What to do with your home when you emigrate?

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

Once you’ve decided to emigrate, you’re faced with major decisions regarding your home and its contents. Here are a few tips.

The number of South Africans who decide to emigrate may not be as high as it was in 2008 when it was estimated that 20 percent of those selling were doing so with a view to leaving the country, but it's been widely reported that recent developments on both the political and business fronts have led to an increase in the number of enquiries from those looking for a better life elsewhere.

Emigrating is obviously a major decision and not one to be taken lightly. However, once the plunge has been taken there's lots to be done before you can board a plane anfly off to pastures new.

When to sell your home?

Your biggest asset often leads to the biggest worry. Do you sell months before the big move; do you leave once the house has been sold, but transfer has yet to go through or do you hang on to the home for as long as possible, relinquishing ownership days before you go?

This is a tricky one, but one thing that should never happen is you leaving the country before transfer has taken place – even if you have it on good authority that the transfer is imminent. We recently received a letter from a Private Property client who had left the country before the documents were signed, sealed and delivered and who ended up waiting a year for transfer to take place. To make matters worse, the buyer, although living in the property, wasn't paying occupational rent and this ended up costing the seller a fortune in legal fees to sort the problem out.

Possibly the safest thing to do is sell the property as soon as possible – even if this means moving into rented accommodation for a few months before your final departure. There are a number of benefits to this: It allows time to have a good clear out, and givies you a good idea of what you will be taking with you and what needs to be sold or donated to charity. It also takes a lot of pressure off and adds welcome capital to your bank account.

Should you take it all with you?

The next important question that needs to be asked is what to take along and what to leave behind. Shipping costs are expensive and many choose to leave behind everything bar the barest of essentials and start afresh. There are two arguments for this. Properties in most countries to which South Africans emigrate are a great deal smaller than those in SA and items such as a beloved solid oak dining table and set of eight matching chairs or that large lounge suite may not be suitable for your new home. On the flip side, setting up a home in a new country is expensive and forking out huge sums on buying the basics will eat into your precious capital. It basically comes down to what suits you best – just do the maths before deciding to ship over a container full of goods that you may not be able to use.

Leaving the country of your birth is never easy, but once you have made the decision to go, disposing of your biggest asset in a sensible and timeous fashion will help relieve a lot of stress, both before you leave and when you arrive at your new home.

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