Hide the gnome to get maximum value for your home

As house price growth moderates, buyers are becoming far fussier and are no longer settling for less than what they truly want - all the more reason for sellers to make their homes as appealing as possible. Saul Geffen, CEO of MortgageSA, South Africa's leading mortgage originator, says that sellers should be mindful of the "new mood of selectiveness and increased desire for value for money that currently pervades buyers" mindsets.

"It's a lot different to two years ago," notes Geffen. Buyers are now looking very carefully at properties and spending more time 'kicking the tires' rather than leaping in for fear of missing out on the boom.

"House price growth is expected to be around 11% in 2006 and possibly single figures in 2007, so sellers should do all they can to present their property as attractively as possible to meet buyer preferences and realise full value on their properties." Mortgage SA's top 9 things that will make a potential buyer want to pay less:

Rooms overcrowded with furniture. It might seem cosy to you, but if there's no space to even turn around, it's not going to appeal to someone who likes space - and everybody likes space.

Bright carpets with patterns. You might be nostalgic for the 70's and retro is certain to be popular again, but carpets from decades past may not be by your buyer's psychedelic dream.

Badly-built extensions. If your home has an awkward extra room that disrupts the flow and form of the house, it's not going to appeal to many people even though it means extra space.

Carpets in the kitchen or bathroom. This is probably quite an icky thing in most people's minds and buyers will be thinking of the cost of removing the carpets. It might also lead people to think that you're trying to hide something underneath.

Too many clashing colours. If your interior decorating looks like it was done so no colours felt left out, potential buyers may be looking for some money off.

Garden gnomes. Hide, hide, hide. Some people may think they're really cute, but why take the risk of turning off buyers before they have even stepped inside?

Lime scale and dirt in the bath or around the shower. When your potential buyers peer into the bathroom and see grime everywhere, they may well question what other surprises are tucked away and what else is in poor condition.

Gloomy lighting. Poor lighting can give a rather depressed ambience to any home. Bright equals cheerfulness so good illumination is a must.

Dirty light switches. If you haven't cleaned your light switches for a long time, then be warned; to a potential buyer it could suggest that the wiring might be bad.

Says Geffen, "Although you may currently have one or more of the things listed above in your home, fixing them is a lot cheaper than ignoring them."

Hello ooba news

Financial freedom doesn't mean you have to win the lottery or a get an unexpected call from the executors of a long lost uncle's estate in Provence.

MortgageSA, South Africa's leading mortgage originator placing one in five mortgages, said that the possibility of a fixed mortgage system, currently being discussed by the Reserve Bank, could be a double-edged sword for consumers.

With stock markets in seesaw mode, the stability of property as an investment asset class has once again come to the fore. "House prices are expected to increase by 12% this year and while this may not be as high as in recent years, it still represents a good return" says Saul Geffen, Chief Executive of leading mortgage originator, MortgageSA.

As interest rates rise, homeowners have an even bigger incentive to invest in their bonds, as they will be saving even more interest while benefiting from the secondary advantage of a shorter term of repayment.

R 20 million for a three bedroom apartment in Cape Town's V&A waterfront may seem like a ridiculous sum to pay by South African standards, but it compares favorably with Sydney and remains significantly cheaper than upmarket apartments in other international playgrounds.