Have fun - House hunting tips

You're currently renting and you've thought about buying your own place but you don’t feel ready to navigate the treacherous seas of real estate...

You'll be glad to know then that it's easier than it seems, so make use of these handy tips and you'll be on your way in no time, smiling fondly at memories of when you used to waste money on rent.

Location, location, location
Choosing the right location is the first and most important rule. You need to look at your budget and balance your home requirements with the market value of the neighbourhood. House prices vary greatly according to suburb, so you need to find a balance between the right area and the right house. Start by narrowing down the areas that are suitable (think about things like proximity to shops, schools and other to local amenities). And, remember that owning a shack in an affluent neighbourhood might be a better investment than a mansion in an undesirable area.

Know your budget and stick to it
Your budget really forms the basis of your plan to buy your first home. Financial institutions generally recommend that you budget no more than 20 to 30 percent of your monthly household income for your mortgage repayments.

While you may be tempted to take out a massive bond to buy your dream home, it's wiser to ensure you can comfortably afford the repayments so that you can look at decreasing your mortgage repayment period over time. Speaking to a financial planner can be beneficial in deciding on how to manage long-term investments such as property and the different strategies available to you.

Do your 'home' work
Decide on the type and style of the home and what is most important to you versus what is least important to you. Also, look at a number of properties so that you develop a 'feel' about what is right for you and what isn't; what is reasonably priced and what isn't. When viewing a potential property make sure you arrive prepared. Ask the agent questions — they will often have good advice, but learn to distinguish between the 'salesperson' and the 'straight-talker'.

Walk away
When you find a house you like, walk away. Give yourself time to mull the potential purchase over and to think about whether the property fits your requirements. Make sure you stick to the plan — this is not the time to make an emotional purchase based solely on that amazing jacuzzi in the back garden!

Give yourself time to review the property’s value and decide on what sort of offer you are going to make. Find out from agencies about similar properties in the area which have sold recently and for how much. It is better to lose a potential purchase than to make an emotional purchase without proper planning.

Make an offer
Bearing in mind that in South Africa there are almost no buyers' agents, be aware that the agent's allegiance will be to the person paying their commission: the seller. That said, an estate agent plays an important part in the process and they will be able to provide you with information about the sales process and should be able to answer most of your questions

Article by: Piers Stephenson - http://iafrica.com