Selling a home is not always easy and can become a lengthy and tiresome process that costs the seller and agent time and money. Despite booming property markets in the main centres, there are still areas in the country where the average property can sit idle for three months or longer before being sold.
However, simple solutions such as basic home improvements, savvy online marketing, stylish home staging, smart incentives, creating a “lived-in” look with a house sitter and pricing the property right can often help speed up the sale.
Simple home improvements increase interest
Simon Bray, CEO of Private Property, says it’s essential that all maintenance issues be rectified before placing the property on the market to ensure a quicker sale at the best price. He says buyers notice smaller problems that the owner or agent don’t see because of their familiarity with the property, such as a leaking tap or broken doorknob, and will form the impression that the property is not well maintained and could have even bigger faults.
“Ensure the condition of the house can’t be used against the seller. Remove any excuse for a buyer to negotiate down on the asking price. Potential purchasers mentally reduce the price of the property every time they spot a problem that needs fixing. They want to move in without the hassle of making any repairs, and if they think it’s going to cost them money to get the property in good shape, they will stay away,” he says.
Ricardo Gouveia, director of Valuetec Property Valuations, says if the owners are going to invest in home improvements, they should put money into improvements that will likely yield the best return. He says that the owners, when trying to increase the value of the house,must be realistic; fitting a new kitchen will not necessarily increase the asking price if the roof is caving in.
Says Gouveia, “Any improvements should be practical. Use colours and designs that appeal to the widest audience and complement the home. It is possible to overcapitalise on the property by improving it to a point where it becomes one of the most expensive properties in the area, above the average sale prices, so take note of the suburb and keep the house similar to other properties in the area, to avoid renovating it out of the market. But the upkeep and maintenance of the property should not be neglected.”
Online property marketing is easy and cost-effective
Property owners and agents now use social media as a way of communicating with potential buyers, as it is an easy, cost-effective way to generate new interest in a property. YouTube, Facebook and Twitter remain the most popular avenues. Some savvy agents have even started employing Instagram.
Realistic goals and expectations should be set for social media marketing and for finding potential investors or homebuyers, and tactics should be put in place to meet these goals. Sellers and agents can use social media to publish a variety of content types, such as photos, links, videos and stories, to promote the property or use it as a website if they don’t have one.
Bray says that more than 90% of buyers start their search online, so not listing the property on the internet deprives you of the opportunity of reaching buyers at the start of their buying journey. He says a property can be advertised through online classifieds, online auctions, pay-per-click outlets, through banner ads on relevant websites and by joining property investor forums.
Home staging makes buyers fall in love with a lifestyle
Lucy Le Roux, owner of Illuminate Home Staging, says that for a property to sell fast and earn a greater return on investment, it needs to be presented as “move-in ready”, and the lifestyle it offers should be effectively portrayed. She says that home staging includes minor renovations, the styling of existing furniture and accessories, or providing a full house of furniture and accessories to assist in the sale of empty properties.
“It is estimated that staged homes sell in half the time of comparable non-staged homes, all things being equal. To optimise the sales process, home staging should be used before a property is listed rather than as a quick fix after buyers have seen the home on show for months and know the seller is getting desperate,” says Le Roux.
According to Le Roux, by providing stylish and trendy furniture, art and accessories, the seller gets to send the message that the value of the property is understood and that the owners are not in a rush to sell. She says empty homes portray a cold, clinical and lifeless environment that most buyers find depressing, and since there is nothing for buyers to really see, they start to become overly critical of what is there, such as paintwork and fixtures, and they battle to imagine where their furniture would go. “Research shows that homebuyers form an opinion within the first 15 seconds of entering a property and are likely to spend only five minutes viewing an unfurnished house versus up to 40 minutes in a furnished home. If you do go the extra mile when presenting your property and staging it correctly, you will be head and shoulders above the competition,” says Le Roux.
Incentives will sweeten the deal
Builders continue to chip away at home prices by offering special deals. Individual sellers should take their lead and consider offering prices and incentives that might entice buyers to view their property. Simply offering an incentive such as a vacation, petrol card, spa trip or car hire can help get traffic through the door; or, during negotiations, the seller might want to throw in the pool table or lawnmower to help seal the deal.
In a down market, buyers are looking for a deal. You have to attract their attention somehow, so do your best to make them feel they’re getting one. Offering to pay for a year’s worth of homeowners’ fees, or throwing in transferable home insurance for a one-year policy that covers appliances such as air conditioners and refrigerators, for example, often helps to convince the buyer. Potential buyers may feel more at ease knowing they will be covered against such problems, which could make the home more attractive than a competing home. Sometimes, potential buyers see the concessions and realise the seller and agent are willing to work with them, and this assists in getting closer to agreement.
Home sitters create a neighbourly vibe
Dominique Alexander, owner of Happy Home House and Pet Sitting, says house sitters are often called on by agents to help sell upmarket yet slow-moving houses. The goal, she says, is to remove the air of desperation from the home and add emotion to it. House sitting involves filling vacant for-sale homes with short-term tenants and their attractive furniture, thereby giving the property a well-kept, lived-in feel that will win buyers. According to Alexander, banks and individual homeowners are often interested in hiring house sitters as a way to set a particular property apart from foreclosures and other listings. House sitters show how a potential buyer could live in the home. Buying a home is about more than sales price, school district and length of commute.
Alexander says, “Buyers want to feel the house is right for them and see themselves living there. People want to live in neighbourhoods because there are people there. Getting a house sitter is something to consider in areas where there have been many vacancies and where you want buyers to have a sense of the neighbourhood and someone occupying the home for security. House sitters lower the risk of break-ins and keep property values stable for everyone else living on the block.”
Correct pricing is still key
Tshegofatso Selahle, communications manager at Nedbank, says that regardless of how well a buyer renovates and stages a home, the most important thing is to price the home appropriately.
This is where the agent plays a major role in aiding the seller to settle on a price by comparing the home with others in the area. “By researching the property market, buyers will get an idea of the costs in the area and will be able to recognise a good deal. It’s not always imperative to be the lowest-priced home on the block, especially when significant improvements have been made to the property; however, it is important that the listing price not be out of line with other comparable homes on the market,” says Selahle.
Bray says that overpricing a property is the biggest mistake people make and the main cause of a property’s remaining unsold. He says sellers should never forget to place themselves in the buyer’s shoes; they must then determine what a fair price might be, as buyers are pretty savvy at spotting an overvalued property and will avoid it. “The longer a property languishes on the market unsold, the more the perception grows among buyers that there is something wrong with it. Sellers should get an estate agent or independent property valuer to price the property. The basis for the valuation would be a comparative market analysis which lists all properties recently sold in the area,” says Bray.
Words: Lisa Dewberry