Looking to sell your property? Here’s how to up the asking price

Wednesday March 2 2016

When thinking of selling your home, the best decision you can make is to invite a real estate agent over to check out the property. PHOTO | NATION

When thinking of selling your home, the best decision you can make is to invite a real estate agent over to check out the property. PHOTO | NATION 

By LUKORITO W JONES
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Whether it is the house you have lived in for two decades or the parcel of land that is currently a coffee plantation, the road to selling your property can be long and dreary. At times what you initially thought would sell like hot cakes fails to attract buyers, forcing you to sell your property at below-market value.

However, this need not be the case. According to real estate experts who spoke to DN2,  there are a few smart upgrades and fixes  that won’t cost you much money, but they could help you dispose of your property for much more than you might have anticipated. Below are some: 

Consult

“When thinking of selling your home, the best decision you can make is to invite a real estate agent over to check out the property,” says Mr Gilbert Kibire, a gazetted valuer at a Westlands-based real estate firm, Icon Valuers Ltd.

The expert will point out the areas that need to be adjusted in order to push up the price. You might also need to hire an interior designer to suggest improvements such as paint colours and placement of fittings, which can go a long way in improving the look and feel of your home, thereby boosting its price.

“The value added by consulting with a professional from the real estate sector cannot be overstated,” says Mr Kibire. 

Painting alone won’t cut it

You might feel that giving your home a new look with a fresh coat of paint is enough, but professionals say you will have to do a tad bit more in order to impress potential home buyers.

“While it surely helps the aesthetics, painting alone will not add significant value to your property, says Mr Kibire.

Valuer Paul Matumbi, the CEO of Prudential Valuers, agrees.

“In Nairobi, the minimum value of a home is Sh5 million. The cost of painting such as house, which is usually less than Sh100,000, is an insignificant fraction to the buyer,” he explains. 

Focus on the fittings

Putting in modern fixtures and fittings, the two experts agree, is the magic wand that will see the buyer fork up to 25 per cent more than the market value for your home.

In the kitchen, you could install kitchen cabinets or even an entire kitchen unit. Install built-in wardrobes in the bedrooms, cupboards and shelf units in the living room and perhaps an air conditioning system as well. 

Go green

“We are in an era in which energy-efficient buildings are considered lucrative and hence fetch more money,” states Mr. Kibire.

“By introducing a solar panel to help heat water and produce extra energy, a homeowner will find the investment worth it when recouping the money by selling the house at a higher price,” Mr Matumbi concurs. 

Incorporate modern trends

If you are selling a house that was built decades ago, it is your responsibility to spruce it up and accommodate the trends that modern homeowners are looking for.

“Traditionally, the kitchen and the dining room are separate adjacent rooms connected by a small serving window. But people who come to us looking to buy houses prefer the American style, where the kitchen and the dining room are one. A traditional home owner might consider halving the wall that separates the two rooms,” the Icon Valuers chief executive says.

When it comes to the Kitchen, , Mr Kibire suggests that one could consider replacing the normal slab work surfaces with granite, which is trendier. The soft board ceiling boards whose white paint tends to peel off should also go. Replace it with gypsum.

Instead of ordinary paint, consider wallpaper, which is becoming increasingly popular.

Ordinary transparent windows are best replaced with newer, one-way versions that eliminate the need for blinders. 

Instill a sense of security

“With the country becoming increasingly insecure, many potential home-buyers are interested in homes fitted with state-of-the-art security systems. This is especially so with foreigners who visit our firm looking to settle in the country,” reveals Mr Kibire.

Some of the security add-ons to consider could include biometric locks that operate via finger-prints and an intercom and video surveillance system that will enable a home-owner to see and communicate with visitors before they enter the compound.

How about an extra room?

With some creativity, a homeowner might be able to create a new room in under a week. With some hard boards, one can easily create say, a nursery next to the master bedroom. A study room is another  that can be added inexpensively.

Building an entire extension to the main home or a detached unit like a servant’s quarters can also earn you big bucks. However, as valuer Matumbi points out, changes to the original building plans must be approved by the county government.

“Most extensions to buildings around the city are illegal but have managed to stand for years due to lack of good policing by the county government officials,” he adds. 

Enhance the outdoor experience and boost the curb appeal

Any real estate agent worth his or her salt will tell you that one of the most important factors in selling your home is making sure it has curb appeal. This is the attractiveness of a property when viewed from the street.

Here, landscaping is paramount. So get a professional who will plant for you an eye-catching garden and take care of the lawn. Mr Kibire suggests  that you go the extra mile and install an external water feature such as a fountain. “The ‘awe-value’ of a water fountain will easily transform into a higher value,” says the bachelor of land economics graduate.

Meanwhile, Mr Matumbi suggests that you install a patio umbrella with seats underneath. This, he says, can  serve as an outdoor dining room. You might  also consider putting up a grass-thatched gazebo. 

Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes

According to Mr Kibire, the roof is what a prospective buyer looks at first, even before he checks out the compound. Thus, he insists, every home seller should strive at modernising their roof.

But Mr Matumbi considers the floor is the deal breaker. So how do you decide?

What do you consider the most important aspect when looking for a house? Think like your potential buyers and you will instantly identify areas to improve on. 

Consider the location

While following the improvement tips above, be careful not to break the bank lest you end up spending more than the increase in value. Take note of prices for similar houses in your neighbourhood so you that you don’t end up upgrading your house to a scale that will outprice it for the locality.

To better understand what your home is worth after remodelling, you might want to talk to a real estate agent first.

 

SPRUCING LAND FOR SALE

And here are tips to help you add value to your land

Curb appeal counts here too

When selling land, it might prove worthwhile to clear the bushy vegetation and make it neat and easy on the eye. Simply clearing overgrown shrubs or removing unsightly garbage will have a significant impact.

Speaking at his office at Fortis Towers in Westlands, Mr Kibire says that, if you are selling land in a place with rugged terrain, it will pay off handsomely to hire a bulldozer to flatten the land.

Even fencing off your land with barbed wire will significantly up its value as it provides a sense of privacy and security. 

Money can grow on trees

If you are looking to sell your land a few years down the line, consider planting trees along the perimeter line. Just ensure that the trees do not block a scenic view. On the flipside, you can block an unsightly view by planting fast-growing trees.

Trees, valuer Itumbi says, not only make your land more sellable by adding beauty, but also provide a sense of privacy, as well as help reduce unwanted noise.

According to the realtor, land with sufficient greenery sells at 30 per cent more than bare land in the area. 

Utilities

If your budget allows, you can be sure to attract more buyers by connecting the plot to the power grid. You can also connect water as well as sewerage and drainage facilities. For buyers, properties with such utilities are the ideal choice.

In areas that are off the water grid, digging a borehole will turn out to be a worthwhile investment. “While digging a borehole costs anywhere between Sh3million and Sh5 million, it has proved to be a very popular utility, with land buyers willing to pay Sh10 million or even more,” says Mr Kibire. 

Improve access

Land that is locked by surrounding parcels can be difficult to sell if it is difficult access, and its value will drop significantly. If you are  faced with such a situation, it might be time to speak to the owners of the neighbouring land so you can draft a formal agreement that will see you build a road to make your land more accessible.

Having a concrete driveway is ideal. However, the much cheaper option of using gravel could be considered.  

Subdivide the land

The legalities involved in the change of user procedures, say from agricultural to commercial use, can be long and costly. As such, valuer Matumbi explains,  a land seller who conducts the process by him/herself will get a higher price from land buyers who wish to avoid the rigmarole.

The land owner can thus  subdivide the land in accordance with the zoning regulations as opposed to selling the land as a block to one buyer.

The sellable land, Mr Matumbi says, becomes diminished in terms of size as the seller has to set aside land for roads and public amenities. However, the smaller subdivided plots are easily affordable to many buyers and the demand goes up, thus netting more profits.

“A gated community with a single entry point will fetch higher prices,” adds Mr Kibire. 

Have effective drainage

A vacant plot that does not drain well and holds standing water from flooding or heavy rains can wash away profit. Consider digging trenches that will help drain the water from your land, thereby making it more suitable for building or agricultural use. 

Hold off on the structures

A person seeking to sell a bare  parcel of land might be tempted to put up a small structure like a pit latrine or a barn so that they can add it to the total value in the hope of getting a higher profit. However, Mr. Kibire advises against doing this, saying it might turn out to be counter-productive.

“People set out to buy vacant land because they want the freedom to use it the way they please. An added structure, whether permanent or temporary, will add little value to the land and might actually turn buyers off,” he says. 

Location, location, location

“When all is said and done, there are three main factors that supersede any other when it comes to determining the price of land. These three factors are location, location and location,” says Mr Kibire.