Tips for selling your property when you are not around

Private Property South Africa
Sarah-Jane Meyer

How to sell your home when you are living elsewhere.

When you relocate to another town – or country - the ideal is obviously to sell your property before you move. This isn’t always achievable, but with some forethought it’s possible to be a successful absentee seller.

Keeping up appearances

Homes that aren’t lived in quickly take on the appearance of being neglected – the very last thing you want when you are trying to make a good impression. After all, most prospective home purchasers are buying into a way of life, so an attractive lifestyle is what your property needs to represent.

To preserve the appearance of a much-loved home you need to do the following:

  • Make sure everything is ship shape. Have the house painted inside and out, if needed, and ensure woodwork and outdoor areas are in good condition.
  • Have the house cleaned thoroughly at least once a week while you are away.
  • Have someone attend to the garden weekly, ensuring that lawns are mowed and shrubs and flower beds are kept neat – and flourishing.
  • Get a friend or a professional house sitter to come by three to four times a week to check that everything is still in order, and to open the windows and drapes for an hour or two.
  • Appoint someone to attend to maintenance and repairs while you are away.

Security

Although you want your home to have a ‘lived in’ feel, it’s important to take precautions against criminals who might view your property as an easy target. Lock away all valuables and remove precious artworks. If needed, buy some cheap prints so as not to leave obvious gaps on walls.

Choosing an agent

Fielding enquiries from potential buyers is much more tricky when you are not on the spot. In this situation, it’s essential to work with a reliable estate agent who has your best interests at heart. A sole mandate is preferable to an open mandate, as it means you will only have to deal with one person – important when working at a distance.

Look for a well-established agent that has experience selling properties in the immediate vicinity of your home.

To find the right agent:

  • Estate agents are required to be registered with the Estate Agency Affairs Board, and need to update their fidelity certificates annually. Visit www.eaab.org.za for a list of active agents in your area.
  • Ask friends, family members and colleagues who have recently sold their homes which estate agents they used and whether they would recommend them.
  • The "for sale" and "sold" signs are useful indicators of the agents that work well in your area.
  • Check recommendation websites for any clients’ comments on the different agencies.
  • Once you have a shortlist of three or four estate agents, visit their agencies as a potential buyer looking for a property like your home. Pay attention to how they behave and ask yourself whether you would be happy if the property being described was yours, and whether you would buy a home from them.
  • Invite at least three agents to come and value your property. Ideally, you need to appoint one who is honest and fair, not one who will overvalue your property and then fail to get a buyer at the inflated price.

Advertising and viewing

You should ask your agent the following:

How will your property be advertised? Will it appear in the local newspapers or on online property portals, or both? Ask to see examples of how the agency advertises properties.

Who will be in charge of viewings? Will the estate agent be present during all viewings, and if not, which responsible person will be there?

Before signing a mandate

Make sure you're happy with all the small print before signing any mandates. Don't be afraid to question anything you don't understand or don't agree with.

Feedback

Regular feedback from your estate agent is even more important when selling at a distance, than when you are on hand.

Your agent needs to provide weekly updates on the following:

How many viewings have there been?

Who viewed your property?

How did the viewings go?

If your property has not had viewings, or has had viewings but no offers, the agent should be able to provide insight. It could be that the property is overpriced, or that some areas need to be spruced up to encourage a sale.

Sold

Once the ‘sold’ signs go up, you will need a trusted conveyancing attorney to take care of all the legalities of transferring the property to the new owners. It’s advisable to find this person well in advance, so as to leave nothing to chance.

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