Selling in Hard Times

Private Property South Africa
Karien Hunter

We all have to 'right size' our businesses in order to remain profitable in difficult times, and the same principle applies to selling your property, you must 'right price' your property in order for it to sell. It may even mean that you will get less for your property now as opposed to what you would have been paid two years ago.

I would like to share with you my own list of do's and don'ts when you are looking at selling your property, especially in the current market...

  • Don't be too emotional about selling your property - it is after all, only bricks and mortar and a piece of land, and sadly, that is how others will view your property;
  • Involve a property lawyer at the outset, when you place the property on the market to sell. An experienced property lawyer will guide you through every step of the way, and will also advise you as to how you should deal with prospective buyers and estate agents that come knocking on your door to secure a mandate etc. Often, at no or little charge to you, the property lawyer will draft an offer to purchase for you, or advise you on any offers you may receive, provided you nominate them as conveyancers when the property does sell. Remember, the purchaser usually pays the conveyancers fees once the property is sold;
  • Do your own homework insofar as pricing is concerned - your property lawyer can also assist you as they will usually subscribe to websites that extract data from the Deeds Office which will give you comparable data of properties sold in your area - if you are a potential buyer, it will also tell you how much the seller had originally paid for the property, and what his bond amount is;
  • Don't commit yourself to expensive improvements in order to sell - you may not necessarily recoup the expense in a down market and the improvements will in all likelihood appeal to your personal taste and not necessarily to the taste of prospective buyers;
  • Don’t neglect your property - make sure the house and garden is neat and tidy and that the property is not overrun by your favourite pets - potential buyers are not interested in your pets. Clear away clutter.
  • Don't consider any offers to purchase subject to a 100% bond - the lending criteria of the banks have changed and generally speaking, no bank gives out 100% loans any longer;
  • Do insist on the payment of a deposit - and don't allow too much time for the buyer to put down the deposit. Sadly, for many people the old adage of 'my word is my bond' no longer applies and although you may have a legally binding sale agreement, unless buyers feel the pain of losing their deposit, they may just want to walk away from a deal when buyer's remorse kicks in;
  • Don’t lie - although there is no obligation on you to disclose to a potential buyer defects in your property that he could see for himself, if asked any pertinent question, then answer truthfully. Our courts recognize that you are selling an imperfect property (those of you that have the perfect, defect-free house please let me know...);
  • Don't be tempted to enter into dodgy schemes to either defraud the taxman or the bank - in the current market people may be tempted to artificially increase the purchase price in order to get around the banks requirements for a deposit, or in some instances, to understate the true value of a property to SARS in order to evade the payment of transfer duty. Conveyancers are duty bound to bring such conduct to the attention of SARS or the bank. Conveyancers are required by most banks to sign a certificate against every bond registered to the effect that there are no side-agreements and that the agreement concluded between the parties contain all terms and conditions. If you do not want to believe me on this one, try and enforce your dodgy deal in a court of law if things start going wrong - the Judge will probably refer the matter to the prosecuting authorities. If in doubt, ask your property lawyer to check out the agreement for you.
Karien Hunter is a respected property lawyer, and the founder of
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