Selling up? Use your “down time” to prep

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

Many of us will be decking the halls with boughs of holly during the festive month of December. However, those who are planning on selling their homes in the new year could do well to use the holiday period to start getting ready for the day that their home goes on the market.

Debbie Justus-Ferns, manager of Renprop Residential Resales, notes that there are many things sellers need to take into account and plan for, which is why being prepared is essential.

To start with …

  • See the big picture – sellers need to forget that they are sellers and instead must view their home from a buyer’s perspective. This requires a critical eye. Sellers should look at what strong features their home has and determine which ones they would like to accentuate to create a good impression. This impression should be so good that the sellers themselves should feel that they would buy the house again if they could.

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Knowledge is key – due diligence is always advised when buying or selling a home. Potential sellers should research the estate agents who work in their area before making contact for a valuation or signing a mandate.

Work with professionals

Sellers need to be confident that the estate agent they appoint is professional and will be able to achieve the best possible price for their home in the shortest possible time. “Estate agents who won’t review their commission are not professional,” says Debbie. “If they cannot negotiate their commission, how can they negotiate the best price for your home?”

It is the seller who appoints the transferring attorney and they should therefore also research who they think would be the best candidates to work on the transfer of their property.

It cannot be emphasised enough that sellers must consider a market-related price. Pricing a property should not be an emotional decision, but a purely financial one. Sellers undoubtedly have emotional attachments to their homes, which is why it is often difficult for them to set a realistic price. “This is where an experienced and reputable estate agent will be able to assist,” says Debbie. She points out that the first four weeks that a home is on the market are the most critical in terms of capturing buyers’ interest. If the price is not right, buyers will not consider making an offer.

Remember to cancel your bond!

Other financial factors that sellers need to take into consideration include giving the bank notice for the cancellation of their bond. “Sellers often think this can be done at a later stage, but it is ideal for homeowners who are selling to notify their financial institution of their intentions, as there is a 90-day bond cancellation period,” says Debbie. “If the home doesn't sell for whatever reason, or the seller changes their mind, the cancellation period will simply fall away. Giving notice well in advance will however give the seller a much more favourable bank settlement on their outstanding bond amount,” she explains.

Costs, council and maintenance

It’s also important to take cognisance of the costs associated with selling, including the fees relating to electrical, gas and electric fence compliance. Four months’ worth of property rates and taxes also need to be paid to the council in advance.

Debbie also advises homeowners to sort out any issues they may have with the council before putting their home on the market. “If a homeowner is withholding payment to the council because of an enquiry regarding a bill, for example, the issue needs to be resolved before their home is sold, as this will hold up the transfer process and prove incredibly frustrating for everyone,” she says.

While it is not yet law that a home has to be inspected by a qualified home inspector before being put on the market, it’s always a good idea for sellers to consider having an inspection done.

Many sellers think the responsibility for selling their home lies solely with the estate agent they appoint. However, Debbie notes that nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, sellers play a key role in ensuring that their house is saleable.

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