Home sales: Looking beyond price to get deals done

In the current market, most home sellers are understandably focused on getting any offer to purchase that is reasonably close to their asking price - but they should not lose sight of the fact that there are often also non-price terms that also need to be successfully negotiated before a deal can be concluded.

So says Gerhard Kotzé, MD of the RealNet estate agency group, who notes: “Factors such as the deposit, valuation, financing, any inspections required, fixtures and fittings and the occupation date are important considerations that must not be overlooked.

“Some sellers are uncomfortable about accepting an offer from a buyer who does not have a cash deposit, for instance, while others now won’t even look at offers from buyers who haven’t been pre-qualified for a home loan.

“The occupation date can also quickly become a sore point unless resolved from the start. Even though it might be impossible under the current conditions for a buyer to take occupation before the transfer, things could change fast so it is still best to stipulate the occupational rent amount that would be payable in the sale agreement. Similarly, if the seller would like to occupy the property for a certain amount of time after the transfer has gone through, this needs to be negotiated upfront and agreed to in writing.”

He points out that bank valuations and compliance inspections also cost money and that clarity is needed on who will pay for these – and when. “The valuation is usually a cost for the buyer applying for a home loan, but what if it is a cash purchase? And while the seller should obtain any electrical, plumbing, gas, and fencing compliance certificates that are required before starting to market the property, what if it is a distressed sale?

“Approved building plans are also increasingly required before local authorities will issue the clearance certificates necessary for transfer, and if these are not already available, there will be a cost for obtaining a copy from the municipal planning department or for having them redrawn – and then possibly a delay in the transfer while they are approved.”

Fixtures and fittings can also become a cause for acrimony, Kotzé says, and the sale agreement also needs to state clearly which fittings (such as custom-made blinds, ceiling fans, or the DSTV dish) the seller will remove or leave behind.

“The reality is that buyers, as well as sellers, want to squeeze as much they can out of a deal – and that when nerves become frayed in negotiations, even minor issues can become dealbreakers.

“This is especially true now when sales are being concluded remotely, and it highlights the importance of having an experienced and tech-savvy estate agent involved as a skilled third-party negotiator who is knowledgeable enough to anticipate many of the issues that could come up and calmly resolve them while bringing the transaction to a successful conclusion that pleases both buyer and seller.”

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