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Not sure if you should sell or let your home if you’re emigrating? We turn to property experts for advice

For most people making the move overseas, it is better to sell their home instead of renting it out. Picture: Olia Danilevich/Pexels

For most people making the move overseas, it is better to sell their home instead of renting it out. Picture: Olia Danilevich/Pexels

Published Feb 22, 2022

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If you have decided to emigrate, you probably need to sell your home to help pay for this huge move. But if you don’t need to, there may be a desire to hang on to your property here and rather let it.

This option not only gives you back-up in case your overseas venture does not work out but also allows you to use the property as a holiday home or even one in which to retire.

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The choice of whether to sell or let – for those who have that choice – can be a difficult one. Andrew Golding of the Pam Golding Property group says there is no one-size-fits-all answer.

“It all depends on the individual’s assessment of a number of influencing factors, personal circumstances and choice,” he says.

Read the latest Property360 digital magazine below

Fortunately, the experts do have some advice:

Let it go

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Although your decision depends on your and your family’s financial health, Rawson’s Craig Mott says, in some cases, it is advisable to sell as emigration is already a stressful process and liquidating assets can go a long way to sustaining you through your first year or two in a new country.

“It can also be financially and emotionally distressing to a family/person if they need to spend money maintaining the property.

“If they do not have a trusted agent on their side then they will need to manage tenants on their own from afar and that can be difficult when regular inspections need to be done or when dealing with a defaulting tenant.”

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Chas Everitt’s Berry Everitt agrees the best choice is to sell. “It’s difficult enough to emigrate and adapt to a new life without having to worry about a property in South Africa, what your tenants may be doing, and what problems there may be in terms of erratic municipal services, even if you have an excellent rental property manager.

“If you really want a rental property, rather buy one close to where your new home is.”

Besides, he says, the past two years have not been kind to the rental sector in South Africa.

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“Many tenants are still behind on repaying the rent deferrals granted during the Covid-19 lockdowns and, according to the latest statistics, only about 80% are in ‘good standing’.

“What is more, about 72% of landlords had to settle for lower than-usual rent increases last year – and that is unlikely to change this year because of the rising cost of living, which limits tenants’ ability to absorb increases.”

From the property group’s perspective, it is also becoming difficult to find quality tenants. “We have strict income, employment and payment record verification procedures in place to protect our landlords and, in some areas, up to 70% of prospective renters are not making it through these checks.”

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Hang on to your home

If you do, however, want to keep your property and let it, Everitt says you should never try to manage your property from a distance without the help of a qualified and experienced rental manager who you trust.

Mott says you also need to prepare in advance and take care of property repairs and maintenance issues before the property is let and ensure that you keep in line with rental pricing trends.

“Get your rental property valuated by a rental agent, and market it in accordance with that.”

Furthermore, if you are letting your home fully furnished, you need to prepare an inventory of all the furniture and equipment and the tenant needs to sign an acknowledgement of the inventory at the incoming inspection.

“Like any other investment, the key lies in intelligent asset management,” Everitt says. “Having a rental expert on board can help minimise risks and maximise returns in the long term, allowing a stress-free rental. So, enlist a reputable agent who can take care of all this for you.”

Hurried decisions

Whether it is better to sell or let your property will also depend on the urgency, says Seeff’s Samuel Seeff.

“There is adequate demand in the market in most areas to be able to sell, especially in the price bands below R2 million, so you should be able to attract offers, provided the property is priced in line with the current market.”

The difficulty with keeping a rental property when you emigrate, he says, is that you are not here to look after it. “But appointing a good rental agent can assist.”

If you need to sell your home quickly because of relocation deadlines, Mott says the key factor is pricing, so start off with a valuation and then ensure your property is priced correctly to sell. You should also sign a sole mandate with an agent.

“With a sole mandate, your agent can afford to give your property their full attention, because they’re guaranteed the commission from the sale. That means they’re not going to shy away from spending more time and money on marketing or putting more effort into negotiations.”

Everitt agrees: “Award a sole mandate to a successful real estate professional who understands the urgency of your situation, will price your home to be competitive in the current market and be willing to negotiate with prospective buyers.”

Duane Butler of Seeff Randburg advises that you be upfront with your agent about your needs so he or she knows whether it is an urgent sale. “And be flexible with your pricing so that it is in line with the market.”

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