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Buying for dummies: All you need to know before purchasing your first home

House hunting requires much thought and many long-term considerations. Photo: RODNAE Productions/Pexels

House hunting requires much thought and many long-term considerations. Photo: RODNAE Productions/Pexels

Published Jun 6, 2022


Buying a new home is not as simple as making the decision and then going shopping.

There are a number of thing you need to know and much you need to think about and plan for, particularly when it comes to finances.

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Even the process of house hunting requires much thought and many long-term considerations.

Read our latest Property360 digital magazine below

Planning and research are “very important”, says Craig Mott, Western Cape regional sales manager for the Rawson Property Group. You need to think about where you are going to be, or want to be, in five or ten years’ time, and keep in mind things like the likelihood of changing jobs, moving to different areas, provinces or countries, having children, and getting married.

“These, together with your affordability, will automatically lead you to the ideal type of property you’re looking for – whether it’s a bachelor flat, two-bedroom apartment, or a three-bedroom family home.”

It is also recommended that you take advantage of the relatively low interest rates to pay off as much debt as you can.

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Typical first-time homes include apartments and small houses, either freehold or in complexes, that tend to have lower maintenance requirements. This makes them perfect for lock-up-and-go lifestyles, Mott says. Starter suburbs are often central, or close to major transport arteries for convenient access to shops, entertainment, and work, and are typically a little more densely populated with apartment blocks and smaller erven.

“First-time buyers need to understand the process of buying a property and what it entails, for example knowing the process of getting a bond approved, the transferring of ownership, and the legalities involved.”

Getting to know the market is another essential step for any prospective buyer, he says. Only then will you be able to recognise a great value property when you see one.

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“Online listings are a good place to start, but open houses give a far more complete picture.”

When considering location, you should keep in mind the house price growth in the area, advises Geoff Lee of Absa Home Loans.

“Ideally, you want to purchase in an area that has enjoyed house price growth in the past, and is expected to do so in the years to come. House price growth can never be guaranteed, but should definitely form part of your location criteria.”

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You should also bear in mind that most people stay in their homes for more than five years before moving on, says Just Property chief executive Paul Stevens. Yet, even in that time, a lot can happen, including marriage, children, career progression, and the ageing of parents, just to name a few life events. You should therefore think about what you may need in the future and ask yourself what you need now to get there.

You must also do your own research and not accept hearsay, he adds.

“People may comment on property values, crime, and other factors, but research what the numbers and statistics really are so that you can make an informed decision. Local security companies, your real estate agent, and property portals can all give you objective information.”

Ultimately though, Mott says the most important element to consider should always be affordability – not only what kind of financing you qualify for, but also how much you can spare from your monthly budget for all those additional expenses like rates, insurance, repairs, and maintenance.”

He says the pre-qualification process will help you define a realistic price range for your property search and avoid wasting time looking at homes you cannot afford.

Read our latest Home Improver digital magazine below

Once you know what you can afford, Ynnis Wilson, branch manager at Jawitz Properties Randburg, says you will be able to determine which area best suits your needs in terms of proximity to work, schools, and family; the type of accommodation required; and lifestyle must-haves within your affordability range.

You also need to remember that property is not a short-term investment.

“You need to consider your five- to seven-year plan before deciding what type of home you need. There is no age limit to first-time ownership so this will also have an impact on the type of property that gets purchased.”

Start your search for your ideal first home here.