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How to buy property in a seller's market

21 May 2015

The current property market, particularly in Cape Town, is sitting firmly in the sellers’ court. Demand has skyrocketed, prices are climbing and stock is selling faster than it can be listed. This means buyers hoping to buy a house in 2015 are looking at a fast-paced, high-stakes game where good preparation is the only way to successfully compete. 

When you do find a listing that sparks your interest, it’s imperative that you act immediately. Buyers should not wait, and call the seller’s agent immediately and set up an appointment.

This is according to the Rawson Property Group’s Constantia franchisee, Nancy Todd, who says never in her almost 30 years of experience in property, has she seen the market as overheated as it is right now. 

She says properties are listed on the web and sell within hours of being posted. Multiple offers are common, and they’re even seeing offers over the asking price, she says. 

With many properties not making it to a show house, simply finding options to view can be a struggle for buyers. Todd recommends subscribing to updates on property websites, and setting up alerts for listings in your areas of interest on property portals. 

“You can’t afford to miss the boat, so staying on top of new listings as they are posted is a must. Don’t forget about options like auctions either, they can be a great way to find a solid property at a good price.” 

To increase your chances of finding a suitable property, Todd advises broadening your parameters a little. She says you can’t be as selective in a sellers’ market, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find a property that’s a great fit. 

Try searching within a radius of your preferred area, unless you absolutely have to be in a specific school catchment zone, or similar, she says. 

Also, don’t overlook the ugly ducklings with big rooms and lovely gardens, there could be a swan underneath that old-fashioned exterior, and you’ll have a better chance of having your offer accepted if other buyers can’t see the potential that you can, she says. 

When you do find a listing that sparks your interest, it’s imperative that you act immediately. Todd says buyers should not wait, and call the seller’s agent immediately and set up an appointment.

She says come prepared to make a quick decision if necessary. “Make a list of must-haves, nice-to-haves and don’t-wants. That way, you’re clear on your needs and can quickly assess whether a property will work for you or not.” 

If you decide you like the property, she says to strike fast and hard. Offer the full asking price, or even a bit more if necessary. 

Being pre-qualified for a bond can help dramatically in situations like this. You have the benefit of knowing exactly how much you can offer, and the seller can feel confident that the bank will follow through with your bond. 

There are a few additional ways to make your offer more attractive than your competition, and Todd recommends saving up for a good deposit and starting the process of selling your own house right away. 

She says sellers will almost always choose a cash offer over an offer that is subject to the sale of another home. 

There is also an emotional aspect that comes into play with both sellers and buyers, she says. “Sellers often choose a buyer they like, not just the highest offer, so be kind, chat a little, and compliment the seller’s home. Explain why you like the house, it could help tip the odds in your favour.” 

Todd says to make friends with the agent representing the house. Try to be polite, punctual and open with them, and don’t be afraid to ask the agent what you need to do to get your offer accepted, she says. 

It might be as simple as being flexible on occupation dates, she says. A clean offer is also always preferable to one with lots of conditions. 

If you come prepared and are willing to move fast, buying property in a sellers’ market isn’t as difficult as it might seem. As the old saying goes, however, if you snooze, you lose.

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