Five lessons that every house seller or buyer should take to hart

Talking recently to Anne Porter Knight Frank agents at one of their regular training sessions, Lanice Steward, MD of APKF, said,

“Part of your job is to educate and assist clients to understand the property market. In particular, you should learn to recognise fair treatment from the “conning” that so many clients fear.”

There are, said Steward, five tenets of which every APKF client should be aware - and of which truly service-minded agents should also be always conscious. These, she said, are:

1. It is essential to do your homework before any deal is signed.

“When buying or selling a home,” said Steward, “it is important to be well informed about the market. Buyers, in particular, must check such facts as the prices at which other homes in the area are selling and whether these are rising or falling. They must be aware that if they fall in love with a property at first sight, they should resist the impulse to buy at once – they should endeavour to find out if there are any factors which they need to know about the property before putting in an offer.”

2. Sellers should never let themselves to be intimidated by their agent.

“Sellers,” said Steward, “should always bear in mind that they are the clients. If they get the feeling that they are being ‘worked over’ they should discuss this with the agent and always get more then one agent’s opinion.”

“Agents who bulldoze clients often see themselves as dynamic, successful and goal-orientated, but,” said Steward, “in the long run they destroy themselves as the majority of clients are not prepared to be intimidated.”

3. Test the market before signing up for a bond.

“In the old days,” said Steward, “the normal practice was simply to go to one’s own bank and accept the bond on the conditions they offered, sometimes paying an extra 0,5% or 1% above a rate they could negotiate elsewhere. Those days are now over and it is a huge mistake not to test the market. Find a good bond originator and get him or her to come up with at least three options. A small difference in the interest rates at which you signed the deal will translate into many thousands of rand lost or gained over the bond’s life.”

4. Check the water, electricity and rates charges that have to be paid on your property.

“Quite often,” said Steward, “buyers have found that when these services and rates are factored into their monthly budgets they are put under financial stress. In my view it pays every time to go for a slightly less expensive property and to ensure you do not lose your home should interest rates and utilities increase.”

5. If selling, be realistic about market values.

“As we all know,” said Steward, “a certain proportion of all those sellers who come to us are not really serious. They are asking too high a price and simply testing the gullibility of the market.

“Such ‘false’ sellers have to be made to recognise as soon as possible that their price is unrealistic - often they will have been told this at the start but will not have listened. Within ten to 15 weeks of a house coming onto the market and not selling they must be made to accept that their price is too high.

“Often this will result in the house being withdrawn from the market. This is a sure indication that the seller was never really serious at the outset. Serious sellers do accept market values – or, in a minority of cases, make arrangements to rent the house out until the market improves.”

Steward said that all the indications now are that the long-awaited recovery in the Cape housing market is beginning to take place and those buyers who delay making a decision beyond June/July/August of this year will probably find that they have to pay significantly increased prices.

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