The offer of a lucrative contract in another country or a promotion to a position in another town or city is usually cause for celebration – but can present problems if you have to move in a hurry.
“If you’re a homeowner, for example, you will need to decide whether to sell and be ‘free’, or whether to become a landlord and bank on having a home to come back to in a year or two that may also have appreciated in value,” says Richard Gray, CEO of Harcourts Real Estate.
“Our advice in such instances is that it is less risky to sell if you still have a large bond on the property. For one thing, the costs of operating a rental property are higher than you might expect if you have not been a landlord before, and between these and your bond repayment there may no profit in renting.
“Secondly, if your tenant defaults or absconds, it could put you under severe financial strain if you have to cover the bond instalment on your old home as well as paying rent or another bond instalment in your new home town.”
Gray says that if you do decide to rent out your property, you must be sure to appoint a reputable managing agent – “someone who knows the area well and can advise knowledgably on a realistic rental level, who has a good track record as regards the selection of creditworthy and reliable tenants, and who will see to it that the property is properly maintained in order to protect its value”.
Similarly if you decide to sell, he says, you will need to be very careful in your choice of estate agent, especially if you are going to have to pack up and move before your home is sold. “You will be entrusting a major asset to this person, so you need to be sure they are from an established, reputable company and will always act in your interests. He or she should also be a good communicator who stays in touch and gives you regular feedback about viewings, buyers and the progress of the transaction once the property is sold.”
In addition, there are a number of things you can and should do yourself to ensure that your property remains secure, retains its “kerb appeal” and sells as quickly as possible. These include:
- Installing exterior sensor lights that automatically switch on when it gets dark and switch off at sunrise;
- Leaving the windows curtained;
- Asking a neighbour or friend to clear the mailbox regularly;
- Leaving your security system in place until the house is transferred - although you will need to give your agent the entrance code as well as keys and remotes.
- Arranging for someone to mow the lawn, rake up leaves, water the garden and clean the pool regularly. Your agent should be able to help with this.
- Ensuring before you leave that all the finishes in the house, especially the paintwork, are impeccable, and that everything is spotlessly clean. Prospective buyers will understand a bit of dust in an empty home, but they won’t overlook a dirty oven or a stained carpet.
And finally, says Gray, you should review the provisions of your homeowners’ insurance (HOC). “Many HOC policies offer limited cover if a property is vacant for more than a month and you may find that it is worth your while to hire a guard or a house-sitter until your home is sold.”