Starting the hunt for that first property is a thrilling journey that leads to so many benefits for owners, but there are also many worries and possible hurdles.
From knowing which properties to view and what to offer, to navigating the process and choosing the right home, there are a number of anxieties first-time buyers will undoubtedly suffer.
Perhaps you are worried about putting in an offer that is too high, but are scared that if you go lower you will not get the home; or maybe you fear buying the wrong home.
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Whatever your worries, the experts have some advice.
How much is too much?
Roger Lotz, franchisee for the Rawson Properties Helderberg Group says buying property is one of the biggest financial decisions a person can make, and so it is not surprising that the number one fear buyers have is overpaying.
“There are a huge number of trends and influences that contribute to a property’s value, and these can make it very hard to judge if a listing price is reasonable as a newcomer to the market. The only way to ease that anxiety is to arm yourself with solid, substantiated evidence.”
He adds: “Remember, trends like buyers’ and sellers’ markets don’t always apply the same way in specific areas, or to specific properties and property types. It’s vital to base offer decisions on specific data that takes context into consideration, rather than generalised – and often outdated – public domain advice.”
Whichever way you arrive at an offer price, Carlo Mariani, founder of The Property Coach, says you should never pay more than market value, even if you love the property. This is because banks are unlikely to finance a property bought above market value. Also, once you have decided to make the offer, you need to be serious about it.
“And make the offer in writing. Keep its validity for no longer than 24 hours. Agents are always in contact with their sellers.”
Choosing the right home
Everyone wants their first home to be their dream home, but realistically, Lotz says budget limitations seldom make this possible for first-timers. It can be less stressful making compromises when you understand that your first home doesn’t have to be completely perfect to be the perfect stepping-stone towards your future dream home.
“Keep an open mind during the property search, and focus on your must-haves rather than your nice-to-haves. Every home has pros, cons, and loveable quirks – don’t miss out by judging a book by its cover.”
More importantly, you need to remember that even the most modest property provides invaluable equity in the market, and will get you “one step closer to affording your ‘forever’ home down the line”.
Tony Clarke, managing director of the Rawson Property Group, also urges you to remember the long-term nature of property investment. Therefore, your decisions must not only suit your needs today, but also in the future.
“You need to be sure a property will support your lifestyle for the next five to ten years at the very least. Consider things like some room to grow if you hope to start a family, and make sure the location offers everything you may need in terms of job opportunities, schools, shops, transport, sporting, and social facilities.”
You should also be aware of the additional costs that come with buying and owning property, he says.
Fear of missing out (FOMO)
Competition for properties can be intense, and Lotz says some listings never even make it to online portals before being snapped up.
“FOMO is very real in property. We see buyers paralysed waiting for the perfect property that could be just around the corner, and buyers terrified that if their offer is not accepted, they’ll lose their only chance at their dream home.”
These fears become completely unnecessary, however, when you are supported by experienced property professionals, he notes.
Gerhard Kotzé, managing director of the RealNet estate agency group, adds that young people should also not be driven by FOMO.
“This is a large investment that is going to have a long-term effect on your finances, so you shouldn’t make it in a rush. Slow down to plan properly, and buy when you’re ready.”
Discovering unexpected defects
Nobody wants to get the keys to their new property to then find the roof leaks like a sieve or the foundations are subsiding. Yet, while sellers are required to disclose known defects up front, Lotz says the ‘voetstoots’ clause in South African property contracts makes it the buyers’ responsibility to ensure a full inspection is done before the sale is finalised.
“A good real estate agent can also be an asset here, not just connecting you with reputable inspectors, but flagging areas for investigation based on years of experience dealing with properties in all conditions.”
If an owner sells ‘voetstoots” then Steve Thomas, real estate agent for Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty in Constantiaberg, says you must agree to undertake and remedy any items noted on the certificate at your cost and before the transfer is put through. This, however, could be a deterrent.
The term ‘voetstoots’ means that any problems with the home’s structure, visible (patent) or not (latent) defects are the buyer’s problem – not the seller’s, unless the seller covered them up, explains Alan Rubin, head of ooba Home Loans.
“’Voetstoots’ protects the seller, except in cases where the seller hides or chooses not to disclose defects in a disclosure form before the sale.”
Fortunately, he says, Section 67 of the new Property Practitioner Act 22 states that an estate agent can only accept the mandate of a sale if the seller or lessor of the property has completed and signed a mandatory disclosure form.”
This form gives the seller the opportunity to disclose any defects or issues with the property that they know about. However, it is important to remember that this is focused on what the seller knows and not what the facts are.
Not understanding the sales process
For first-time buyers, the property sales process often feels overly complicated and obscured by legalese and jargon and this, Lotz says, creates a lot of unnecessary anxiety that can be avoided with the help of property professionals who understand all the ins, outs, and implications.
“We often see buyers misinterpreting processes like negotiating a final purchase price and ending up disappointed by the outcome. This really is easy to avoid when you’re working with a trusted advisor who can guide you through the complete purchase journey and make sure you know exactly what to expect, every step of the way.”
To make sure you’re working with the right partner, Lotz recommends researching the company and agents with whom you will be working.
“Make sure they are experienced and active in your neighbourhood, are backed by a reputable brand, and have all the support services necessary to facilitate a successful transaction.”