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Repair, renovate or improve a home before selling?

When putting a home on the market, sellers of property should disclose all defects to their agents, and they should insist that agents in turn list these on the defects list that is usually attached to the sales mandate on the property. Full disclosure will protect the seller from any claims on faults that may be found in the home later.

It often happens, on going through a defects list, that the seller will contemplate repairing items that are in a state of disrepair or improving certain aspects of the home in order to improve its marketability, said Laurence van Blerck, a Knight Frank South Africa agent.

It is important to distinguish between marketability and value however, he said. Marketability refers to the desirability of the property from the buyers’ perspective and value is its likely selling price, taking into account the accommodation on offer, the area and its amenities whilst bearing in mind the supply and demand for similar properties on the market. Some repairs and renovations will improve a property’s marketability without resulting in a significant increase in its value.

The question that will be asked is what the amount should be that will be put towards repairs or renovations. 

“It is very difficult to pinpoint what each person should spend on a home before they sell because values would be unique to each situation,” he said.

But, in many cases, simple items such as repairing a broken window or doorframe, plastering superficial cracks in walls, painting the home or replacing a worn carpet could be the difference between a buyer considering purchasing the property or leaving it to continue looking.  

Many say that kitchens and bathrooms sell homes, and sellers may have the idea to renovate or upgrade these before putting the home on the market. Caution, however, should be applied in the money spent here as these rooms are known to be expensive to upgrade, and if the potential buyer does not like the new fittings he might well end up removing all the new items that have been installed, which would be a waste of money, said van Blerck.

Decoration in a home is subjective and what one person might see as a “dream kitchen” might not be to someone else’s taste. There is, too, the risk of over-capitalisation, as too much money spent on big-ticket items can be difficult to recoup when putting a home on the market.

“I would advise anyone contemplating renovating, do not do so because you’re selling but rather because you’d like to have a new kitchen or bathroom. If it is solely for the purpose of making the home more marketable, then use some of the more cost effective ways of sprucing the home up, such as fresh paint in a neutral colour, a professional carpet clean, sanding worn wooden floors and a revarnish or changing cupboard door handles to more modern types. Some light fittings are easily replaceable with cost effective ones and need not be expensive designer types but rather just more contemporary ones,” said van Blerck.

The crucial thing to remember, when selling a home, is that neat and tidy properties with light and bright rooms tend to be more marketable than dark, cluttered ones and if a little money and time is spent on a home, it might be worth the effort to get the asking price or perhaps even a little more, he said.


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