Homeowners are not in the property business, so it makes sense to consult experts when putting your house on the market
Property sellers have been facing difficult market conditions and struggling to sell their homes, let alone achieve the prices they want for them, says Chris Cilliers, chief executive and co-principal of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty in the Winelands.
“Buyers are increasingly well-informed and are spoilt for choice, so sellers with a clear understanding of the market, an awareness of current trends and realistic price expectations will always capture buyer’s attention first.”
In addition to the tough market and pressures of correct pricing and presentation, new legislation, including the Property Practitioners Act, burdens sellers with requirements relating to defects, for example, and establishes an ombudsman who gives unhappy buyers easy redress without having to go to court, says Seeff Property Group chairman Samuel Seeff.
Errors and omissions when selling property can be costly in time and money, so mitigating the risks is crucial. To do this, Seeff says, the knowledge and experience of real estate professionals is recommended.
“Gone are the days of just anyone selling a property. Complex financial, risk management and consumer protection laws have added several layers of risk for sellers.”
Buyers and consumers now have information about the market and legal environment at their fingertips, but since sellers are not in the business of real estate, they will not always be aware of all the market, legislative and procedural aspects.
Estate agents, however, will be. In terms of pricing risks, Seeff says while pricing too low runs the risk of underselling and not maximising profit, the biggest risk is actually pricing too high.
“An overpriced property will mean it remains on the market for longer than it needs to. An experienced local agent will provide you with an informed view of how your property should be priced and marketed to achieve the best results.”
Not all sellers know a mandate to sell a property must meet certain minimum requirements or that it is a legal contract with contractual and financial risks. “Open mandates or not understanding the terms of a mandate could risk double commission and put a deal at risk.”
While these factors may be best navigated with professional expertise, there are things sellers do have control over, and which they can do to attract investors and clinch deals, Cilliers says. These include ensuring the property on the market looks its best.
“But when every penny counts, focus on maintenance rather than renovation.” Andrew Golding, chief executive of Pam Golding Properties, says sellers must ensure their home stands out when competing with nearby properties for sale.
Cilliers says “presentation is everything. If a buyer walks in and has a great first impression, the whole viewing is relaxed. It is also critical to avoid delays wherever possible. “Make sure you have a copy of your title deed and you know where the original document is filed.
Check you have a copy of the plans and all alterations are on the plan and have been approved by the local authority,” Cilliers says. “Ensure your rates payments are up to date and there are no outstanding issues with the municipality.”
Hot property winter market
The widespread belief that winter is not a good time to sell a home is “far from being true”, says Rowan Alexander, director of Alexander Swart Property. In fact, buyers tend to be “really serious” in winter and not just checking out the market and the neighbourhood, he says.
They are also frequently in a hurry to find a new home. However, to ensure buyers obtain a favourable impression of a property on the market, sellers need to get their homes ready for viewing. This can entail doing things that should have been taken care of during routine home maintenance.
In addition to grooming the garden, sellers should ensure rooms look and feel sunny and warm, despite the cold weather. Curtains should be opened to allow in sunlight. Rooms should also be heated to make them feel snug and cosy.
Risky business online purchases
While most things can be done online these days, purchasing a property based on online pictures and information can be risky, says Adrian Goslett, regional director and chief executive of Re/Max of Southern Africa. And regretting a property purchase has “drastic financial implications”.
“Digital marketing tends to highlight the good features of a home and might exclude its bad points. Beyond this, photographs and even videos can be deceptive in terms of dimensions. A photograph or video can sometimes make a space appear smaller or larger than it is in actuality.”
Although online listing portals can sometimes be helpful, Goslett warns that their limitations cannot be ignored. “Buyers most often purchase on emotion and then justify with fact and reason. Spending too much time online, and not enough time going to view properties in person, will hurt buyers’ chances of finding their dream home.
Sometimes all it takes is to physically walk into a property to change a buyer’s mind from a maybe into a signed offer to purchase.”