Seller advice in a tough market

A seller’s priority is to yield the highest possible return in the shortest time possible, especially during tough economic times when inflation has diminished the value of their earnings and every penny counts. But in a buyer’s market like the current one, many homeowners are struggling to sell their homes at all, let alone get top dollar.

However, according to Brendan Miller, chief executive of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty in Cape Town’s City Bowl and Atlantic seaboard, with a little extra effort and the right professionals onside, it’s possible to give your property an edge over the growing competition and to find a buyer at the right price.

“It’s during times like these that expertise, experience and an in-depth knowledge of the market, the sales process and potential pitfalls are most critical.

“The sale and purchase of property is not the simple transaction one might imagine and the actual exchange of money and goods only happens at the end of a lengthy and complex process that requires more than a nodding acquaintance with diverse fields including marketing, legal procedures and finance.

“The first, and probably 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, which is especially important if the seller is buying another home subject to the sale of his current property.”

Miller believes this is where experienced, qualified agents are worth their weight in gold as time really is money and most sellers cannot afford to have their homes languish on the market for months on end.

“To this end, agents are also able to qualify buyers upfront and are able to determine whether prospective buyers are financially able to purchase the property, which averts the possibility of the seller wasting time by entering into contracts with buyers whose loan applications are unlikely to be approved.

“And their thorough knowledge of the relevant legislation that regulates property transactions as well as all documentation and certification required to meet all regulatory requirements will ensure a seamless conclusion of the sale and circumvent costly delays.”

Astute sellers and seasoned property investors are aware that tough times call for tough measures and that without the best professionals and their extensive buyer database and industry network, selling property in a subdued market can often be much like walking a tightrope without a safety net.

It is to meet this growing demand from their clients that has prompted Miller to return to the sales arena after many years of wearing only his executive hat.

However, he says that there are also a number of things that sellers can do themselves to smooth the process and avoid potential pitfalls and delays. One of these is to apply for all compliance certificates as early on as possible.

“When you sell your property, the law requires that you ensure installations comply with regulations, and before transfer can take place, the conveyancing attorney must be in possession of the relevant certificates of compliance (COCs).

“Beginning the compliance process early is especially recommended for older homes where faults, such as worn wiring, eroded conductors and faulty wall plugs may need to be repaired and this could take some time, so if you leave COCs to the last minute it could delay transfer.”

Geffen also cautions that selling an apartment or townhouse is different to selling a house because it is part of a larger property with a community of owners and overseen by a governing body, the body corporate.

“In addition to the standard documentation required for a property sale, you will need a levy clearance certificate from the body corporate and the buyer’s bank also needs documentation from them to assess the financial status and management history of the sectional title scheme before they approve a bond.

“If a seller waits too long to request these documents, the approval process and sale could be delayed.”

He adds that sellers should not underestimate the importance of first impressions.

“It’s important to remember that the decision to buy a home is strongly influenced by emotion and it’s therefore essential to engage buyers emotionally by highlighting your home’s best features and making it as appealing as possible.”

You have given your sale home the required lick of paint, patched all the obvious signs of wear and tear and managed to tame the garden into a semblance of order and, with the “For Sale” sign finally on display, you believe your work is done.

But, if you are hoping for a quick sale at a good price, especially during an economic downturn, then a little more effort is required for the most critical part of the sale process – show day – when a negative first impression can negatively affect the bottom line and knock your price down.

And bear in mind that there’s more to kerb appeal than a freshly painted house with clean windows, so make sure the garden gate is not hanging off its hinge, keep your lawn mown and bushes trimmed – and if your budget runs to it, plant some bright flowers.