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Home defects – should you fix ’em or leave ’em?

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Is fixing that big-ticket item, or simply cleaning the walls, going to help speed up the home sale?

Is fixing that big-ticket item, or simply cleaning the walls, going to help speed up the home sale?

The average cost of repairs when selling a home is estimated at about R40,000, according to HouseCheck inspectors. And at least 80% of this number is due to neglected maintenance.http://hometimes.co.za/advertise-with-hometimes/

With this in mind, is it better to fix defects before listing and will doing this result in a quicker sales process?

Steve van Wyk, Seeff’s MD in Centurion, says in many cases sellers do not have sufficient finance to fix problems and in these circumstances they would drop the listing price. “A house in immaculate condition definitely sells quicker,” he says. “The drop in price by the buyer for a home with defects is about 3% to 5%. In most cases the cost of doing the repairs is merely thumb sucked and on rare occasions do they get a quote.”

Van Wyk’s Seeff counterpart, Gerhard van der Linde, MD for the agency in Pretoria East, advises sellers to touch up, neaten and declutter the house before they put it on the market. “First impressions count, and if they are unfavourable, it is difficult to get potential buyers enthusiastic about the property,” he says, noting that buyers will often use minor defects to renegotiate the price down to more than what it potentially could have cost the seller to repair. “We do not recommend major repairs such as replacing the flooring.

“Remember that properties are mostly sold voetstoots, but the seller has an obligation to disclose to the agent/purchaser any latent defects that he/she may be aware of.”

Even homes in the high-end, luxury category are put on the market with defects. Brendan Miller, CEO of the Atlantic Seaboard franchise for Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty, says that while most homeowners keep up with basic maintenance and are generally quick to fix big-ticket, urgent things like defective geysers, two areas of neglect most often encountered include damp and roof leaks.

The massive double-volume inside the four-bedroom Ranjesfontein home on the market for R7,250m. http://bit.ly/1YKJlOs

The massive double-volume inside the four-bedroom Ranjesfontein home on the market for R7,250m.

“Damp is something many homeowners ignore for years, and unless a roof leak is bad enough to be causing damage inside the house that, too, is often ignored or lightly patched instead of properly repaired,” he says. “There’s no doubt that it’s better to fix things before putting your house on the market if you want to realise a market-related price. Buyers have more faith in what they’re purchasing if there are no obvious problems, and sales tend to be a lot smoother.”

Buyers who pick up problems will tend to look for other issues, which could at best complicate the sale, and at worst sink it.

Do sellers who fix the defects first experience a quicker sales process in general? Judy Venter, owner of MortgageMax Advanced, says this is a myth.

“It is the market and your purchase price that determine how quickly you will sell your property,” she says. “Remember, if you fix it upfront, the prospective buyers might never know what you have fixed. If the seller adjusts their selling price, relative to the defects that need attention, they can still sell relatively in the time/at the same time as another property in the same area would sell. If the seller can properly attend to the defects and this improves the overall view of the property, this could help as it would improve the appeal of the property.”

Venter adds that in general buyers tend to put in offers of 5% to 10% lower than the asking price, especially if there are defects noted.

This leads to potential buyers thumb sucking the amount of money it will take to repair the defects, a number “grossly overestimated”, says HouseCheck CEO John Graham.

“Research reveals that if a buyer suspects defects the buyer will decrease the offer by a multiple of 10 of the buyer’s guesstimate of the cost of repairing the defects,” says Graham, noting that a home inspection can assist both parties in identifying hidden or non-declared defects. “This is one major area in which the home buyer is at risk.”

And it’s not only ordinary individuals who can get caught out by a repair costing more than guesstimated. Agents, too, get it wrong.

“When we bought our house, there was a small 3 foot boundary wall,” says Venter. “Knowing we would want to build a proper wall before moving in, we had a builder come out and quote us on how much a proper boundary wall will cost. Only after breaking down the small wall did we realise there were no foundations, so we ended up paying about double the quoted amount because of the extra costs not worked in initially.”

It would seem fixing defects does indeed speed up a sale. Being upfront about what is wrong with the house can ease the process further.

“By sellers fixing or declaring defects, a high level of trust is created with potential buyers,” says Graham. “Trust creates more certainty and certainty removes hesitation and results in quicker sales.”


27 common defects left for buyers to repair

  1. Minor leaks

  2. Cracks in the pool or old marbelite

  3. Old or peeling paint

  4. Uneven paving due to roots

  5. Dings in cupboard or kitchen doors

  6. Dripping taps

  7. Old worn carpets

  8. Old or broken tiles

  9. Cracked windows

  10. Old stoves or hobs

  11. Gutters broken or in need of new paint

  12. Dated bathrooms or kitchens

  13. Broken irrigation systems

  14. Doors that need varnishing

  15. Overgrown gardens

  16. Damp

  17. Leaking roof

  18. Leaking pipes

  19. Electrical defects

  20. Structural damage (cracks/foundation movement)

  21. Faulty geyser installations

  22. Slight cracking and damp in the walls

  23. Dirty walls

  24. Chipped and peeling paintwork

  25. Weathered roof flashing

  26. Cracked mortar bedding on tiled roof ridges

  27. Rusting roof sheeting

    Plastic overflow pipes (incorrect) shoved into drip tray overflow (also incorrect).

    Poor geyser installations: plastic overflow pipes (incorrect) shoved into drip tray overflow (also incorrect).


David A Steynberg, managing editor and director of HomeTimes, has more than 10 years of experience as both a journalist and editor, having headed up Business Day’s HomeFront supplement, SAPOA’s range of four printed titles, digimags Asset in Africa and the South African Planning Institute’s official title, Planning Africa, as well as B2B titles, Building Africa and Water, Sewage & Effluent magazines. He began his career at Farmer’s Weekly magazine before moving on to People Magazine where he was awarded two Excellence Awards for Best Real Life feature as well as Writer of the Year runner-up. He is also a past fellow of the International Women’s Media Foundation.

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