Some good reasons not to be a private seller

This is not the time to try to sell your house without the help of a professional agent.

That’s the unequivocal word from Tjaart van der Walt, CEO of the RealNet estate agency group, who notes that in boom times, when there are more buyers than sellers and properties for sale are being snapped up within days, there is room for private sellers.

“But now, with properties being slow to move, sellers need all the exposure they can get to attract potential buyers – and that requires the help of a knowledgeable agent.”

Unfortunately, he says, a lot of sellers make the mistake of thinking that if there is no agent involved in the sale and no commission to pay, they can simply pitch their price lower and attract buyers that way. “But of course that is only half the story. No matter what the price, potential buyers will not find out about the property unless it is properly marketed – through advertisements, the Internet and most important, the agent’s own networks – and it is very difficult for individual sellers to achieve a proper level of exposure on their own.”

On the other hand, there is the risk of overvaluing the property and watching it languish on the market as buyers ignore it and holding costs mount, says Van der Walt. “Without the help on an agent, sellers have no real-time benchmark for valuing their property. They can look at advertisements for other homes in their area, but these contain asking prices and not sale prices. They can look at the replacement value the bank has put on their house for insurance purposes, but this is not necessarily the current market value either.

“What they need is up-to-date information about the actual sale prices currently being achieved in their area, so they can pitch their asking price at a level that will be attractive to buyers right now, and this is best obtained from an agent that can give them an accurate comparative market analysis.”

Sellers also need help, he says, when it comes to the financial qualification of potential buyers – especially now that the banks are granting fewer and fewer home loans. “Agents can pre-qualify buyers and, through their links to mortgage originators, can establish whether they have a real chance of obtaining a home loan before they even view a property.

“There is no way that most private sellers can do this and they can easily end up wasting a lot of time – and money – on would-be buyers who are actually not financially capable of buying their home.”

And last but not least, says Van der Walt, private sellers need to be extremely security conscious. “A sign that indicates a property is for sale by the owner is an open invitation for anyone to come to the front door posing as a buyer and the dangers inherent in this situation are obvious. When an agent is involved, however, the process of pre-qualification and making appointments to view the property tends to filter out any bad elements. At the very least, sellers can count on anyone visiting their home being accompanied by the agent.”

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