Common mistakes when selling your property

Private Property South Africa
Kerry Dimmer

Selling your home is one of the most emotional journey’s you can experience and that applies whether you are happily putting your home on the market, or forced to do so due to unfortunate circumstances. Entering the market when you are highly emotional leaves you open to error’s, and makes you vulnerable. Here are some of the most common mistakes made during a home sale, and ways to avoid them:

  • Emotional attachment

It’s not comfortable knowing that strangers are entering your home, opening cupboard doors, peering into the nooks and crannies of your home-life and likely judging your choices, be that soft furnishings or the level of fixtures. If you are a reluctant seller, its exceptionally hard to let go of your home, and if a first-time seller, it can be time-consuming and challenging navigating all the sale procedures. But the biggest tug on the heart-strings is that you will be offered less than you think your home is worth.

What helps is to distance yourself emotionally from the process is to see yourself more as a business-person in home sale processes, rather than as the home owner. This enables you to put yourself in the shoes of potential buyers, to be less stressed during waiting periods, and to stay the distance during the negotiating period. You also need to familiarise yourself with the business side of the sale, from offer to final transfer. This translates into understanding that you are basically selling ‘bricks-and-mortar’ and not memories.

  • Not using an agent

Unless you have experience, home sales can be intimidating, and if you don’t have the necessary knowledge, you may put a potential sale at risk. A good estate agent has market research to hand and can advise on the value of your home, based on similar sales in the area. Their commission is well-earned as they take buyers through procedural paperwork, and should any problems crop up, they have the experience and knowledge to handle pitfalls, especially any tricky circumstances.

Agents advertise on your behalf, and they actively promote your home for sale through a network of channels that you may not have access to. But perhaps the greatest advantage in using an agent, is that your emotions do not come into play as extensively because it is they that interact with the buyer on your behalf.

  • Expecting an unrealistic price

If you aren’t aware of just how much the prevailing economy is impacting on the property market, you will likely be exceptionally disappointed with the offers you may receive. Currently properties are selling at between 10-15% less than might have expected some five years ago. Generally though, it is usual to sell your home for less than the advertised price, so don’t have high expectations. It also doesn’t help to inflate the sale price by that 10-12% because buyers are looking for a great deal and will be aware of what properties sell for in the area.

Look at nearby home sales over the previous six months, and price your home within a 10% range of those. The lower the better if you want to appeal to a bigger pool of buyers.

  • Photo’s, used in advertising your property, are of poor quality

You don’t need to use a professional photographer, but potential buyers do expect a realistic representation of the home. With most buyers doing thorough research online, your listing needs to set you apart to generate interest. Before taking photographs consider whether you can set your camera to take high resolution, clear images, and don’t forget to declutter the areas you are shooting.

Consider taking a video with 360 degree views of rooms. These give potential buyers a good idea of the size of the property. Include night shots that with clever lighting, project a warm atmosphere, particularly entertainment areas where South African’s spend much of their time. Highlight the features that make your home unique and family-friendly.

  • Not admitting upfront to house flaws, or hiding them

If you’ve got something to hide, reveal it before the property inspection does. Better yet, fix it before you put the property on the market and you’ll attract many more buyers who want a turnkey home. Serious problems will mean pricing the property below market value. It’s a fraudulent misrepresentation if proven that a property owner knew of a defect prior to selling and did not disclose. There are a number of legislative rules that apply relative to latent and patent defects. If you are honest with your agent, you will receive professional advice about how to proceed with the sale of a property with ‘problems’.

  • Don’t let repair requests ruin negotiations

If a serious buyer asks if you are willing to make a repair in order to conclude the deal, be open to negotiate either a lower sale price so that the buyer can make the repair, or to having the repair done at your own cost.

  • Not making the property available for view

If you are really serious about selling your home or you need to sell quickly, you have to make yourself available for either an open viewing or private appointments that suit potential buyers. This may mean providing your agent with a key to access the property if you are not there, and in such a case it means keeping your home looking tidy and clean at all times. If you do prefer to be on the property when agents bring potential buyers for a tour, do not interact with the visitors unless asked to do so and be as accommodating as you can in terms of reasonable access times.

  • Not staging your home

This is one of the most under-rated aspects of a home sale. Dressing up, or down, your home has a big psychological impact on potential buyers.

The first step is to declutter, that being to remove all those items that tend to make your home look too busy. You may be oblivious to what constitutes ‘clutter’ so it’s a good idea to have a friend, even the agent, indicate areas that may need some work. This might include a fresh coat of paint, removal of family photos and academic degrees or certifications, cleaning problem areas, emptying dustbins, sweeping driveways, or replacing door knobs etc. It may also mean the purchase of a couple of inexpensive items to add some drama, such as flowers in vases, and aroma candles to provide a welcoming fragrance.

  • Consider all offers, particularly those that come early

Above all else don’t ignore offers because they seem low. The longer a house stays on the market, the harder it is to sell. Some buyers won’t bother to even do a walk-through of houses on the market longer than three months, believing without checking, that there is likely an underlying problem, if not with the house then possibly the area or the immediate environment, such as inconsiderate neighbours or barking dogs.

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