Beware of panic buying

The following tips from an experienced property professional could help buyers make the right decisions in the coming months

The South African public, never slow to see which way the JSE and the property market are moving, has recently become exceptionally property conscious, says Tony Clarke, Managing Director of Rawson Properties.

“Anyone in touch with what is happening out there will tell you that since early 2009 a new wave of optimism and a willingness to buy have overtaken potential property owners, reinforcing the notion that property is still the safest asset investment class.”

This, says Clarke, is probably due to the perception that price rises are looming and the feeling is that now is the time to buy. These are sentiments, he says, with which he agrees.

Nevertheless, he warns, as in all market swings, there is now a danger of irrational behaviour becoming evident.

“One might almost call it a panic buying phase,” he says. “Property buyers need to be reminded that this is in most instances a very large investment that they are making and they should be knowledgeable, responsible and astute and must put themselves in a position to buy with confidence.”

How does a buyer pick up these attributes - at least as far as they are applied to property dealings?

“Buyers,” says Clarke, “must learn to dig up the information they require. This can be done by reading books, by research on the Internet and by studying the property advertisements for the areas in which they are interested. In addition, buyers should talk to reputable estate agents serving their preferred areas. If such agents are any good, the information will be valuable and will help the buyer to make the right decision, particularly if throughout such discussions the buyer retains a sceptical attitude and questions every statement made.”

It is, says Clarke, always wise to try and identify which areas are growing in popularity, which are stagnating and which are backward and it is always good advice to go for the most upmarket area you can afford. Whatever area you favour, he adds, when you move into it, buy the less expensive, smaller properties, because these will appreciate in value faster than those at the top end of the price scale. The motto “buy the least of the best” is always valid.

If you cannot afford to buy in the area that you want, settle for a home near it, says Clarke.

“Fast improving precincts always tend to take their neighbours up with them. A property in a block next to a good area will appreciate faster than one near a mediocre area.”

If a person is obliged to buy inexpensively, Clarke advises them to find a house close to a good area that is structurally sound and capable of being improved at a reasonably low cost.

“D-I-Y décor efforts have time and again added 25% to 30% to the value of a home for an outlay that can very often be less than 5% of its value. Repainting and the installation of bigger windows and French doors as well as the elimination of one or two interior walls can transform dingy old properties into really attractive modern homes.”

Finally, says Clarke, the buyer should learn to distinguish his real needs from his wishes and desires.

“It can actually help to list these in writing under two headings so that when you battle to decide, you will at least know what you must have, e.g. proximity to good schools, and what would be pleasant, e.g. a view or a double garage.

“Above all, it is important to take your time over these decisions. As I have already stressed, the secret is not to be rushed into deciding until you have been over all the data at your disposal.”

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