Tips for selling your home when it’s also your office

NOVEMBER 14, 2016

The number of people working from home and running home-based businesses has grown exponentially over the past few years as technology has made it ever-easier to work from just about anywhere and at any time of day (even in your pyjamas if you want to), and people have grown increasingly averse to long commutes and traffic congestion.

“However, working from home comes with its own set of challenges, and potentially a more difficult experience when trying to sell your house,” says Gerhard Kotzé, MD of the RealNet estate agency group.

“You need to be aware of this before you list your property, and put some plans in place to deal with the potential interruptions as your agent brings prospective buyers around to view the property, and the hassle of trying to keep everything neat and tidy while you’re also trying to work.”

The first thing you should do, he says, is to discuss your schedule and preferred viewing times with your agent.

“Obviously you can’t be too rigid, or you will risk buyers being put off by the fact that they can’t see the property when it suits them. But you can ask your agent to give you fair notice of a viewing, and maybe block off your busiest work periods – so that you don’t have strangers wandering through your office while you’re on that all-important conference call.

“Also, while having your agent call is usually a welcome experience because it means someone is interested in your home, it can be frustrating if you are trying to meet a tight work deadline. So be honest with your agent about what they should share with you immediately – and what can wait.

“If a really keen buyer wants to come over in two hours, you need to know right away. But if the agent just wants to pass on feedback from a previous showing, after work is a better time.”

Next, he says, you need to tackle the paperwork.

“While a messy desk may be what’s necessary for you to perform your job, it doesn’t look good when you’re trying to sell your home, so get some attractive boxes or containers for your piles of paper or files and at the same time make sure you have somewhere secure to keep important or confidential documents as well as client files.”

Third, if your office is “mobile” (basically a laptop and a smartphone) you should consider leaving during the viewing instead of trying to work at home.

“There are times when the best course of action is to show the house when a potential buyer wants to see it, even if it’s not the best time for you, so keep a bag or briefcase on hand so you can sweep up papers and laptop and beat a hasty retreat to the local coffee shop.”

If your work has less mobility, says Kotzé, you could also consider renting a desk or an office in a co-working space while you sell your home.

“There are now quite a number of companies offering this sort of facility to freelancers, consultants, small-business owners, telecommuters and travelling executives who need a temporary place to work that nevertheless has everything they need in the way of communications, internet connections, coffee stations and meeting rooms.”

And finally, he says, you should also speak with your agent about pre-screening potential buyers and conducting viewings only for those that can afford to buy your property and are likely to qualify for a bond. This will cut down unnecessary showings and pointless interruptions in your working day.