Advice and Opinion

Winter: a good time to buy and to sell

Zwaanswyk Lew Geffen Sotheby's
This immaculate Zwaanswyk home with its beautiful lush green garden is an excellent example of a property that will attract buyer interest in winter – or at any time of year. The price is R17.95 million.

Conventional wisdom says that winter is a bad time to market your home, but with fewer homes on the market there’s a good chance more buyers will be viewing yours.

“Sellers are likely to achieve sale prices closer to the listing prices, especially for properties that are well maintained. Ideally, the property should be in a good state of repair to make it immediately habitable,” says Sandy Geffen, executive director of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty in South Africa.

She adds that for well-priced properties in good condition there are buyers year round – and not just in summer.

Dawn Bloch, area specialist for Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty in Lakeside, Kirstenhof and Zwaanswyk says sellers believe that spring and summer are the most popular times to look for a new home and often wait to list their properties then, so buyers may have fewer homes to choose from in winter.

“But you could potentially get a much better deal too, because home owners who are selling in this season are often more willing to negotiate. Also, most sellers will appreciate the fact that people willing to brave the winter weather to view their home are probably serious buyers, and their offer is worth considering,” she says.”

And house hunting during winter can be advantageous for buyers willing to brave the cold weather, as there will most probably be fewer other buyers searching, and much less competition when making an offer on a great home.

Other advantages to buying in winter are that when viewing a home in worst weather conditions, it’s easy to see if there are any leaks in the roof and if the plumbing, insulation and electrical systems all work properly.

Moving is also cheaper in winter, Geffen says, because it is a quiet period for removal companies and they tend to discount their prices. You will probably also have more flexibility when it comes to choosing a moving date.

Geffen offers the following tips for sellers who want to get their homes ready for sale in winter:

  • Make sure gutters are parallel to the roof edge and not sagging. Clear out leaves and branches and clean out any blockages in downpipes and make sure they are draining properly;
  • Scan ceilings for damp marks that may indicate roof leaks. Above floor level, crystallisation and or mould on walls are signs of rising damp, which must be attended to;
  • Wooden window frames should be regularly varnished, as rotting and split wood will be a source of leaks, and loose or creaky timber floors may be a sign of structural weakness;
  • If you have a fireplace, stack it with wood and pine cones. A gas fireplace may also be a good investment;
  • A fresh coat of paint and new carpets or flooring will add a new touch to any home and this cost should be factored into the sale price;
  • Staging your home to show it at its absolute best is equally important in rain or shine, which is why our agents will advise sellers about the proper approach to preparing their homes for show day;
  • Finally, remember that less is usually more and it’s the little things that can make the most difference. Make sure wood is polished, your home is filled with elegant aromas rather than the smell of cat litter and always declutter before show day.

Geoffrey Jäck, managing director of waterproofing and construction company Indawo, says you can paint the interior and even the exterior of your home during the rainy season.

“For exteriors you needn’t wait for the dry summer months, but if you find evidence of leaks, it is best to consult a reputable and industry-compliant water-proofer,” he says.

“Besides the obvious, like not painting while it is actually raining, or starting to apply your first coat when it is clear rain will start falling in the next hour or two, keeping an eye on the weather patterns will provide sufficient breaks in the rainfall to allow you to apply the first, and subsequent coats.”

Jäck says contractors may even offer discounts or reduced rates during the rainy season to keep their workforce busy. So although the project may take a little longer to complete due to the longer periods required for coats to dry, there could be a financial benefit in commissioning painting work during this time.

Geffen concludes: “In the Western Cape, gardens often look their best during the rainy winter season, so sellers should seriously consider not waiting for summer to put their homes on the market.”