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Tips for first-time sellers

The trials and tribulations of first-time buyers are well-known and frequently discussed, but first-time sellers often face an equally stressful and emotional experience when they decide to move on from their first home.

Standing on the other side of the property fence as a seller offers a very different perspective on sales proceedings, and knowing what to expect – and how to prepare – can make a world of difference to the eventual outcome.

“There are some very fundamental differences in perspective when it comes to buyers and sellers,” says Schalk van der Merwe, franchisee of the Rawson Property Group Helderberg sales franchises.

“Buyers tend to be relatively objective, while sellers have years of memories attached to their properties. These can colour their expectations and create friction down the line if they’re not mentally and emotionally prepared.”

Distancing yourself from the emotional aspect of selling your very first home isn’t easy, and Van der Merwe recommends taking things step by step to minimise the stress levels and keep a smile on your face.

Here are his tips to getting things moving in the right direction:

  • Step 1: Choose the right agent

“Your real estate agent should be your partner throughout the process of selling your home,” says Van der Merwe, “starting long before you list your property, and continuing all the way through to finalising the sale and beyond.”

Because you’ll be working closely with your agent over an extended period of time, try to find someone you trust, with whom you have a good rapport. It’s also essential that they are active and knowledgeable in your neighbourhood if they’re going to provide useful insights into the market in which you’ll be competing.

“Don’t be afraid to pay a visit to a few agents before making a decision,” says van der Merwe.

“Get a feel for their history in your area and their approach to sales before choosing the best fit for your needs. It’s always better to have one, great agent representing you than to have several less motivated agencies sharing the mandate.”

  • Step 2: Outline your reasons for selling

As a first-time seller, it’s likely that you’re putting your property on the market because you’ve outgrown your starter home, but finances, a new job, another property that’s caught your eye, or a variety of other circumstances could also be affecting your decision.

“The reasons behind your sale often influence things like your timeline and price expectations,” says Van der Merwe, “so make sure you communicate them to your real estate agent so that the necessary arrangements can be made.”

  • Step 3: Work out your priorities

The outcome of Step 2 will help you assess your priorities for your sale – whether price is more important than speed, or a quick sale is worth more to you than getting top dollar.

“Always remember that properties lingering on the market longer than average do tend to gain a bit of a stigma amongst buyers,” says Van der Merwe, “so while your situation may not require extreme haste, good momentum should always be the goal.”

  • Step 4: Set your price

Price is often considered the main factor contributing to the speed of a sale – the closer to fair market value you list at, the faster buyers will jump on board. Of course, setting this value is as much an art as it is a science, and good agents need to be able to weigh up not only market data, but buyer preferences and trends as well.

“This is where using an agent who is active in your neighbourhood really helps,” says Van der Merwe, “since they’ll know exactly what buyers are looking for in properties like yours and how much they’re willing to pay. Having access to large databases of property information, as most well-known agencies do, also helps, but there’s more to valuing a property than just crunching the numbers.”

  • Step 5: Implement any necessary repairs and cosmetic upgrades

The last big decision you’ll need to make, is where and what to fix or upgrade in your home before opening its doors to prospective buyers. Here, too, your real estate agent should be an excellent source of advice.

“It’s very difficult to be objective when it comes to flaws in your home,” says Van der Merwe.

“We all get used to the individual quirks of our properties and either stop noticing them, or consider them insignificant. Buyers, however, can feel very differently when viewing a property with fresh eyes, so it’s vital to get an objective opinion on any repairs or upgrades that could be necessary before you try to sell.”

A good rule of thumb is to fix anything that’s obviously broken, including appliances, fixtures and fittings, and hairline cracks in ceilings and walls. Make sure all your light bulbs, windows and door handles work, and give any grubby looking walls a lick of paint. Bathroom and kitchen renovations can add value – but not necessarily enough to be worthwhile in every case, so talk to your estate agent before kicking off any major renovations.

  • Step 6: Stage your home, and let the buyers come to you

With all your objectives laid out, your priorities in order, and your home in ship shape, the only thing left to do is declutter and add a few simple touches to your home before show day.

“If a buyer can imagine themselves living in your home, you’re halfway to a sale already,” says van der Merwe, “so try to depersonalise and declutter, while showing off the lifestyle benefits your property provides.”

There’s no denying that selling your first home can be a little overwhelming at the outset, but with the right real estate agent by your side, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be a smooth and hassle-free process.

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