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How to banish ‘seller’s remorse’

Moving house is always very stressful – and even more so if it coincides with a major life change, like relocation to a different city, or getting ready to retire - so it’s no wonder that sellers sometimes wish they could just cancel the transaction and stay where they are.

However, says Bill Rawson, Chairman of the Rawson Property Group, backing out of a property sale is usually not a real option unless you want to incur severe legal and financial penalties, so a better way to deal with any doubts is to focus on your motivation for selling and on what the future holds once you have completed the move.

“If you try to cancel the sale,” he notes, “the buyer might well go to court to force the sale or, at the very least, to seek financial compensation for damages incurred as a result of the deal being called off. This is called roukoop in SA law and could amount to quite a large sum of money.  

“What is more, you might still have to pay the estate agent's commission, on the basis that he or she did fulfill your mandate to deliver a ‘willing and able’ buyer and was not responsible for the sale falling through.”

Consequently, Rawson says, his advice to “sad sellers” is always to try to look beyond the upheaval and chaos of the actual physical move, to the opportunity they are giving themselves to meet new people, to have new and different experiences, and even to completely change their lifestyle if they wish.

“It’s also important to realise that you’re not alone. Everyone experiences those last-minute worries after making life-changing decisions or finalising a major transaction. But the old saying about one door closing and another opening definitely applies here, and stress has a way of dissipating when one looks forward rather than back.

“If you sold your home because you were offered a better job in a new location, for example, you should try to focus on how you and your family will benefit from this new job. It might mean you can afford to live in a bigger home or a better area, or to send your children to better schools, or to finally take that overseas holiday you’ve been dreaming about.”

Alternatively, he says, you might have sold because your home was too large for you, and becoming too difficult and too costly to maintain. And it will be much easier to sort through many years’ worth of possessions and decide what to pack and what to discard if you focus on the benefits of downsizing and downscaling. “The time and money you’ll save by living in a smaller, lower-maintenance home could help you to launch a new business or a second career, for example, or to enjoy a more financially secure retirement.

“Similarly, your move could mean more personal safety and security, or enable you to take up new sports or hobbies, or put you and your family into a great community where you will make lifelong friends. All of which will be much easier to achieve if you enlist the help of an experienced and empathetic estate agent to help you find the right home for the next chapter of your life.”

Having said that, though, Rawson also suggests that you make an early start on planning and executing the actual move. “Contact some removal companies and get quotes. Set a definite date. Start packing as soon as possible. You will be much less stressed if everything is sorted, organised, boxed and labelled well before moving day – and keeping busy means you will have less time to worry about whether you’ve done the right thing”.

Other steps you can take to diminish the stress associated with moving house, he says, include finding out as much as possible about the area you are planning to move to. “Make a list of the attractions, landmarks and cultural activities that may interest you or family members and start making plans to see them or get involved. Once you can start looking forward to exploring and enjoying your new location, leaving your old one won’t seem like such a wrench.

“In addition, you should set a budget for your move and try to keep spending to a minimum. Don’t be tempted into ‘comfort shopping’ or buying things for your new home that you don’t really need right away. Rather make sure you have enough to cover all the once-off costs of moving such as moving insurance and water, electricity and phone line reconnections, as well as any unexpected but essential expenses that can arise – such as lock replacement at your new home, or additional cleaning, or urgent repairs.”  

And lastly, Rawson advises, you should make time for family fun and relaxation even in the middle of your moving chaos. “Go out to dinner, to a movie or a picnic in the park - anything that gets you out of the house and away from boxes, paperwork, emotions and all of those pre-move concerns. This will help you to remember that the stress is only temporary and that there is a wonderful new adventure waiting on the other side of your move.”


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