Top tips for selling in a buyer’s market

During tough economic times when inflation steadily diminishes the value of earnings and investments and the property market swings to favour buyers, sellers need to pull out all the stops to ensure they yield the highest possible return in the shortest possible time.

“Many homeowners are struggling to sell their homes at all, let alone get top dollar,” says Chris Cilliers, CEO and Co-Principal of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty in the Winelands, “however, this does not mean there is no investor interest.

“Buyers are increasingly well-informed and are currently spoilt for choice, so sellers with a clear understanding of the market, an awareness of current trends and realistic price expectations will always capture buyer’s attention first.”

Cilliers says that the first, and most critical, step is an accurate property evaluation as this not only determines the final sale price achieved but also the length of time a home spends on the market.

“The best way to do so is to appoint an experienced, knowledgeable agent who will also able to qualify prospective buyers upfront, thereby averting the possibility of the seller wasting time by entering into contracts with buyers whose loan applications are unlikely to be approved.”

Whilst there are a number of factors over which sellers have no control and which are best handled by property professionals, Cilliers says that there are a number of things a seller can do to attract investors and clinch the deal.

“Ensure your home looks its best but, when every penny counts, rather focus on maintenance rather than a renovation. And, of course, a new coat of paint, preferably in a neutral colour makes a world of difference. 

“Presentation is everything - if a buyer walks in and has a great first impression, then the whole viewing is relaxed. We advise sellers to have a clear out which they will anyway have to do when they move. Piles of paperbacks next to the bed or messy rooms just make everything look small and cluttered and kitchens must be sparkling clean.”

Cilliers adds that it is critical to do everything possible to avoid delays: “Make sure you have a copy of your title deed and you know where the original document is. Check that you have a copy of the plans and that all alterations are on the plan and have been approved by council. And ensure that your rates are up to date and that there are no outstanding issues at the municipality.”

Juanita du Plessis, Area Specialist for the group in Centurion, says that sellers often overlook certain things when sprucing up.

“Kerb appeal is very important as this is where first impressions are first formed so always tidy both the garden and the entrance to your property. Trim bushes, don’t neglect the pavement outside and make sure the pool is sparkling clean, even if you are selling your home in the dead of winter.

“And as inconvenient as it often is, sellers must make every effort to allow the agent easy access for viewing appointments, and, where possible, not to be present during the appointments so that buyers are at ease.”

She adds that the seller’s selection of a conveyancing firm is equally as important as their choice of an agent as their experience and familiarity with the process is pivotal in achieving a seamless sale and driving the transaction towards registration with minimal delays.

Beverley Goldhill, Area Specialist in Simons Town, cautions buyers to make sure that all their legal i’s are dotted and t’s crossed.

“If your home is mortgaged, make sure you notify your bank of your intention to sell prior to listing the home for sale, and keep the bank updated on the status of the sale of the home during the sales process should it not sell within the mandated period.

“Get quotes well ahead of time on work that may need to be done in order for the home owner to obtain the necessary compliance certificates needed for the transfer of the property. These include the electrical, plumbing, wood, and gas certificates, as if there is unforeseen work to be done, it could cause costly delays.

“Ensure you disclose all defects on the property, whether structural or other, notwithstanding servitudes on the property. Any alterations or additions to the property need to be signed off by council prior to selling.

“This should be done on a Property Disclosure Form that the sales agent should provide, which protects you, the seller, from any comebacks during or after the sale of the home as the buyer cannot claim to be uninformed.”

She advises that when sellers prepare their homes for viewing, they should not neglect the ambience which can easily be enhanced by small touches, like lighting a fire in winter for a cosy, homely feel or placing fresh, fragrant flowers in the entrance hall.

“If your home is older and your budget allows, upgrade the things that really date a home, such as replacing old taps and vanities as well as worn fittings and fixtures. Adding additional cupboard and packing space would also not go amiss.”

Goldhill concludes: “Many sellers understandably believe that appointing more than one agency will ensure a faster sale but this is not usually the case. Sole mandates afford the seller peace of mind during what can be a very stressful time, and it gives them better control over how their property is marketed and should include a tailor-made marketing plan to suit the seller’s personal needs and aid to maximise the target market reach and exposure of the home.

“Sole mandates create a real working commitment between seller and agent to actively work together to procure the best and fastest sale on the property, with the least disruption and stress.”

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