Yearly Archives: 2013

The good-value kitchen revamp

Everyone knows that a good-looking kitchen is often the deciding factor in a home sale, but what homeowners may not know is that they don’t necessarily have to spend a fortune to create a kitchen that will really impress potential buyers.

For example, if you have steel or wood cabinets that are basically in good shape, a skilled painter can make them look great again by disassembling them, sanding them down, painting them inside and out and reinstalling. At the same time you should fit gleaming new hinges, handles and drawer pulls.

If you decide that the cabinets really need replacing, look around at the in-stock and DIY options available through companies like Builder’s Warehouse  (www.builders.co.za) and Lotters Pine (www.lotterspine.com) before you consider having new cabinets custom made. These outlets also have a great range of readymade cabinet doors in standard sizes that you can fit to old concrete (built in) cupboards to give them a bright modern look.

Next you will need new countertops to go with the revamped or replaced cabinets. Most popular are modern, durable laminates available in a huge range of finishes and much cheaper than tiles or granite. But if you really want a “stone” finish, you should consider Caesarstone (www.caesarstone.co.za), a quartz and resin compound that also comes in a wide range of colours and is very durable.

But before you even think about cabinets and countertops, you need to deal with the basics that will also help to give your kitchen that freshly done look. These include: 

  • Plumbing. You can keep costs down by not changing the position of the sink or the outlets for a dishwasher and/or washing machine. However, you might want to put in a new sink and get a plumber to fit a shiny new mixer or taps.  
  • Electrical outlets and light fittings. Get an electrician to check that all the electrical switches and outlets in your kitchen are safe (especially if they are anywhere near water) and consider installing new cover-plates and even a couple of new outlets if you’re currently using multi-plugs. At the same time, the light fittings can be quickly and easily updated from an extensive selection at stores like the Lighting Warehouse (www.lightingwarehouse.co.za) or one of the Radiant dealers around South Africa (www.radiant.co.za). Pick fittings that are “neutral” or clinical in design, easy to install and preferably use LED globes. 
  • Flooring. Ceramic tiles are the most durable floor surface but they are expensive (and disruptive) to install so if your floor is not already tiled, you should opt for something else. Marley tiles (see www.floorworx.co.za) are a practical choice as they are easy to clean and easily replaced if damaged. For a more luxe look, cushioned vinyl tile or sheeting is an excellent and relatively inexpensive option (see www.belgotexvinyl.com).
  • Walls. Don’t worry if the kitchen walls are not fully tiled. Just repaint with a matt, washable paint in a pale neutral colour (see www.plascon.co.za). And don’t forget the ceiling, which should preferably be white, and the doors and architraves.

Start a toolkit and get hooked for life

You may not be a DIY enthusiast now, but there are many everyday situations you will encounter as a new homeowner or tenant that require you to have at least a few basic tools on hand, and that’s how it starts.

Although you can probably change a plug with a nail file or a knife, it’s a lot easier with a screwdriver – which can also be used for all sorts of other tasks. Similarly, a hammer comes in really handy when trying to hang pictures, and a tape measure is really useful when trying to decide if a new piece of furniture would fit the space you have available.

Besides, the more small repairs and alterations you are able to do yourself, the more money you will save. And there is plenty of how-to advice available on the internet these days, even if you are usually all thumbs. This will of course require you to expand your “repair kit”, and experts suggest you gather at least the following items:

  • A can of Q20 for oiling hinges and unsticking locks
  • A roll of duct tape
  • A pair of pliers and some wire cutters
  • A utility knife
  • A putty knife
  • A straight edge
  • A small spirit level
  • A plunger
  • Some picture wire
  • Some strong string
  • Some cable ties
  • Sandpaper in fine and rough grades
  • Screws and nails in various sizes
  • A bottle of wood glue
  • A can or tube of contact glue
  • A tube of waterproof silicone sealer

Also on your list should be some items that will make your forays into basic home maintenance easier and safer, including some rubber gloves, a strong torch or work light, some safety glasses, a pair of ear protectors, and a first-aid kit.

With this little lot, and some expert advice from your favourite handyman site, YouTube instruction video, or magazine (see www.homehandyman.co.za)‎, you’ll soon be able to take many household items apart, mend them and put them back together, cut cables to length, trim and lay carpet, reseal your bath, change door locks, unblock a sink, and handle a host of other household “chores” that you might previously have paid someone else to do.

The more you do and the more confidence you gain, the more you’ll probably want to do. Successful DIY (yes, that’s what this is now) is known to be addictive, and you’ll know you’re hooked when you start thinking about buying an actual toolbox to hold all your gear.

However, you’d better not buy a small one. The minute you start thinking about putting up shelves, you’ll need space for a drill and possibly a saw or two. And then there’s that electric sander you need to speed up the repainting or revarnishing jobs, the set of Allen keys for assembling flat-pack furniture, more screwdrivers, the rubber mallet, the tile-cutter, a crowbar… you get the idea.

Come to think of it, perhaps what you really need is a workshop.

Getting ready to sell? Don’t forget the garage

Before your home goes on show, you’ll probably spend a lot of time and effort on cleaning, painting, and gardening to make it look “just right” for potential buyers.

And while you’re at it, you shouldn’t forget about you garage, because this is an important amenity for many homebuyers.

If it’s full of boxes, tools, camping equipment, and an assortment of household items – as many garages are – they won’t be able to see where they could park their vehicles, or store their own goods, and while that won’t usually make or break a sale, it could easily detract from the good first impression you’ve worked so hard to create.

You can avoid this by taking the following steps:

  • Have a good clear-out. What’s actually in all those boxes? Gather up everything that you don’t use any more – and probably never will – and sell it, donate it or dump it.
  • Make the most of the available space by getting things off the floor. Any good hardware shop will offer a variety of hooks to hold bikes and other sporting equipment, garden tools, brooms, and umbrellas. Then add some shelves and possibly some wall cabinets for storing hand and power tools, nuts and bolts, pool chemicals, and paint cans, and already things will look much more orderly and uncluttered.
  • Make sure everything is dusted and the floor swept. Use driveway cleaner or thinners to get rid of any oil spots.
  • If you have an automatic garage door opener, make sure that it is working properly, and don’t forget the garage door itself. Giving it a fresh coat of paint or varnish if necessary is an easy step that is bound to enhance the overall “curb appeal” of your home.

Seven reasons why private sellers should not be selling their homes

This week’s article was contributed by John L. Bradfield, and originally appeared on his blog “This ‘n That”. John is a Real Estate professional with 20 years’ experience in this industry. He is based in Hermanus, the whale-watching capital of the world.

At first glance, selling your home privately can seem like an attractive proposition. You’ll save the agents commission, right?

In fact many private sellers are home owners in financial trouble, and are hoping to avoid paying the agent’s fee in order to clear an outstanding mortgage loan without “paying in”.

The reality is that many of these homes end up as “distressed sales”, and are auctioned by the bank at greatly reduced prices.

Sadly, in many of these cases the result can mean even greater financial hardship for the unlucky owners. In some cases the shortfall translates into a long-standing debt that will represent a financial burden for many years to come.

Many of these unfortunate experiences come about because private sellers are misinformed about the role of estate agents and about what an experienced realtor can bring to the process. Without access to relevant data, private sellers sometimes begin by overpricing their homes — based on other overpriced homes in the same area. There are a few pitfalls to avoid. Here are seven of the most important reasons why private sellers should not sell their homes:

7. Lack of time

Selling a house involves a great deal of time. Someone must be on hand to handle all enquiries any day of the week, including weekends, to show the house, work with prospective buyers, and deal with paperwork. You may be working full-time or you could be relocating. You could find it difficult to devote the necessary time to selling your home. This can result in lost opportunities that may be scarce in the current market. A full-time estate agent can devote the necessary time to showing your home, dealing with prospective buyers, and taking care of the paperwork.

6. Lack of objectivity

From a purchaser’s perspective, an estate agent brings an air of objectivity to the sale. One of the reasons that private sellers may find it difficult to deal with potential buyers, is a lack of the required detachment. The private seller’s natural emotional involvement with the home can leave potential purchasers feeling awkward and inhibited while viewing. An estate agent can help to assess potential offers from an objective and expert perspective, offering professional and researched opinions to help overcome the purchaser’s objections in a reassuring way.

5. Lack of security

Private sellers are faced with the problem of giving out their personal information to strangers. As a private seller you will have no screen between you and a potential buyer or a potential scam artist who may be trying to trick you into gaining occupation of your home. Even worse, you may be faced with a criminal inside your home who could try to steal things while looking around, or perhaps “case” the property and security systems for a much bigger crime at a later date. Estate agents deal with potential buyers on an ongoing basis, can preserve your privacy, and can usually tell if something doesn’t feel right, thereby preventing potential problems of this kind.

4. Working with unqualified buyers

In the current market less than 50% of potential buyers will qualify for a home loan. It’s sometimes difficult for private sellers to ask the probing questions that are required to thoroughly check out the financial capabilities of potential buyers. Sometimes a buyer has not properly investigated how much cash is required upfront for the deposit and transfer fees, leading to a failed transaction. A professional estate agent is trained to do a proper assessment that can save time and expense down the line.

3. Paperwork and legalities

Apart from the need to achieve familiarity with sale agreements and other legal documents, private sellers are faced with liability issues when dealing with buyers one-on-one. Laws dealing with property sales have increased and become more complicated in recent times. The new Consumer Protection Act is the most recent example of these.

A professional realtor is trained to deal with these legalities and provides the seller with the security of knowing that these issues will be properly taken care of. When drawing up the Deed of Sale, certain details can be contentious. An experienced estate agent can recognise the pitfalls and traps in any given situation, and do the drafting of special clauses in such a way that both parties are protected from nasty surprises or disappointments later on.

2. Lack of exposure

Private sellers must carry the costs of advertising and marketing, whether they sell their homes or not. Most private sellers don’t have the knowledge or resources to create enough awareness, and for these reasons they will not have the ability to select the most effective advertising methods, and will not have access to a wide enough pool of potential buyers. However, a professional estate agent has access to an existing database of buyers, and to national and international referral and marketing channels.

1. Inexperience in negotiation

Possibly the most important aspect of selling a home involves the concept of price negotiation when an offer is received. The agent’s fee is percentage based, so the bigger the sale, the higher the fee. Typically, buyers approaching a private sale feel that the private seller’s saving in commission should accrue to them, and not to the private seller. A good estate agent is a trained negotiator and is skilled in the art of maximising the selling price of your home. For these reasons an estate agent will often achieve a higher net value than a private seller at the end of the day.

Visit the BetterBond website for more information about bonds and estate agents.

Open Gate in Picket Fence

Tell your sellers: focus on the first impression

Homeowners often ask their estate agents what pre-sale upgrades are likely to give them the best return on their investment, in the form of a higher sale price – and the answer, at the moment, is not a kitchen or bathroom makeover, but exterior updates that improve curb appeal.

This is the finding of the 2012/2013 Cost vs Value Report published by Remodeling magazine, which annually surveys thousands of agents and valuers before listing the 35 most cost-effective home improvement projects for home sellers.

Some of these don’t apply in SA because of the different home construction methods used, but many do, including the one right at the top of the list this year, which is front door replacement – preferably with a steel door. This, it is estimated, will deliver an 85,6% return on expenditure when the home is sold.

Also among the 10 most cost-effective midrange projects were several other exterior upgrades that would be applicable here, including the addition of a wooden deck to the entertainment area (estimated 77,3% return); the replacement of an old garage door with a new one (75,7%); the replacement of steel window-frames with wooden ones (73,3%), the replacement of steel window-frames with vinyl ones (71,2%) and the addition of a composite (non-wood) deck (67,5%).

A minor kitchen remodel, done right, can also bring a good return of around 75%, but both major kitchen and bathroom remodels will give sellers a return on their investment of less than 60%.

In short, the best bet for sellers in the current market is really to focus on improving the “first impression” of their properties. In addition, the magazine notes, the use of durable, low-maintenance materials in the suggested replacement projects appeals to homebuyers who are increasingly looking to reduce both the operational and maintenance costs of their homes.”

Designer pieces for your home

Every dream home needs the perfect designer pieces to accompany it. We’ve compiled our favourite pieces from South African designers and fashionable retailers of designer furniture to give you some ideas to help you complete your home. From reception desks to outdoor loungers, you’re bound to see something you like.

Dream wonderful dreams as you sleep peacefully on this beautiful Oak Queen Pallet Bed. It is a stylish, simple and clean sleeping unit that retails from Weylandts for R5495. It would go well in an industrial, modern home surrounded by beige and white. The recycled pallet look is very fashionable currently, and the wheels make it easy to move (though hopefully they are sturdy, as you wouldn’t want to move around in your sleep!).

This Tuxedo Chair from Herman Miller is exquisitely detailed. It comes either with or without arms, and the price is available on request. It has a sort of retro 70’s feel to it, and could be a nice contrast to an ultra-modern home, or would fit right in with any retro designer home.

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Build the perfect library with your very own stunning Library book shelf from Coricraft. This walnut antique-style bookshelf would be a wonderful addition to any study or lounge. The ladder gives it that ‘old Victorian home’ feel, and it would be great as a shelving unit or book shelf. The book shelf retails at R19995 from Coricraft.

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Make your outdoor area somewhere special with this stunning Voyage Outdoor Daybed by Kenneth Cobonpue. The ‘lounger’ is for sale at Weylandts, and retails from R48,500. Its stylish frame would look great in any outdoor setting, and its comfortable mattress and soft cushioning are ideal for lounging around the pool on those long lazy summer days.

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This Lampung Reception Desk with Burgundy Inlay would make a wonderful addition to any home entrance. It is simple and elegant, with several fine details added to give it the perfect finish.

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