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Buying or renting: Making good choices

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Selling in a buyer’s market can be a breeze with the right advice from a qualified agent

Q: My partner and I are currently renting our home but are looking to move in the next couple of months. Our landlord has kindly allowed us to pay a reduced rent over the past two months, so we feel bad about leaving, but have to make the move. What is the correct process to follow to cancel our lease without leaving our landlord in the lurch? 

A: You can cancel your existing lease in terms of the Consumer Protection Act (the CPA), section 14, by giving 20 business days’ notice, but ensure this is done in writing. You will be responsible for your rent until your notice period ends. If you are in arrears, make payment arrangements or negotiate a compromise with your landlord as you will need a good credit record if you want to apply for a new rental property. The landlord can charge a reasonable cancellation fee which will take into account the time that it will take to get a new tenant and the costs of securing the new tenant. Most contracts now stipulate a reasonable penalty. Seeff contracts, for example, include a maximum of two months’ rent. At the end of the notice period, your deposit, together with interest, must be refunded to you within 14 days in terms of the Rental Housing Act. The landlord can, however, deduct outstanding rent, a reasonable penalty and the cost of damage repairs. To avoid damage repair costs, ensure that the property is in the same condition as it was when you took occupation. Make sure you attend the exit inspection with the agent and/or landlord to agree on damage and the cost of repairs (if any) and to return the keys. – Seeff Property Group

Q: I know the market conditions are not in favour of sellers at the moment but we cannot wait for them to improve and need to sell as soon as possible. How can I ensure that I get the best price possible, considering the fact that we are in a buyer’s market?

A 1: Now, more than ever before, sellers will need to be realistic when setting an asking price and trust the advice of a qualified and experienced real estate practitioner. Beyond this, sellers should fix up and stage their homes to ensure that their properties have the best chance of being noticed by the small pool of qualified buyers who are serious about making a purchase at this time. Now that we are all working more remotely, a well-fitted at-home office is likely to be an incredibly appealing feature to buyers, so if a seller has a temporary set-up or does not yet have an at-home office space, I recommend transforming a room or a space in the home into a fully functional office. – Adrian Goslett, chief executive of Re/Max of Southern Africa

A 2: Selling your home in a buyer’s market needn’t be a negative experience. If you are armed with a well-trained agent, market-related pricing and excellent marketing, selling your home should be a breeze. It’s important your property stand out from the crowd. Ensuring that your home is priced well and that it is being marketed to its full potential is essential but so are excellent photography, engaging descriptions and successful show houses, whether these be physical viewings or a virtual walk-through. This is where a reputable agency is your strongest asset as agents can ensure that you get the full package and that your property is given the best possible chance of being sold. – Mike Greeff, chief executive Greeff Christie’s International Real Estate

Q: With interest rates at their lowest levels in decades, and a huge choice of inventory at the moment, quite a number of home buyers and investors are making really low offers to purchase in the hope of picking up property bargains. How should I, as a seller, deal with low offers?

A: Rather than taking offence and immediately rejecting these offers, sellers need to take a deep breath, recognise that they are (in most cases) only intended as opening bids in a negotiation and get ready to make counter-offers as that negotiation proceeds. Sellers should take the view that even a low offer is better than a total lack of interest, because it has a potential to lead to a satisfactory outcome – if handled correctly by a qualified agent with excellent negotiating skills. And, of course, they always retain the right to accept or reject any offer at any stage before the sale agreement is signed. – Berry Everitt, chief executive of the Chas Everitt International Property Group

Q: Should sectional title schemes that are experiencing financial difficulties appoint an executive managing agent or have the scheme placed under administration?

A: Many sectional title owners seem to be under the impression that schemes which are technically insolvent or struggling with cash-flow issues should be placed under administration, as if that is equivalent to the business rescue process. But this is not the case at all. It is much quicker and less expensive to appoint an executive managing agent. This choice also offers the members of the body corporate much more transparency about what actions are being taken to get their scheme back on track. However, the managing agent needs specialist knowledge, resources and systems to fulfil this role properly, so the owners should be careful not to make or allow random appointments, but ensure that they obtain professional assistance from an established and reputable property management company. – Andrew Schaefer, managing director of Trafalgar 

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