Consumer Information

Author:  Cobus Odendaal
CEO for Lew Geffen Southeby’s International Realty
in Johannesburg and Randburg
17 March 2022

10 common mistakes sellers make – and how to avoid them

Property transactions are lengthy and convoluted processes with many potential pitfalls and, in a strong sellers’ market, one or two small mistakes are unlikely to be an issue, however, more serious omissions or errors can put a spanner in the works and, in a tougher market even small errors can prove costly.

This is according to Cobus Odendaal, CEO for Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty in Johannesburg and Randburg who adds that, regardless of market conditions, selling what is likely to be your largest investment is a big decision and it’s important to get it right.

“Our homes are not only financial investments but they are also the haven where we raise our families, celebrate important milestones and create memories. Understandably, sellers have strong emotional attachments but it’s important to put aside sentiment and make this sale one of your smartest business moves.

“Sellers must remember that these days, buyers are not only spoilt for choice, they are also more knowledgeable than ever before, so you should pull out all the stops to ensure that your home doesn’t languish on the market for too long.”

The following are the most common – and avoidable – errors that buyers make:

1. Not hiring an agent

It’s completely understandable that the seller would want to yield as much profit as possible from their largest investment, especially during an economic downturn however, this is exactly when it’s even more important than ever to appoint a good agent, says Odendaal.

“There is a lot more to selling a home than taking a few photos and listing it online. Statistics show that properties without representation remain on the market for considerably longer. There are also a multitude of potential pitfalls along the lengthy process which could turn out to not only be very costly but also jeopardise the sale.

2. Hiring the wrong agent

“Writing in the Property Signposts newsletter, Berry Everitt, CEO of the Chas Everitt International property group, says sellers should seek out the top-selling agents in their area and interview several before deciding which one they want to work with.

“Consider which agent is offering you the best marketing plan, has the most up-to-date information about price trends in your neighbourhood and is committed to helping you sell.

“Do not make your choice based on which agent suggests the highest asking price for your property, as this could just be a strategy to flatter you and secure your mandate. The agent you want is the one able to back up a suggested asking price or estimated selling price with proper information about the prices that have recently been paid for similar properties in your area, which prospective buyers are your target market and how you are most likely to get them to view your home.”

3. Not doing your homework

Find out what homes have sold for in the past 12 months in your area and similar nearby neighbourhoods. Research what current homes are listed for so that you have a good ballpark idea of a realistic sale price.

And if you plan on doing upgrades before listing your property, make sure that what you plan to do, won’t result in overcapitalisation which is in fact, currently very popular and happening all the time.

4. Overpricing your home

Odendaal says listing your home for the highest possible price may seem like the sensible thing to do as we expect buyers to negotiate it down, but unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. An accurate evaluation is always the best evaluation.

“It is critical to price your home correctly right from the beginning because when buyers have as much choice as they currently do, they look for good value for money and will usually opt for a similar home at a better price. The buyer for your property will not engage in an offer if he/she falls hopelessly short of what looks like your expected price. If your home spends too long on the market, potential buyers will begin to wonder what is wrong with it.

5. Not preparing your home for sale

First impressions do count. Declutter and de-personalise as much as you can and make sure you fix any visible issues that could detract from your home’s value like dripping taps, chipped paint, broken window latches and many other small issues.

A bit of advice from Odendaal, go through your property with a bit of a critical eye and see if you can illuminate smaller issues that creates obvious objections to be making an offer.

And don’t neglect kerb appeal as this is where first impressions are first formed. Always tidy both the garden and the entrance to your property to maximise that all important first opinion of your home.

6. Leaving compliance certificates until the last minute

Property owners are required by law to ensure that the property is legally fit for sale and before the transfer can take place, transfer attorney must be in possession of the relevant compliance certificates.

These doesn’t take long to acquire if all is in order but, if problems are discovered, they must be repaired before you can receive the relevant certificate. This not only adds to your mounting costs, it can also delay transfer or even scupper the deal if left to the last minute.

7. Underestimating the costs involved

These can mount up quickly and it’s important to know what you’re in for before you start the process. Over and above the cost of sprucing up your home to get it ready to sell, you must factor in costs such as compliance certificates and possibly repairs to achieve compliance, the conveyancers fee and municipal clearance. Talk to your agent about this, says Odendaal.

8. Being inflexible about viewing times

Yes, it can be very challenging to keep your home pristine and have strangers traipsing through it at inconvenient times while already juggling a busy work and a full family schedule.

Bear in mind that buyers also have full schedules so the most convenient time to view will be after hours and if your home isn’t available to view then they will look at – and possibly buy – other homes instead.

9. Antagonising potential buyers over minute details

If the buyer likes your chandelier and it’s not a beloved family heirloom, it’s probably not worth losing the sale to keep. If there are any fixtures or features that do have sentimental value and that you don’t want to leave behind, tell your agent before the property is listed. Might be a good idea to replace before the time to illuminate difficult negotiations, advises Odendaal.

If you feel like buyer requests are unreasonable, don’t create more drama. Rather talk to your agent and settle on a reasonable alternative or compromise.

10. Moving out before the house is sold

“Studies have shown that it is more difficult to sell a vacant home because it’s much harder for buyers to imagine it as a family home when it’s devoid of all that makes a house a home.

“Buyers will also be inclined to think that since you already have a new home, you’re probably highly motivated to sell fast which will give them the advantage at the negotiating table.

“Every buyer wants to sell as quickly as possible for the best possible price, but sometimes their actions can result in the opposite outcome,” says Odendaal.

“So, before you take the plunge, do your homework, familiarise yourself with the process and seek advice from experts who are willing and able to offer guidance.”

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