, 2 December 2013

'Tis the season

It’s that time of year again, where all of the promises we make to ourselves about how much we will eat (or drink) are forgotten, where busy families re-unite for a traditional roast meal on a scorching hot summer’s day and celebrate Christmas. What a fantastic time of year it is and probably the right time for most of us to remind ourselves just how lucky we are to live in this beautiful city.

Since starting my real estate career in 1999 this has been one of the most extraordinary years I have seen in the domestic property market. In December 2012, the property market was soft, average times on market were prolonged, clearance rates were hovering around 45% and the overall sentiment was negative.

What a difference a year makes…

2013 has seen the property market roar back to life. Self-managed super funds, overseas buyers and record low interest rates have helped to fuel a boom with new price levels being tested and an average clearance rate of around 80%.

Apart from fundamentals, it has to be said that there is something in the Australian psyche about the desire to own your own home and an un-waivering belief that property will always go up in the long term. The one thing I have heard all year is people saying ‘if you are going to live in it for a long time, don’t worry too much about the price.’

If you believe what’s in the media, 2014 promises to be another big year for real estate. SQM’s Louis Christopher has forecasted 15-20% gains for Sydney; and St George banks CEO George Frazis recently commented on prices saying ‘you have got to remember we’ve had 10 years of very subdued activity, particularly in NSW, so theres a lot of catch up occurring.’

One thing this year has proven is that predicting the future is impossible. But isn’t it nice to be heading into the season where friends and family take front seat and predictions on property prices fade into the background.

On a personal note I would like to thank all of my friends, family and clients for their support this year and wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a safe and happy new year in 2014.

David Murphy owns an independent real estate agency in Sydney’s lower north shore – feel free to call ON 02 9968 2088 or email with questions


Monday, 14 October 2013

Don't hide the price.

When you list your home for sale or auction it makes perfect sense to display a price guide. Recent research from has indicated that properties with a price guide receive 66% more views than properties without. This data is quite consistent from surveys done years ago in the newspapers which suggested that if you had no price guide, you could lose 50% of the buyer enquiry on your property (yes…buyers used to look for properties in the newspaper).

So why do so many properties get listed without a price guide? Some agents suggest that listing without a price allows the market to determine the value. In my experience, this strategy often leads to inconclusive open homes with a lot of the wrong buyers coming. Many sellers are reluctant to list with a price because they don’t want to limit what they could get. This is a fair point, however if you have a price indication you are ensuring that the people that turn up on Saturday are the right buyers (ie can afford the property) and have some idea of what you are looking for. And you can always update the price guide if necessary.

Common sense is often elusive in real estate. When you sell, it’s basically a process of price discovery - if you do not attract interest with a price guide then you have a very clear market reaction. On the other hand, if you have multiple interested buyers then you also have a clear market reaction. The strategy from there is up to you and your agent.

One warning that should be heeded is to avoid over pricing your property. I would go as far to say that the only thing worse than no price is a price that is too high. Why? When your property hits the market it is worth the most in the first few weeks of listing; it's fresh and all of the best buyers want to see it. If you list at too high a price you may repel the best buyers and have to lower the price – clearly this will send a negative signal and potentially attract buyers looking for a 'bargain'.

The other thing to consider in the digital age is your digital footprint. In his recent (excellent) book ‘Real Estate Uncovered’ property writer Peter O’Malley refers to the importance of being aware of your digital footprint. The internet never forgets and potential buyers are likely to google your property - if they see it's been for sale for a while at different price points this will certainly weaken your negotiating position.

Ask yourself when you are looking to buy, which properties do you pay most attention to? A major law of marketing is to make your product easy to buy, this seems like common sense to me.
David Murphy owns an independent real estate agency in Sydney’s lower north shore – feel free to call ON 02 9968 2088 or email with questions

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Getting gazumped.

By definition getting ‘gazumped’ means when you have a verbal agreement with a seller of a property, another buyer then offers more and then you are informed that the property has been sold. You have not been given the chance to match or better the offer, gazumped. Heartbreaking.

According to research the average home buyer searches for approx 85 days before signing on the dotted line. Saturdays are ruined with frustration, traffic jams and false advertising. The amount of time and money that is wasted is on searching for property simply staggering.

When you actually find the right home the feeling is indescribable. It really stuck with me when recently a client of ours said to me ‘the moment I walked in the door I just knew this was my new home, after 6 months of looking I knew immediately.’

 If finding the right home is a great feeling then being gazumped is the absolute opposite. Admittedly, agents often deal with buyers without remorse but the fact is at the moment it’s a sellers market and as a buyer you are very vulnerable.

Until the contract is physically exchanged the property is on the public market. A verbal agreement is not legally binding and until exchange both you and the seller can pull out of the deal without penalty. Sometimes just before exchange buyers find a better home at a better price and change their minds, equally sometimes sellers get made a last minute offer that is much better and have the right to take it.

An ethical agent (and seller) will normally give the original buyer the opportunity to match or better the new offer but this often doesn’t happen. This is a critical point, if another buyer makes a better offer and you are given the chance to match it and you refuse – you haven’t been gazumped, you have been out bid. Its easy to slam the owners for reneging on a deal but ask yourself what you would do if you were about to sell for $1.1Million and then you were offered another $50,000?

 By law estate agents must submit all offers to their clients and for some mystical reason whenever a property is close to being sold more buyers seem to come out of the woodwork. Recently we had a large prestigious home for sale for 5 months with no interest, finally a buyer showed up…2 days later another appeared and suddenly it was a heated battle to secure the property.

 So what’s the solution? Be prepared, have your finances in order and when you see the home you want don’t haggle too much. I know dozens of people that regret missing the right property over a few thousand dollars and very few that regret paying a premium for their dream home.