That’s according to Richard Gray, CEO of Harcourts Real Estate South Africa, who says it’s a question that calls for an honest answer, best arrived at by an objective analysis of its best and worst features.
“And if you find it difficult to be objective, get input from someone else who will be honest,” he adds, “since an honest answer will help you arrive at a realistic selling date as well as an achievable selling price.”
Sellers generally don’t see their homes with the same eyes of prospective buyers, he continues. “Broken windows, peeling paintwork, missing roof tiles, sagging gates and mould in the shower – these tend to go unnoticed by owners after a while. Yet, they are detractors that will stand out a mile to buyers, who will either be put off the property completely or they’ll use them to justify a low offer.”
“Buyers who are prepared to upgrade or renovate – and they are in the vast minority - will not pay a premium for the property because of the danger of over-capitalising,” he continues. “It’s therefore critical for sellers to ask themselves what they would expect to get for their money and then, if their home offers this. While shortcomings such as location are unchangeable, there are many budget-friendly improvements that will improve the appearance and buyer appeal of the property significantly.”
The best place to start is in the street outside. Gray explains: “This is where buyers will form a first – and lasting - impression of your home, so you need to assess its verge appeal. If you don’t like its appearance, buyers probably won’t either. Look critically at the overall state of repair as well as the garden. Is it neat and welcoming or run-down and over-grown? If the gates sag, the driveway is broken or the garden unkempt and full of weeds, you need to schedule in some maintenance before putting it on the market.”
It’s at this point that a re-paint should be considered, he says further. “Painting is one of the quickest, most effective ways of sprucing up a property, so if your budget permits, list this as a priority. And while your favourite colour may be purple or pink, rather choose a neutral shade that will appeal to the widest selection of buyers.”
Re-hanging gates and cleaning up around the house can also make a significant difference to the property’s saleability, as will getting rid of broken plant pots, fixing broken gutters and windows and weeding and mowing. Still outside, Gray suggests prospective sellers take a tour of their neighbourhood to see what other properties are on the market. “You need to know what you’re competing with, so ascertain the asking prices and the length of time they’ve been on the market, which will allow you to set a realistic selling price.”
It’s now time for the interior analysis. Gray’s advice on entering the front door is to stop and sniff. “The smell of animals is extremely off-putting for buyers,” he warns. “You may be oblivious to the doggy odour emanating from your carpets but buyers won’t be. It’s this type of problem that an honest friend should pick up and share, which will in turn allow you to do the requisite cleaning that will make your home market-ready.” Your home inspection should also focus on mess and clutter, the condition of the interior paint, the cleanliness of the kitchen and bathrooms and how well lit it is.
“Prospective buyers like to picture their own furniture and pictures in a house, something that will be almost impossible for them to do if the place is jam-packed with tables, chairs, boxes and ornaments,” he points out. For an instant and appealing facelift, his advice is to store all but the most essential stuff and, if necessary, have the inside walls repainted. He also recommends having the grouting re-done in discoloured bathrooms and kitchens, tackling dripping taps and cleaning light fittings and switches.
Gray says most of these are cosmetic fixes that would be recommended by any competent estate agent, bearing in mind that the majority of buyers want to be able to move in and live. “What is not allowed is a superficial patch of major defects such as rising damp, leaky roofs and broken pipes, which will cause you as the seller to run foul of the law.”
Having done a thorough inspection of your home, you now need to establish what price you would be willing to pay for it. “If you arrive at a selling price based on how much you need to pay off debt or upgrade to a better property, you’re going to spend a long time on the market,” warns Gray. In this vein, he also cautions against choosing an agent on the basis of who gives you the highest valuation.”
“The bottom line is that if you want the top price for your home, you have to give the market a top product. If you don’t, the buyers will simply move on to the next property.”