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No need for tears or fears when selling your property

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The pressure of selling up and moving hits a code-red buzzer, but there are smart ways to deal with it

The level of stress associated with selling a home is similar to that of a divorce or really bad breakup – and worse than the anxiety associated with planning a wedding, getting fired or becoming a parent, says Berry Everitt, chief executive of the Chas Everitt International property group.

Moving home, in general, has always been considered among life’s top stress and anxiety triggers. The latest research by US property portal Zillow indicates more than 75% of home sellers find the process stressful and that more than 36% of those who have gone through it in the past year have been reduced to tears.

“As for the specific reasons for the anxiety, 70% of sellers surveyed said they had experienced uncertainty over the sale price, 69% had worried about selling within their desired time frame, 65% were concerned about renovations and repairs that needed to be completed before their home was listed, and 65% feared that the offer they had received would fall through.”

Also, Everitt notes that more than a third of survey respondents said the sale process had taken much longer than they thought – which is a common complaint in South Africa, especially among first-time sellers who aren’t aware of all the steps it takes.

Recent FNB statistics reveal that many South African sellers are withdrawing their properties from the market due to tough selling conditions, making it “increasingly difficult” to attain asking prices. More buyers are also looking for bargains amid attractive pricing in the current buyers’ market.

Other obstacles Everitt says are familiar to many sellers include:

  • The market valuation of your home does not match your price expectations.
  • The additions or alterations you have made don’t add as much value as you thought for potential buyers.
  • Buyers often overestimate how much they can afford to spend and end up causing delays because they can’t get a bond or don’t have enough cash to cover all the transfer costs.

The prevailing economic climate and market conditions are undeniably tough on sellers but, believes Jill Lloyd, area specialist in Rondebosch and Claremont for Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty, a well-presented, realistically priced home, especially in a sought-after area, will always find a buyer.

“Selling your home quickly not only means you can move on with your life, you don’t have to keep it pristine all the time and juggle your schedule… It can also make the difference between being able to buy the home on which you have already put in an offer – or staying put.”

In a subdued market where buyers are spoilt for choice, it is especially important to pull out all the stops to ensure that your home captures buyers’ attention. 

Everitt says sellers can significantly reduce their stress levels by appointing qualified and experienced agents who can help them understand market cycles of supply and demand, their effect on the value of their homes, and the types of improvements likely to appeal to buyers.

A good agent will also “qualify” prospective buyers to ensure they can afford to buy a home before taking them to view it, and keep sellers informed about the progress of the buyers’ bond application or any snags.

“Most importantly, though, they will be able to stay focused on the deal and negotiate professionally while helping you to keep your cool and get through the whole process with your sanity intact – and a sale in the bag,” he says.

An agent in tune with the market can also ensure properties are priced correctly, says Mike Greeff, chief executive of Greeff Christie’s International Real Estate. “Agents are in the know about the latest ways to price a home effectively. Keeping an eye on the trends, following the sound advice of an agent and knowing when to put your property on the market could be the key factors of a successful sale.” 

Improve the move with a head start on sales

Jill Lloyd, Cape Town agent for Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty, offers these tips to improve a quick sale:

◆Pick the right time to sell your home – You may not have any choice, but if you do, spring and summer are typically the best times to sell, as families want to move and settle in before the school year starts.

◆Be smart about the price – Listing your home for the highest possible price may seem sensible as we expect buyers to negotiate it down anyway, but by over-pricing your home, you are shooting yourself in the foot.

◆Don’t leave compliance certificates until the last minute – Property owners are required by law to ensure that the property is legally fit for sale and before the transfer can take place, the transfer attorney must be in possession of the relevant compliance certificates.

◆Ensure you have a current set of council-approved plans – While house plans are not a legal requirement of sale, many buyers are now requesting them, and these can take months to finalise.

◆Tackle the DIY – There is no need to go overboard and renovate your home, but things like dripping taps, broken lights and chipped tiles will be noticed, and a fresh coat of paint on an old front door won’t go amiss.

◆Get rid of clutter – Viewing someone else’s occupied home is slightly uncomfortable for most people, but when it’s scattered with their personal bits it can make them even more uneasy.

◆Create the illusion of space – Pack away extra seating, unnecessary furniture and other items.

◆Light it up – Maximise the natural light in your home as good light tops most buyers’ wish lists. Wash the windows, tie back the curtains and, if necessary, change lampshades.

◆Amp up the kerb appeal – When potential buyers pull up outside your house and they see a lawn that needs to be mown, overgrown bushes and perimeter walls in desperate need of a coat of paint, their impression is already tarnished. Charm them from the start.

◆Be flexible with showing times – It can be a challenge keeping a home on show. But the more available you make your home for viewing, the greater the chance of it moving off the market

Stand out from the pack

A “sure-fire” way to gauge what properties are selling for, is to look at the sale prices of those in your area, advises Greeff’s Mike Greeff. “Be aware that in some cases, revised pricing downwards has had to take place.

Looking at the prices of other properties will be a strong indicator of what the market finds palatable.” He says the momentum of the market in the Cape has changed considerably in recent years, with buyers being more in the driver’s seat in terms of demand.

Sellers should consider that it is a buyer’s market. “Think about how your property stands out from the rest.” Sellers must objectively reflect on the location and condition of their homes.

“If you live in a sought-after area, you may expect to get a higher return on investment, even if the property is not in its peak shape.” Renovated homes could achieve higher yields than others. 

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