'Stalking' a new trend in house buying

A new trend is now making itself felt in the South African residential property market: the ‘stalking’ of homes.

“The word ‘stalking’”, says Bill Rawson, Chairman of the Rawson Property Group, “is now being used to describe the practice of identifying a suitable property on a property website and then watching it closely over the next few weeks or months to see if the price comes down.”

“These stalkers, we have found,” says Rawson, “are often highly sophisticated researchers and know the market in their area well. When they find a home they like, and they believe the price is too high and will potentially drop, they watch its price on the website, hoping to see it fall to, or even below, market value. If the property’s price does fall, they then make an even lower offer in the hope that they will get the home at a bargain price.”

These shrewd investors, says Rawson, in many cases do, in fact, get a deal that is below the home’s market value because the seller may need to sell the home within a specific time period or they have just become disheartened by the lack of interest shown to their home and their judgment has been impaired.

Sometimes, says Rawson, the seller has only himself to blame for the low bids he receives because he has originally set his price so high that the home ‘sticks’ on the market for months. This causes it to gain a stigma, a bad name. If it does then find a buyer, the achieved price is quite likely to be well below its true market value.

In the year ahead, says Rawson, stalkers are likely to be less successful because, with demand in many areas now outstripping supply and most homes (except those at the top of the price scale) appreciating at close to 10% per annum, bargains will be fewer and harder to find.

“What the stalker hopes for, but is unlikely to come across today, is an ignorant seller and an inexperienced agent who can be persuaded that their price is unrealistic. As I say, however, this will happen only very occasionally in the year ahead because since the introduction of compulsory training and examinations, the professionalism of all agents has taken a big step upwards.”

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