Have Fun - Selling?
Too many residential property sellers still take on estate agents without checking their background and credentials, which could be a recipe for disaster…

"The very first question the prospective property seller should ask his agent, is if they are a member of the Institute of Estate Agents or the equivalent body in the area," says Lanice Steward, MD of Anne Porter Knight Frank.

If an agent is not a member, the chances are that he or she will not be up to date with the latest property legislation and will lack training, which in turn will cost the client money, one way or another.

In the know — or not?

"We have had several instances of the effects of ignorance in the last few years. Recently there was a case where an agent was charging stamp duty on a lease — even though this had been abolished some time ago.

"If that person had been an institute member, he or she would have been informed of the new situation and many other property legislation changes put through on an ongoing basis."

Membership of the institute carries the advantage of enabling the member to attend regular training courses. If the agent is part of a large and efficient firm, training could be done regularly in-house, but if the agent is with a very small firm, the chances are they won't get proper in-house training.

A trusted professional?

Steward says that, "to employ an agent who is not an institute member is like using a doctor or a motor mechanic who — having gained his initial qualification — never undergoes any further training".

Given that your home is a major asset, it makes no sense to trust it to someone who is not committed to keeping his knowledge and skills up-to-date.

Watch for chancers

Ineffectual, sometimes desperate agents also increasingly offer lower-than-standard commissions, sometimes at the two or three percent level, which should leave you a little suspicious.

"All too often a low commission is a sign that the agent is under-funding his advertising and promotional work and therefore has very limited client base," says Steward, which essentially means your house will either take longer to be sold, or you might be forced to settle for a second-rate buyer and a lower price for your property.

Don't bank on expiry dates

If you're selling your home and you've signed and accepted a buyer's purchase offer, you become legally bound to that offer... even after the expiry date of the offer.

A court judgment last month ruled that an expiry date on an offer to purchase a property is inserted solely for the benefit of the potential buyer, which he or she can choose to waive should the offer be accepted after the expiry.

The ruling came about after a certain seller accepted an offer to purchase after the specified expiry date — which she later attempted to use as way out of the contract.

The case in question

In the recent court case, the agent found a buyer for the seller’s Sedgefield property, who signed an offer to purchase. The offer stated that it was irrevocable and would expire at noon on 8 November 2003.

However, the estate agent only faxed the offer to the seller the day after the specified expiry date. The seller then signed the offer and faxed it back to the agent, but then realised that she could have obtained a higher price for her property and refused to sign any further documentation or respond to calls.

An application to the Cape High Court was launched by the buyer to compel the seller to sign the necessary documents, so that transfer could be registered. The seller opposed the application on the basis that because she accepted the offer after it had already lapsed, an argument the judge eventually ruled against.

“As an agent working for both parties it should be an imperative to get offers of purchase signed by both parties prior to specified expiry, thereby leaving no room for discrepancy,” says Barak Geffen, executive director of Sotheby's International Realty.

“Sellers must realise, however, that this expiry deadline is there for the benefit of the potential buyer only.” This means you need to do your homework before you accept.

No sympathy for sellers

“This was a case of seller’s remorse”, says Geffen, commenting on the outcome of the case.

“The decision reinforces the principle that once an offer to purchase is signed by the seller, it becomes a legally binding agreement. If one suddenly develops seller’s remorse, it will take the consent of the buyer to make the agreement null and void.”

Furthermore, the ruling also shows importance of meticulously considering the pro’s and cons of an offer to purchase.

On the other hand you could enlist the services of a reputable agency to represent your property. The agency will work out the best deal for both buyer and seller, and accurately advise both parties.

Article from: www.iafrica.com