We live in a digital age where access to information is pervasive, and property buyers are better informed than ever before.
“Today’s buyers are informed, opinionated and intelligent,” says Tony Clarke, Managing Director of the Rawson Property Group. “They know what the market is doing, what they can expect for their money, and have clear priorities when it comes to their future homes. Buyers aren’t going to sit back and have the wool pulled over their eyes, and they aren’t going to compromise on some fundamental aspects.”
While specific feature requests differ from buyer to buyer, the fundamentals cross most neighbourhood boundaries and price brackets. Here are a few of the most common non-negotiables for most buyers:
Fair market value
With the majority of listed properties online these days, it’s a simple task to compare prices of similar properties in alike neighbourhoods. That makes it quite obvious when a seller (or agent) is overpricing a home that can’t support those figures with real value.
“Overpricing has seen many properties stagnate on the market and eventually sell for far less than they’re worth,” says Clarke. “Buyers know what to expect for their money, and if sellers overreach, they’re more likely to get no offers – or cheekily low offers – than asking value.”
Bond costs, transfer and legal fees are undeniably high, which makes buying a property more expensive than just the purchase price. Because of this, more and more buyers are planning to hold onto their purchases for the long haul. Five- to ten-year ownerships are rare. This means more purchases are being made with future growth in mind.
“Buyers are looking for properties that not only offer good financial growth potential, although that is important,” says Clarke, “but also room to accommodate any lifestyle changes they may have within the next five to ten years. This could include room to start a family or rental potential if they move on to bigger and better things. Whatever it is, a plan for the future is a must.”
Good overall condition
“When you buy an expensive second-hand car, you don’t select one with shabby paint or torn upholstery unless you’re a professional restorer,” says Clarke. “Not because those things can’t be fixed, but because it implies a history of neglect. The same goes for properties – buyers who aren’t specifically looking for a fixer-upper want to be certain of good maintenance practices. Any sign of disrepair can create doubt about the underlying condition of the property.”
Modern lifestyle features and security
Renovations are a hassle, not to mention expensive. It’s no surprise that most buyers are looking for houses that already accommodate their lifestyle needs.
“Open-plan living, with a good flow to entertainment areas, is significant these days,” says Clarke. “Houses with old-fashioned floor plans and lots of separate rooms are becoming difficult to sell. Buyers are also starting to look for properties with smaller gardens that have little or no maintenance, due to water restrictions in South Africa.”
Integrated security is also essential, and homes that fall short of neighbourhood standards can put buyers off. If the house next door has burglar bars and electric fencing, sellers may consider installing some as well.
While an increase in work-from-home businesses has seen proximity to CBDs becoming less important for many people, location still features highly on buyers’ non-negotiable lists.
“Modern life is busy, and we don’t have time to drive for hours to get kids to school or go to the grocery store,” says Clarke, “so convenient access to local amenities and freeways has become a common necessity for buyers. Some people prefer city living, some enjoy the suburban lifestyle, but all of them tend to have clear ideas of their ideal location.
For sellers who are concerned that they don’t quite meet these lofty standards, Clarke stresses that all hope is far from lost.
“The key to successfully selling lies in strategic marketing and realistic positioning,” says Clarke. “The more must-have requirements you can meet, the better, but very few homes are perfect on all accounts.”