How to find an estate agent, and information to help you find a property
– Andre de Villiers

You want to find the best property your money can buy in the best areas, with the highest likelihood of it meeting your needs.  To find the best properties on offer, it makes perfect sense to employ the services of an enthusiastic estate agent. An estate agent should be an expert on the area where you intend buying and as such will have access to a wide variety of information that will be useful to you.

How to find the best estate agent for you

If you do not know an agent who operates in the area you are interested in make a short list of estate agents that look promising and work in the area.  Looking at a national property portal like Property24.com will show you who is active in the area.  A good idea is to arrange a telephone meeting with two or three of them.  From this you’ll be able to pick the best estate agent to work with and one who at least comes across as interested in your needs.  Even if the agent is not the most experienced you want to find one that is enthusiastic about your needs.  The agents will ask you about the type of properties you’re interested in buying and how much you’re willing to spend.  Make sure you’re very clear about what you want so you don’t waste time with properties that don’t suit your requirements.  In the current Cape Town market with a scarcity of ‘stock’ it is best to be open to a broader range of properties that you might otherwise have been.  In other words try to be more inclusive in your description and not too prescriptive as you will limit your options and may miss out on a sweet deal!

Which estate agent is for you?

From speaking to a few different estate agents, you’ll likely decide which one impressed you most and appeared the most promising. Of course, there’s nothing to say you can’t use more than one estate agent, but using more than two can make things more complicated for you but you should ascertain if the agent works closely with other agents or only on their own company’s stock.  If the agent only markets their own properties you will need to work with a few agents. Different areas of Cape Town have different arrangements amongst agents as far as working together so in some areas an agent will be able to show you selected properties listed with other agents and in other areas this is less likely. Ask your agent for advice about this for the area you are looking in.

By establishing a relationship with an estate agent who understands you’re serious about buying a property they’ll keep you up to date with new properties coming onto the market. Plus, if they know you can act quickly, they’ll likely keep you up to date with properties that sellers are keen to sell quickly.  It is good advice to have your financial affairs in order and to explain to the agent that your decision to buy is qualified as you have already arranged your finance or been approved in principle for a home loan.   In this respect talk to a mortgage origination agent like Betterlife ( www.betterlife.co.za ) who will provide a free service to assist you get a home loan faster and at the best interest rates.

 

Sellers Must Disclose Defects or Face the Consequences
– Andre de Villiers

No property is sold without any problems, but failure to disclose them is in nobody’s interests.  Failure to disclose a defect can turn the sale or purchase of a residential property into an unpleasant experience and in some cases result into a protracted legal dispute that was totally avoidable.

In most Offers to Purchase there is a clause called the voetstoets clause which many sellers believe will protect them against all that is wrong with a property when they sell it, but defects are far more complicated an issue than that.

It is highly unlikely that any property that is sold is totally perfect.  If you sold your house right now I am sure that you could think of a few things that need attention.  It may well be something obvious to the eye, like a cracked window pane or a spot of damp, but it may also be something less obvious that you are aware of because you live there, such as a tap where the water runs slower than it should, or a toilet where the return handle has to be jiggled to stop the flow.  It can be a small annoyance or a major problem but the bottom line is, declare it before the sale and avoid unnecessary drama later.

What should be remembered is that you as the owner and occupier have an intimate knowledge of the property and apart from the serious legal requirements that could result,  you also have an ethical obligation to disclose these to the person buying the property.  While a reasonable buyer expects a few minor issues I have often discovered in my career that charming reasonable people can turn into total monsters after the offer is accepted.

As the owner of a national real estate franchise and an agent with some 30 years sales experience, I cannot think of any issue that ruins the sale process more than the issue of defects and non-disclosure, which is often not deliberate.  Inevitably the agent gets drawn into what can and does become an unpleasant disagreement, and it is really so easily avoided.

My recommendation to every seller is that they prepare a Defects Disclosure List or as I prefer to call it a House File as soon as they decide they are going to market the property.  Give a copy of this file or list to the agent with your instruction that these items are to be disclosed prior to taking an offer and get the agent to sign a copy of the Defects Disclosure List for you to keep in your records so that there is no later disagreement that this list was provided.

This Defects Disclosure List should be a simple schedule that is itemised room by room and where there is nothing to add put the words “nothing to record” next to that room.  After each room then detail the various ‘non-room’ spaces in the property such as roof, pool, garage, patio, garden, fence etc.  It is quite likely that you will have many sections with the words “nothing to record” next to them, no problem it shows the buyer that you are making every effort to be thorough.

Where there are items listed, add a comment next to each one that indicates what if anything you are going to do about the defect or item.  You basically have three options here and you could indicate each as A B or C next to them with a reference to this at the bottom of the page; (A) to be repaired or replaced by seller before transfer at seller’s expense (B) to be repaired or replaced by buyer at buyer’s cost and discretion (C) No further action to be taken by seller.

A and B are obvious, but let me explain further the purpose of category C.  There are many problems or defects that one just learns to live with because it makes little financial sense to actually do anything about them.  For example, you may have a house built on clay and every year in the dry season the clay contracts and in the winter it swells and this results in minor cracks.  It hardly makes sense to rebuild the house to permanently solve the problem!

This leads me to three more important points about a Disclosure List; property reports, quotes and invoices.  Where you itemise any problem it is preferable not to give a written personal opinion about it but just to remain factual.

A recorded opinion could be confused with a professional opinion such as advice from an architect or a plumber for example so it is best not to add it, however, if you have any professional opinion concerning a defect it should be in writing and this should be attached it to the Defects Disclosure List.  This could for example be an Engineer’s Report.  The other useful document is a quote for a repair.  If you have a problem the buyer will assume the worst in terms of the cost.  It will be in your interest even if you are not going to fix it, to get a quote that hopefully reflects it is not a costly repair.

Recent repairs can be a tricky topic.  If you had something recently fixed or get work done during the marketing or prior to transfer, it is in your interests to make sure this is also disclosed and to attach the receipt to the Defects Disclosure List with the contact details of the person that did the work. If you know you are selling, get the person who effects the repair to note on the invoice before you pay them that they guarantee the work for a period of time and that the guarantee will be in favour of the owner and subsequent owner of the property.

Full disclosure such as I have detailed above together with such additional material such as manuals for appliances being sold with the property or alarm system etc. all provide greater confidence to the buyer.  A house file or at least a Defects Disclosure List builds confidence with a buyer and it will protect you as a seller.

 

Ten Tips About Property Improvements and Repairs When Selling  
– Andre de Villiers

Probably the most frequent advice in respect of marketing residential property that I have been asked from sellers is about getting things done before selling.

These are ten improvements and suggestions that you should consider before selling your property:

  • Paint areas that need it and in the process repair holes and cracks in walls and ceilings. Use a neutral colour but not white which can scream ‘repainted recently’
  • Get all faulty appliances being included in the sale fixed and cleaned or remove them.
  • Fix those small things like taps that drip and any loose fittings.
  • Replace worn carpeting.  Nothing says neglect like a worn carpet!
  • Replace any broken windows.
  • Repair or replace any roof tiles that even look odd.
  • If you not leaving your light fittings replace then now with something that is staying.
  • The pool must sparkle or it will look like trouble
  • If anything is ‘illegal’ – remove it (often there are extensions running to a braai spot etc. – just remove the wiring properly)
  • If there is a problem and you are not going to do anything about it insist that the agent has a Defects List which should be available during the marketing.A Defects List shows honesty and creates confidence!  Disclosure will protect you later from liability as long as it is full disclosure.

Once you sell something you will have to still accept liability for any hidden defect if you did not reveal it and you knew about it.  You cannot rely on the sales contract to protect you from the information you do not disclose to the buyer.  That is a misrepresentation.  Likewise, if you affect repairs as suggested above it must not be to hide a problem that still exists, i.e. painting over damp.
Even if the real estate market is very active and you can get away with fewer fix-ups before selling, a home that needs repairs will achieve a lower price.  For a little effort and a small budget, you can remove these negatives that very easily create a poor impression.

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