Expert advice for buyers

Establish your budget

The very first thing that you need to do, before you even start looking for houses to buy, is to work out what you can afford and what size bond you qualify for.

"There’s no sense in shopping for a home until you have been given a good indication by a mortgage originator or your bank as to what range of finance you would qualify for. Knowing what price bracket you need to work in will immediately narrow your search," explains Goslett. "You can get an approximate figure of the bond you would qualify for by using the many home loan calculators available online.

Define your neighbourhood

You’ve probably heard the old adage "location, location, location". It still bears relevance as it is a very important consideration when buying a home.

Buyers need to consider how far it is from their work as well as how good the area’s infrastructure, local schools, shopping centres and other public amenities are. The level of crime in the area is another very important consideration, especially here in South Africa, says Goslett. "Speak to the local armed response companies as well as the nearest police station to find out how safe the area actually is."

Goslett notes that it is also advisable to find out whether there are any major developments planned for the area such as major shopping centres, highways or any other commercial development. "Try to focus on the future of any particular neighbourhood as future development can impact, either positively or negatively, on a homeowner’s quality of life as well as the value of the property."

He also recommends that you should determine the level of traffic the area experiences: "A good test is to visit your chosen area during peak hour traffic as it might be a very different picture from when you visited it on a Sunday morning. It will allow you to determine any foreseeable traffic issues and to judge the noise factor at the busiest time of day."

Make a checklist

It is important to determine exactly what you want before you start looking, says Goslett.

"Most buyers think that they know what they want, but they can be easily swayed to make an emotional buy instead of choosing a home with features that they actually need."

Compile a list

Home hunting is an exceptionally emotionally-charged process and so it is essential to be able to keep in mind what kind of home you are actually in the market for. As such it is a good idea to compile a list — write down the features that you must have, those that you definitely don’t want as well as the nice-to-have items you would like to have. "A good starting point is to think about what you like and dislike about your current home. It is important to be realistic about what you want and to take your budget into account when writing your list."

Enlist the know-how of a professional agent

Now that you have determined what your budget is, the neighbourhood you are interested in and what kind of home you need, it is time to enlist the help of an estate agent.

"It is a good idea to recruit an agent that has had experience working in your choice of area as they will be well versed on the area in question. They should be able to inform you on any current or future developments that might be taking place, the pros and cons of the area, the possible history of the homes in the area and so on. They should also be able to provide you with other very helpful information such as the prices that homes in the area recently sold for, market trends, neighbourhood statistics and so on.

"Give the agent your checklist, and she or he will be able to show you any homes for sale that meet your particular criteria."

Start house hunting

Here the key to success is to use a variety of house hunting techniques — be sure to read through the property section in the newspaper, search real estate websites on the internet, visit local estate agents and as many show houses in the area in which you would like to buy as possible.

But because visiting numerous homes can be confusing, Goslett offers the following advice: "Don’t focus too heavily on a home’s cosmetic items such as the carpets, the paint on the walls and so on as these can be quickly and easily changed if need be. Rather spend time focusing on those features that cannot easily be changed such as the architectural design of the home, its layout, size, the view, the neighbourhood and so on.

Be patient

"Also, don’t rely on your memory to remember all the different homes you visited — take along your checklist that you can check as you go through each home as well as a notebook where you can make notes and a digital camera so that you can take pictures of each house."

Finding the perfect home that mostly matches your criteria and budget will inevitably be a lengthy process. Goslett’s final word of advice is for house hunters to practice patience as property is a long term investment. The purchase of a home should, therefore, not be a rushed decision or one made in frustration.

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