Match your area to your lifestyle - and lower your stress

Everyone knows that it’s vital to pick a good location when you buy a property, but you also need to think about the lifestyle you want as a homeowner.

So says Tjaart van der Walt, CEO of the RealNet estate agency group, who notes: “Homebuyers these days need to consider such factors as commuting times and transport costs, municipal rates, the proximity of shops, schools and recreational venues, and security and maintenance costs in addition to property prices and potential returns.

“Previously, it was easy just to set your sights on owning a home in one of the highest-priced suburbs of your town or city, as these were inevitably plush older areas that delivered the best returns on property investments and were also conveniently close to workplaces, shops and excellent schools.

“But times change, and rambling older homes and large gardens are now considered liabilities by many potential buyers because they are more costly and time-taking to maintain and secure. Consequently, suburbs that were once rated ‘most desirable’ may now not be the sure thing they once were in terms of investment returns.”

On the other hand, he says, recent years have also shown many homeowners the possible pitfalls of living in the “country” on the outskirts of the city. “While land costs and rates may be cheaper in such areas, and the air may be cleaner, municipal services are often lacking, security can be dodgy, and commuting times and costs due to deteriorating roads, increased congestion and higher fuel prices have in many cases become horrendous.

“And on top of that, the rapid interest rate fluctuations over the past few years and recent recession have clearly shown many homeowners the folly of stretching themselves right to their financial limits to afford a home in the ‘right’ area. Indeed, our recommendation is that homes should never be bought on the reputation or history of an area, but on the suitability of an area in terms of the buyer’s own lifestyle considerations.

“If you are a young couple just starting out, for example, it makes no kind of sense to buy a family home in a family suburb. Rather buy a flat or a townhouse and pick an area close to work that also offers shops close by, restaurants, entertainment venues and a gym or other sports facilities that you are likely to use. That way, you can save money on the bond and transport and actually enjoy being a homeowner because your budget is not stretched to the limit every month.

“Similarly, if you have a family, your best options will be areas that offer a good schools and/ or a university close to home and are not too far from work so you don’t have to commute in what should be family time. And once again, most people would be better off buying an average house at an average price rather than strapping themselves to live in a mansion. Homeownership is meant to bring comfort, not give you high stress levels.”

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