Selling Your Home - Your Best Practices by Katherine Sullivan

 

Selling Your Home - Your Best Practices by Katherine Sullivan

Even if you love your home, life brings about changing needs and wants. Whether you are downsizing, scaling up, or simply need a change of scenery, there will most likely come a time to part with your home.
 
Putting your home on the market need not be a painful task. Several real estate experts in East Africa shared their insights with H Magazine for making the most out of your home sale and navigating the murky waters of the region’s housing market.
 
Know where you stand
Before putting a home on the market, it is important to know exactly why you are selling. Changing houses is no small task, and is something that should always be a family-wide decision, not just a one-person decision.
 
“Unfortunately”, says Peter Lutwamba, managing Director of Plut Properties, a Kigali-based real estate company, “the reason most people sell their home is because they need money.”
 
An important thing to realize, say real estate agents, is that selling your home will not provide instant monetary reward. In order to make a good sale, you will need to invest a little bit of money into the process. Be sure to clear any outstanding utility bills and ensure that all your legal documents are in order.
 
Other considerations include your timeframe and your asking price. Knowing the least amount of money you are willing to sell for can help agents advise you on selling practices. Keep in mind though, that if you’re looking to sell for a high price, it may take slightly longer.
 
With regard to pricing, “Be flexible”, advises Lutwamba. “If you are realistic with your price, you will sell within a couple of million francs.”
 
Belinda Kakazi at Property Mode in Kigali has similar advice: “Most people put the highest price possible, not the realistic price. If you do that, be ready to negotiate.”
 
The situation is similar in Uganda. Sharon Kamayangi, a Leasing Agent with the internationally recognized real estate company Knight-Frank, explains that clients “usually don’t want to follow the market value and just set up a sale price to sort out their problems or meet their needs”.
 
Unwillingness to negotiate to take current market prices into account could result in a much lower sale out of desperation. “Most people don’t sell because they aren’t flexible. Often, they end up selling for much less, months later, and then what the agent advised them up front”, says Kakazi.
Having your house decorated and looking good will promote the asking price.
Agent or no agent?
 
In trying to make the most out of their home sale, many people try to sell on their own, without contacting an agent. Both Lutwamba and Kakazi, General Manager at Property Mode, a large real estate and consulting agency in Kigali, say that many of their clients approach them after trying—and failing—to sell their property on their own.
 
There are some misconceptions about real estate agents; the largest one being that an agent will try and talk you into selling your home for less than it is worth.
 
While the price that an agent advises you on may be lower than you wish for, it is not because they are trying to swindle you. On the contrary, an agent’s commission is a percentage of the sale he or she makes, and so agents are incentivized to sell for as high as the market allows.
 
The time and energy saved by hiring an agent to manage your home sale is inestimable. As professionals, they have the network and the know-how that others simply do not. “These guys know everyone who is buying and selling”, says Kakazi. “Even if you are only thinking of selling your home and haven’t put it on the market yet, they know someone who will want to buy it.”
 
Agents will do only as much as clients wish them to. Clients can give their agents full control over the sale, showing, and negotiations of their house. Others may only want their agent to bring them prospective clients, and then will take the rest of the process from there. The good thing is that it is all up to you.
 
Some real estate agencies, like Property Mode, require clients to sign exclusivity clauses, meaning that they will not list their property with other agencies. Others, like Plut, do not require such agreements, and allow you to list with anyone else you with. The perks of an exclusivity agreement are the simplicity it allows: you will work with one agent, instead of juggling several. Ultimately, listing with an exclusive agency or with non-exclusive agency is the preference of the client.
 
Kakazi admits there is a lack of professionalism in the real estate agent field in the region, especially in Kigali’s small nascent market. She is pushing for a national law that would protect both the client and the agent in the transaction.
 
While the housing market is a bit more developed and diversified in Kampala, Uganda still lacks national laws regulating the real estate sector. But Kamayangi explains that a real estate body called AREA is currently advocating for such laws
Learn what you need to do at the Property Forum

The price is right
Setting a price for your home is not easy. There is always the option to use the services of a professional valuer. Lutwamba explained, though, that most people do not go through the valuation process when selling their home. Homeowners are required to do so when securing a loan for the house from a bank, and so they will often refer back to this previous valuation.
 
Property Mode requires a professional valuation as part of their services. Kakazi explained that they do both a technical valuation of the structure, and a market valuation. “People assume they can sell their house for the amount of money they need, but there are times in the market when real estate value depreciates”, she said. Real estate agents will be watching the market and will know when the perfect time to sell is.
 
The good news for those selling their homes in Rwanda is that real estate is overall very expensive. With a small market and with the country facing a housing shortage, properties sell for more than they would elsewhere in the region.  In addition, building materials tend to be more expensive in landlocked Rwanda.
 
In Kampala, as well as Dar es Salaam and Nairobi, a larger market means more variety. While you can find higher-end, waterfront properties in Kampala that sell for far more than high-end houses in Kigali, there is also a greater selection of middle-end housing options. Overall, Lutwamba feels, in larger cities like Kampala you get a “better value for your money” than in Kigali.
 
But Kigali may very well catch up to other parts the region. “I envisage the market in Kigali going down soon”, says Lutwamba. “There are a lot of developments coming up, estate building is still pretty new, some affordable housing projects are in the plans…to be precise, there will be more variety.”
 
When it comes to pricing your home, most of it will come down to three things: location, location, and location. Because cities in the region are changing at such a fast rate, “the buyer is mostly buying the location”, explains Lutwamba. In Kigali, with the city’s master plan dictating each neighborhood’s purpose, it is much more about buying the land than the existing structure.
 
Showing it off
While the location of your home will ultimately determine most of your home’s selling price, is there anything that the seller can do to make the home more attractive?
 
“Very few people will put more money into something that they are looking to sell”, says Lutwamba. But both he and Kakazi agree that there are small tasks that can make a house look more attractive to a potential buyer or renter.
 
Kakazi reminds sellers of the importance of showing your home. Buyers need to feel welcome when viewing a potential purchase, and the house should be clean and inviting. This means making necessary minor repairs. Painting a room can make a big difference in how it feels. “If it looks like you care about your home, (buyers) see the value is worth it. I’m buying a home, not just buying a house”, says Kakazi.
 
In addition, ask your agent what kinds of clients are interested in the property. Are people looking to for a home, an office, or another kind of commercial space? Cater to those needs. If a family comes looking for a home, put some food on the stove to make the house smell inviting and feel like a home. If a business comes looking for a new office, arrange the furniture in a way that shows off the functionality of the space.
 
The final important factor in selling your home is basic hospitality. “The way most homeowners treat potential clients is very important”, says Kakazi. “Sometimes people say, ‘eh! This person is wasting my time!’ but they actually have the money. They will not buy home if they are not treated well.”
 
Determining your wants and needs, finding the right agent, and preparing your home to be as inviting as possible are all necessary steps to successful strategy for selling your home. But patience, communication, and hospitality might just be what seals the deal.
Give your home a warm, inviting feeling when people walk in.

 

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