Get an agent to run interference on family deals

When you really need to sell your home – to move for a new job, to downscale for retirement or to reduce your debt load – a quick sale to a friend or relative who has expressed interest may seem like a very good idea.

But it isn’t, says Harcourts Africa CEO Richard Gray – at least not without professional help to keep things businesslike.

“The first problem you’re likely to encounter with this sort of transaction,” he notes, “is that it’s often difficult to ask a friend or family member about their finances and establish whether they really have the means to buy your property and / or whether they are likely to qualify for the necessary home loan.

“An experienced estate agent, on the other hand, is soon able to qualify any potential buyer financially – without giving any offence, as he or she will be seen as a professional, disinterested party.”

The second major difficulty in selling your home to a relative or a friend, Gray says, is the negotiation of price. “Buyers who are close to you may well assume that you will sell to them at a ‘special’, discounted price, while you may be thinking that there is no reason they should pay less than anyone else.

“And disagreements of this nature can easily turn into family feuds that last long after you’ve sold your home and moved on, so once again it pays to have help from an estate agent who is not only a trained negotiator but also able to back up a suggested selling price with independent data on current sales and prices in your area.”

In addition, he says, a reputable agent will ensure that your transaction is recorded in a proper sale agreement. “Homeowners who are selling to a good friend or a member of their family may assume that they can do the deal on a handshake, but this is neither legal nor prudent.

“In SA, all sales of immovable property have to be recorded in writing and signed by both buyer and seller in order to be considered legal, and these contracts usually also include any conditions of sale and any guarantees, as well as the arrangements made between the parties with regard to such matters as occupation and insurance.

“These vital documents are what the courts rely on if there is ever any dispute between buyer and seller, and more importantly, as agents know, they are what buyers and sellers can rely on if their recollections of what exactly they agreed at the time of the sale should grow hazy for any reason.”

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