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First-time seller: These two skills will help you pick your agent

Let’s be honest: Selling your first home is probably more stressful than buying your first home. You now have to decide on a price, going with an agent or privately, what is a fair commission, and how you want your home (with all its precious memories) marketed to potential buyers. So much can go wrong and if you’re not prepared for any hiccup, you stand to lose a lot of money or risk your listing battling to sell due to becoming stale on the market.

We recommend using an estate agent to help you through the process – they do this on a daily basis, have relationships with bond originators, conveyancing attorneys and, believe it or not, stand to lose out financially if they do not manage to sell your home.

But with around 25,000 estate agents in South Africa, the vast majority of whom are in the metropolitan regions, how do you filter out the wheat from the chaff? How do you find that special agent who is professional, courteous and caring, while at the same time understands your suburb trends, selling your type of property and knows how to translate your home’s special features into a tantalising and call-to-action description?

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Your first stop has to be any one of the country’s favourite property portals – this is where between 65% and 85% of buyers and tenants begin their search.

Think of the property portal as a mall and listing after listing as the shop windows vying for your attention: If the price is right and its number of rooms and features matches your needs, what is it that leads you to click on a specific listing over the one below or above it?

proerty portalSimple: Its cover photo. Whoever coined the phrase: a picture is worth a thousand words was right: As humans we rely on our eyesight more than any of our other senses! If the agent has chosen a good enough photo to lure you in, the next five seconds determine whether you will contact the agent or click back and view a different listing.

Picture this: You see the most beautiful cover photo and click on it; but once you explore the home further you see towel rails with wet, skew-hanging bath towels, an exposed washing basket with the owner’s dirty laundry available for the whole world to see, and a close-up photo of the corner in one of the rooms (you don’t know which room it is, why you are looking at it, or if the agent even meant to photograph it). You are the weakest link, goodbye!

No Shakespeare requiredwilliam shakespeare

Let’s say you click on a listing and all the photos are beautifully taken, with the home neatened and in pristine condition (even if there is a pile of washing standing a metre off the ground behind the photographer), your next grading tool is the property’s description.

“Two bedroom, one-bathroom apartment on the second floor of a well-run complex” is perfectly fine. It’s not going to win any Pulitzer Prizes but it’s simple and to the point.

“Two bedrroom 1 bath flat 2nd floor of wellrun comeplex” is just not good enough. Spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, shorthand, inconsistent use of digits and written out numbers have a devastating effect on the listing’s quality. Because we are all taught basic language skills, we know the difference between the correct way of writing and the incorrect way. Have you ever read a book or a magazine article and the same word was printed printed next to the other, or you spotted a glaring spellling mistake? What was the next thing you did as you continued to read the article? You focused your attention on spotting more errors, not the point the author was trying to make. This happens because humans have problem-solving brains; when we spot an errrror, we feel good about ourselves and continue to look for more.

The point is, if the listing description is littered with errors, the reader (your potential buyer) is left feeling negative about the prospect of dealing with your agent – if your agent couldn’t even bother to have a native-language speaker read over and correct any errors, what kind of service are you going to get as a buyer?

So, dear first-time seller, visit a portal, search for listings in your suburb with property characteristics similar to yours and begin culling the photographically and grammatically challenged agents. Chances are you will be left with a small pool of excellent, competent, professional agents to interview for the opportunity of selling your home.

* No copy editors were harmed in the writing of this article


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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