To sell or not to sell...

Private Property South Africa

If you’re not sure whether to sell your current home or stay put, draw up a “Ben Franklin” list.

That’s the advice of Richard Gray, CEO of Harcourts Real Estate SA, who says business leaders, politicians and ordinary people throughout the world rely on Ben Franklin lists to help them make difficult decisions.

“A Ben Franklin list, named for Benjamin Franklin who was one of the founding fathers of United States, facilitates the decision-making process by not only listing but also weighting the pros and cons,” he explains.

“It’s therefore an excellent guide for undecided sellers who are nervous about making the wrong decision. Moving home is a major life event for most people, hence the importance of ensuring that your reasons for selling are sound. If you have any doubts, draw up a list with the pros on one side and the cons on the other. Then weight them. Unalterable factors such as job transfers, ill health, transport problems, the social or economic degeneration of the neighbourhood or rising crime levels will obviously be more heavily weighted than those such as the house being dated or too small since the latter could theoretically be upgraded or extended.”

By penning the advantages and disadvantages, says Gray, you will be able to arrive at a scientifically-based, rather than emotional, decision. “If the pros of selling outweigh the cons, it’s time to sell. If the reverse is true, it’s probably best to banish thoughts of moving for the time being.”

A list of pros and cons is also useful for conquering an attack of cold feet, he continues. “It’s not unheard of for sellers to second guess their decision to sell at some point down the line. Moving away from a familiar area, leaving family and friends, changing schools, even being presented with that longed-for offer to purchase – any one of these can trigger a panic attack. At this point, the list, with its advantages and disadvantages tabled in black and white, will enable you to put things into context again by highlighting and reminding you of your reasons for moving.”

What sellers also need to remember, Gray points out, is that once a sales agreement has been signed by both parties, it is legally binding. “That’s why it’s so important to have cogent reasons for selling. It’s not a case of simply cancelling the agreement because you’ve changed your mind. You probably won’t be forced to sell the property but there could be consequences such as being sued by the buyer. And the estate agent could be legally entitled to claim commission.”

Once the Franklin list is completed, the next step is to plan an exit strategy, advises Gray. “This can also be done in list form, with columns for actions, time lines and completed tasks. Start with the area you’re moving to and where you’re going to live. Address issues such as whether you’ll be buying again or renting for a while and then make appointments to view suitable properties. Allocate time to drive around your destination area so that it becomes familiar to you and your family. Investigate schools and amenities that are important to your lifestyle: gyms, shops, sporting facilities. It will be so much easier to sign an offer to purchase if you’re not a complete stranger to the area, and even better if you have another home lined up.”

It’s now time to enlist the services of a local property professional to sell your home, says Gray. “If you don’t want to spend months on the market, you need to choose a well trained, experienced agent who will work out a scientific, market-based evaluation for your property based on recent sales of similar properties in the area. A good agent will also devise an effective marketing plan that will expose your home to the widest possible pool of buyers. They will advise you on the costs involved in the selling process so that you can accurately budget for your move, and they will refer you to their colleagues in your destination area if you need help finding a new home.”


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