Prospective buyers today know more than ever before. They have a mass of information at their fingertips, and as soon as they decide to buy in an area they study the area, using their budget to determine exactly what they should be able to get for their money. They know the right questions to ask and demand the right answers.
This means that it has become even more important for sellers to set the correct asking price when placing their home on the market.
“There is a very close correlation, though, between a property’s uniqueness and size of the buyer pool, which shrinks substantially the higher the property rates on the ‘interesting’ scale, and this can impact both return on investment and length of time on the market,” cautions Sandy Geffen, executive director of Sotheby’s International Realty South Africa. “That said, unusual features can have great appeal, especially when the general characteristics of the home are in line with current trends.”
Adrian Goslett, regional director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, says that sellers are prone to believing their homes are worth what they paid for it plus the cost of any additions and renovations made, but it’s not always so straight forward.
“Upgrades and renovations are all subjective and are often based on personal taste and requirements,” explains Goslett. “It all depends on the buyer’s perception of how much value the improvements have added to the property.”
This is where it becomes difficult; sellers can’t please every potential buyer. Tastes and trends are so varied that everyone viewing your property will each love and hate something. What hasn’t changed, though, is the impact the appearance of a property has on the speed of sale and final price achieved.
So which design features will hit just the right note with your buyers?
The right kind of different
Kobus Venter and Marc Maron, area specialists for Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty in Johannesburg’s Waverley, Oaklands and Norwood both agree that buyers are looking for a little bit of uniqueness. “People want something that sets a home apart from just an average box like hundreds of others, so details like bay windows or perfectly placed balconies can be very attractive to buyers,” they say.
According to Grahame Diederick, manager-principal for Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty in Midrand, features such as hidden wine cellars, home automation systems, exquisite entertainment areas and luxurious spa bathrooms are some of the state-of-the-art features clinching deals in recent years.
“More common features also excite buyers though,” adds Diederick. “One of the most noticeable trends in our area at the moment is fold-back patio doors because they allow for spacious living and entertainment areas.”
Light and space
“The most popular Norwood home listing averaged 300 internet views per month and it sold because of the volume and feeling of lightness and space added by extra-high ceilings,” explains Venter and Maron.
Steve Thomas, Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty Franchise Manager for False Bay and Noordhoek agrees. “The features most commonly at the top of Cape Town’s prospective buyers’ wish lists are open-plan living areas and lots of natural light,” he adds. ““In Cape Town people also prefer to live north-facing, which is largely related to the two main weather influences: Warmth and sunshine, and protection against the south-east wind.”
Thomas says that another regular on the wish lists of buyers is eco-friendly systems that save water and reduce the cost of energy.
The eco-friendly trend is also enjoying renewed interest in Pretoria, according to Juanita du Plessis, estate specialist for Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty in Pretoria East. “While green living is by no means a new idea, it is certainly gaining in popularity, especially in new builds when it’s easier to install most of the systems,” she says. “LED lighting, solar geysers and water tanks are some of the most commonly requested and installed features.”
Beautifully finished kitchen and bathrooms
More emphasis is being placed on quality kitchen counter tops and cupboards with solid wood. “Minimalist contemporary lines are most popular,” adds du Plessis. “While marble tops, although pricey and not for all budgets, are making a strong comeback.”
The same goes for bathrooms with buyers loving minimalistic designs, solid wood vanities and monochrome colour schemes.
As beautiful as your elaborate, fragrant and colourful garden may be, it’s not for every buyer. “Large gardens used to be strong selling points, but buyers are increasingly seeking more compact gardens that need less attention, use less water and offer more security,” explains Venter and Maron.
Nowadays, low-maintenance, water-wise gardens are top of the list when it comes to outdoor space. In fact, practicality really is the top consideration for most; many buyers now prefer a borehole to a pool, and are far more likely to buy a certain home because of its proximity to their place of work, kids’ schools or regular shops.
These five elements are all features that are likely to increase the perceived value of your home to buyers, and while they are all on varying ends of the spectrum when it comes to ease of implementation, these are all features that are likely to help you sell your home faster.
Goslett of RE/MAX agrees, emphasising the fact that it is important for sellers to look at the facts and figures and consider their home objectively before pricing it, or deciding to undertake specific updates or additions in preparation for selling.
“It is important to keep in mind that buyers are comparing each of the properties they view; a home offering the same perceived value, at a higher asking price than the competition, will not compare well.”
Considering this it becomes clear that homeowners and sellers need to keep abreast of trends and constantly weigh up any alteration or update based on the “unique/time on market” scale and added perceived value. However, the experts agree that there are some changes that are required, or your home will just be hard to sell.
The hard-to-sell features
- Facebrick homes: Even with a nicely renovated interior buyers may still be put off by the lack of curb appeal.
- Old red roof tiles: Grey is now a very popular, on-trend colour for roofs.
- Security concerns: A garage too far away from the entry to the home, a lack of basic security features, and something as simple as an overgrown garden.
- Dated interiors: Bright walls in yellow and red are not popular anymore and can put off buyers. The same goes for rooms decorated with traditional wallpaper and wall-to-wall carpeting.
So how should a seller know what price to realistically demand, and what upgrades and additions will add true value for sellers?
As Goslett points out, there is no exact science to pricing a home. A comparative market analysis is a good starting point but does not take into consideration unique, differential features. Before setting a price all of these aspects must be considered, not forgetting to provide for current market conditions.
And while pricing the property is only the last obstacle before listing, your agent can definitely help you when deciding if upgrades or additions should be made, what to focus on and ultimately, if it’s worth the money you will have to invest.
“Owners of older properties will do well to seek advice on inexpensive quick fixes and current trends before listing their homes,” says Geffen. “Simple measures like a fresh coat of paint and replacing dated taps and cupboard handles could make a significant difference to the final sale price as well as how long a property remains on the market.”
In the end, it’s actually rather simple: The value of a home is determined by what a buyer is prepared to pay for it. So before deciding on any projects weigh up the investment against the potential return; if it’s likely to push up the sale price by a few thousand more than you spent, it’s worth the time and effort.