Are you thinking about selling your plaster home in St Heliers, Glendowie, Orakei, Mission Bay, Kohimarama or Remuera and want to get top dollar? Of course you do.
But you may already know that plaster homes, given the recent press coverage, face certain issues when it comes to selling. You may already have received advice from other agents that your home is worth nothing more than land value (or even less) and feeling discouraged at the significant loss of your nest egg.
In this article, we lay out 7 crucial steps you need to take to maximise your chances of achieving a successful sale.
Disclaimer: We are neither builders nor a building inspectors, so please speak to your solicitor, building inspector and other professional advisers you deem necessary before buying or selling a plaster home. This information is based on our combined experience working in NZ as real estate agents and selling plaster homes for our clients.
A brief background on plaster homes in New Zealand
Plaster homes have generally been associated with homes that are built in the 90s to early 2000s with monolithic/texture-coated cladding. Unfortunately, these homes carry the stigma of being leaky homes and since then, this stigma has reflected negatively in the prices.
The common (unfortunate) misconception is that all plaster homes leak because of the cladding. However, the fact is that there are plaster homes, and there are plaster homes. In fact, whether a home leaks or not is not only because of the cladding – weatherboard homes also leak. What you should be concerned with are the design flaws (or lack thereof).
Those plaster homes that did eventually leak suffered from design flaws among many other things. There are some plaster homes where the probability of leaking is extremely low, and that is because of how it was designed and built.
Plaster homes are also about maintenance. If you keep up with your maintenance, that plaster home can last for a while without issue.
And here’s the key benefit of a plaster home. At the end of the day, you get to buy in your desired area in either Orakei, Kohimarama, Glendowie, St Heliers, Mission Bay or Remuera, with the right school zones, close to the City without having to pay as much as a weatherboard, brick or concrete house. The home may in fact be perfectly fine.
Is it easy to sell a plaster home?
Long story short: only if your agent knows what he/she is doing.
As a general rule of thumb, plaster homes are harder to sell compared to other homes. The ‘days on the market’ statistic for plaster home is generally longer. That is because the buyer pool for plaster homes is smaller – as a result of the stigma and more importantly, bank lending restrictions. As a homeowner, you are trying to search within that smaller pool for a buyer who will love your home and pay top dollar.
Undeniably, real estate agents care also about volume and turnover. Selling plaster homes at land values (especially if it’s a proven home that leaks) makes their jobs much easier. But this is not something you are likely (and should) accept at face value.
Team Ruoxi & Dickson believes that there are steps you need to take to maximise your chances of achieving a successful sale in a reasonable amount of time and with minimal heartache. Your choice of agents matters – check our track record for selling plaster homes, and compare with other agents and their sold prices. You will see what we mean.
Step 1. Wash and paint the property
Every home requires maintenance. Plaster homes require that more than others. You can leave a weatherboard home for 20-30 years without painting it and she’ll still be ok. Plaster homes need to be painted at least every 7-10 years, with regular ‘check-ups’ in-between and a regular soft house wash every 12 months.
This is because the weathertightness of a plaster home is literally protected by its paint. Most plaster homes with potential issues do not have a cavity where moisture can escape (compulsory today for plaster homes). This means that when there are cracks in the paint (could be caused by movement in the ground), water will seep in and become trap inside. This, coupled with the fact that plaster homes built in those era did not have treated timber, will cause the timber framing to rot over time.
To solve this problem, a number of companies have now created special paint coatings specifically made for plaster homes which have built-in elasticity. So even if your property moves, cracks shouldn’t appear. The paint/coating has the ability to stretch to keep your exterior waterproof.
There are various types of paint and coating in the industry that it can become confusing for homeowners. Before you start, speak to an experienced salesperson regarding which type of system to use and which company you should approach.
That is to prevent you from spending unnecessary money on a system that sounds good in theory but is not widely recognised in the industry and therefore has no tangible benefit on your eventual sale price.
Step 2. Get a builder’s report
Imagine investing thousands of dollars into a marketing campaign, dealing with open homes every weekend, having to keep your house spic and span in the case of any private viewings, taking on the stress of selling etc, and then a buyer discovers a problem when he/she brings a building inspector through, which would throw your entire marketing campaign off.
By then it’s often too late to do anything about it since any issue with a plaster home will probably put a buyer off. Furthermore, this issue would need to be disclosed to other potential buyers. A plaster home will always warrant a building inspection (unless you are happy to be selling at land value), so there is no way you can run away from it.
So consider getting a report done before you go on the market so you know whether there are hidden issues you need to deal with first.
Note: There are some solicitors who don’t believe you should provide a builder’s report to prospective purchasers when selling your home so always talk to your solicitor about the legal risks first. We can say though, that in our experience, providing a builder’s report up front gives buyers confidence and will make your property easier to sell.
Make sure the report is completed by a reputable inspection company that is well known in your marketplace. It should be detailed but fair, include large numbers of images, moisture readings and constructive advice where issues are found.
Key risk factors that a builder will look for are as follows (not exhaustive):
- Decks attached directly to the plaster cladding
- Lack of ground clearance (distance between the bottom of the cladding and the ground)
- No eaves (roof that sticks out past the cladding)
- Internal guttering
- ‘Interior’ decking positioned over a room or garage, often with Butynol membrane flooring
- Recessed windows
The less of these ‘risk factors’ your property has, the easier it will be to achieve a good sale price.
Step 3. Get the property file AND the LIM
Generally in the Auckland property market, the seller is expected to provide the LIM during a marketing campaign.
Check whether you have a weather-tightness claim on your LIM report. If you do, that can likely affect the sale price negatively unless the advertising is effective. No matter how much remedial work you do, that can never be removed from the records.
At the same time, get a property file from Auckland Council. This costs only $68 and is very informative in telling you how the home was built. As mentioned previously, there are plaster homes and there are plaster homes.
If your house is one that is built well (for example the type of materials, treated timber, design superiority), then your real estate agent can appropriately convey that to the prospective buyers. It should never be the case that ignorance is bliss – and very negligent for any real estate salesperson to suggest otherwise.
Step 4. Explore any issues highlighted and make necessary repairs
If your builder or building inspector did find any issue in your property, look to getting that rectified before you put the property on the market.
PRO TIP: Consult a builder who has specific experience working with plaster homes so they know what they are doing.
What they can do is to first open up the wall to see what issues there might be with the timber inside (invasive testing). Sometimes, the surface moisture test reading could be a false positive, meaning there are no signs of rotting timber inside at all.
Don’t be upset if this happens. It’s actually good news that there is nothing wrong. Take lots of photos, repair the hole and show buyers that you have been thorough in your efforts to investigate and fix any issues.
After that, consult with your building inspector and ask them to update their report following your investigation. And make sure that report is available to a buyer – you’ll be surprised how many homeowners spend the money on a building inspection, only for the report to be concealed from buyers.
Step 5. Hire an experienced sales team dedicated to selling plaster homes
This is critically important and could make or break your sale.
Ask the salesperson to show you case studies of properties similar to yours.
- How long did they take to sell?
- What challenges did they encounter?
- How many of those sell above or at CV? (Many real estate agents sell plaster homes close or at land value).
- What did they do differently to market a plaster home?
In short, you need real estate agents who know how, and have the desire to, sell plaster homes at good prices. And by that, we do not mean hire someone who is overly negative about plaster homes or just focused on getting a quick sale. Remember – a quick sale can often mean selling at land value when there’s actually nothing wrong with the home.
We often see real estate agents take a very lackadaisical attitude towards plaster homes and say “it is what it is“, and focus on talking vendors down in prices/values before they even get started. You want someone who is cautiously optimistic and has true knowledge of the product they are selling so that they do not end up underselling your house.
We personally own plaster homes and therefore understand the value and maintenance required. When it comes to selling plaster homes, buyer education is critical. We know that there are differences between plaster homes so it is important to educate your buyers so that they too know the difference and will pay a good price for your home.
- We have sold plaster homes in 16 days and above its CV so it’s not always true that plaster homes will definitely sell below CV.
- We’ve also made sales close to CV for high-end plaster homes (rather than selling for ‘land value’).
- We’ve sold dated plaster homes for CV when comparable non-plaster homes sell for below CV, or other plaster homes have sold for far less.
A successful sale depends on a myriad of factors and how prepared you are beforehand. We try really hard to anticipate and resolve possible issues before going on the market. This is why we work closely with our vendors often months in advance so that we can launch the campaign without any issues.
Step 6. Be realistic on price
Some people try to ascertain what similar weatherboard properties sell for, factor in the cost of recladding (based on rough estimates) and think their plaster home should be worth the discounted price. However, it does not always work that way.
Think about it from the perspective of the buyer. As a buyer, you will need to factor in the risk they have to take, the amount of time and effort spent as well as the fact that the entire cost of reclad cannot be put onto the mortgage. Banks find it hard to finance reclads, and buyers have to often stay elsewhere during the reclad process which adds to the inconvenience and uncertainty.
Therefore at the end of it, the price is unlikely to be at a level of a comparable weatherboard home – which is something you benefited from when you bought the plaster home – unless there are outstanding features of your home (for example truly superior location, sea views or elevated views or modernised interiors). Or you might get lucky. With fantastic marketing, a buyer might fall emotionally in love with the house for its other features and you can still achieve a great price.
It is much more important and accurate to look at what similar plaster homes in the area are selling for and whether they have similar features to yours. The less ‘risky’ features your plaster home has, the more likely it is going to fetch a good price, provided your home is marketed well.
As mentioned, you should understand that plaster homes will almost always sell less than similar weatherboard homes, unless your plaster home has a cavity, built with treated H3 timber, wide eaves, ground clearance, great maintenance and care etc, in which case buyers might not even perceive it to be a risk at all.
But that does not mean that your home should sell for (or less than) land value if it lacks such features – there’s always a spectrum between land value and final sale price.
Again, all these assume your marketing is on point. We’ve seen many marketing campaigns whereby plaster homes are marketed as ‘leaky’ (or make zero mention of redeeming features) – the huge negative impact on the end price becomes obvious.
Step 7. Market the property like your life depends on it.
Because it quite literally does. Marketing can make or break your campaign, and determine if your plaster home will get top dollar, or sell at land value.
Don’t have the nicest furniture? Consider hiring a staging company to dress up your house. With staging (as with any makeover), you can hide alot of flaws and bring out the best in the house.
Speak to us about the best and customised marketing campaign for your house. We believe in buyers’ competition in getting top dollar, and our biggest job is to generate it via top-notch marketing.
We speak Mandarin and English fluently so can communicate with buyers from different cultural backgrounds effectively. Many Chinese are already predisposed against buying plaster homes, so having a team who can explain the differences between plaster homes and educating these buyers can absolutely make or break a sale. You never know – that one extra buyer may be all the competition you need to push the price upwards.
In short: with an already limited buyer pool, you certainly don’t want to risk underselling it just because you have not reached enough buyers due to a mediocre marketing campaign (read: bad photographs, lack of videography to sell the benefits, poor ad copy).
PRO TIP: If your home has a cavity system, this will be a major selling point. Make sure this feature is prominently mentioned in all advertising. If you have a good building report that can be disclosed to buyers, also mention that in your advertising so that buyers have confidence to view your property and then carry out their due diligence.
If there are no issues discovered in the building report, then we would suggest selling via auction. That gives you an unconditional sale which is good for you so that you can move on with your life.
There is alot more work involved in selling plaster homes compared to weatherboard ones.
Also, generally it can often better to sell in summer than in winter. This is because winter temperatures are low and rain is prevalent. There will be alot of moisture in the air. This means the moisture testing devices might pick up false positives when there is absolutely nothing wrong with your house.
So play it safe and list in summer/autumn. Your chances are higher – if you sell in winter, then all the more you will need to take all necessary steps to maximise your chances.
And pick the right team with a track record in selling plaster homes to work with – a team dedicated to ensuring you do not sell your precious asset for a criminally low price.