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If you’re about to start the hunt for a new home – answer these 5 questions

Spend some time reflecting on what is important to you before starting to look for your new home.

Spend some time reflecting on what is important to you before starting to look for your new home.

Published Apr 11, 2022


If you are ready to buy a new home or look for a new rental property, you may feel the need to head straight to the property portals or estate agencies to begin the exciting process of the home search.

But don’t get ahead of yourself.

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Gerhard Kotzé, managing director of the RealNet estate agency group, says the key to making good decisions is preparation, which in this case means doing some work to formulate a very clear idea of what you want.

So before you even start looking at homes for sale or to rent, you need to set time aside to discuss and compile a wish list of everything you would like your new home to have.

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“You can then whittle it down to features that are absolutely essential, and perhaps a few more that would really enhance your lifestyle if they were included at a price that matched your budget,” he says.

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But beyond the obvious considerations like the number of bedrooms you want, or the type of property you want to live in, you should also ask yourself these five equally important questions – and then answer them truthfully:

1. How close do I want to be to shopping malls, schools, and work?

If you are not a single buyer and have a partner and children to consider, there are a number of aspects that you need to be sure about before choosing an area in which to live. Initially, it may not seem like a big deal for daily school runs to be 20 minutes each way, but if you are juggling remote working and multiple children finishing at different times, you may eventually find the stress of managing it all just a tad too much to deal with.

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The thought then of having your children in a local school where you can get there and back in ten minutes is much easier to bear, although you need to consider the quality of the local schools and their offerings.

Similarly, if you are not working from home, you need to not only consider the length of the commute to and from work, but the route you will have to travel and traffic congestion on it. Sitting in rush hour traffic for hours is not an exciting prospect for anyone, not to mention the waste of time and rising fuel costs.

While you may not mind a 20-minute drive to your favourite big mall once a week, you will want to ensure that your neighbourhood shopping centres are up to the standard and quality that you need. It may initially seem like an easy feat to drive to the local shopping centre in the area you previously lived but eventually you will find yourself preferring a closer destination to get your daily bread, milk, and other essentials.

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2. How much time do I have to spend on maintaining a garden or aspects of my home?

Let’s be honest, when we think about buying a new home and find one that we love, the ideas in our heads are endless. You will find yourself making lists of things that you want to do in the garden or renovations or changes you plan to make to or within your house, but eventually, reality will set in and you will be working hard to maintain and balance a regular lifestyle. If you never had time before to spend weekend afternoons mowing the grass or working in the garden, why would you suddenly have that time now? And if that is the case, then perhaps don’t get carried away with ideas of having a large garden that you will not be able to maintain.

By the same token, the cost of living is increasing and our lives are just as busy as they have always been, so if you did not have a lot of spare time or money before to redecorate your home and/or alter parts of it, be very careful about thinking things will suddenly be different. Yes, you may be intent on breaking down that wall or adding on to that room, but those plans could take longer to come to fruition for a number of reasons, meaning you could find yourself living in your new home as-is for a year or two even. Make sure you can live with that.

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3. Do I want to live in a dense area with lots of activity, or an area that is quiet and perhaps more secluded?

Now this may be a hard decision to make if you have to consider the needs and wants of others as well as yourself. And ultimately it will all come down to your individual – or family – preferences.

Some people like to always feel that they are in the hustle and bustle of life, even if they are just sitting at home. Maybe you want to hear people talking and laughing in the streets, or even the humming of regular traffic. You may like the idea of 24/7 quick shops around the corner to grab an ice-cream for that 3am craving.

If you have teenagers who are used to being out and about on their own – and it is safe to do so, then you will need to consider where your home is in relation to their friends’ homes and also activities they enjoy doing.

On the other hand, you – and your partner, if you have one – may just want peace and quiet. Perhaps you don’t want to feel like you are living on top of your neighbours. You don’t want to hear laughing and talking during their braais, or cheers while watching local rugby or soccer matches. And if this is what you desire then you will want to stay away from areas close to the city, or even thriving suburbs.

If you are remote or hybrid working you could actually consider moving to the countryside or a smaller town or village to enjoy the fresh air and sounds of only birds and the wind. Take into account, however, the quality and reliability of local internet and fibre services as you will probably still need to meet work deadlines and keep in touch with family and friends.

4. How close do I want to live to family and friends?

On the topic of family and friends, this aspect is one many buyers may not consider thoroughly enough when choosing an area in which to buy or rent a new home. If you are close to your family or have a busy social life with your friends, you need to factor this into your property hunt. Just like the considerations of proximity to shops and amenities, it may seem doable for you to drive 30 to 40 minutes to spend time with those you love when you first think about it. But those minutes – and kilometres, add up, and you could find yourself losing touch with those near and dear to you if the drives and cost of fuel make it difficult to see them as often as you used to. The family dinners or braais with friends may have been regular occurrences when you lived nearby, but the idea of having to drive home, possibly late at night, for longer than 30 minutes could see you leaving events earlier, or not feeling up to going at all. If the rest of your friends live near each other and you are the odd one out, you could also find yourself feeling excluded from last-minute get-together plans.

If you are working fully remotely or even retiring, the idea of moving a few hours away, like to the countryside for example, may bring with it beautiful thoughts of families and friends coming to visit you on weekends. But the reality is that it rarely happens that way, and it could be months before you see your loved ones, with visits limited to Christmas holidays and other long weekends. So be realistic before you buy.

5. Do I want to live in a freestanding home or sectional title property?

This aspect ties in with a few of the above points, and the answer will, again, obviously depend entirely on your exact needs. As the costs of living climbs, and electricity, water, and rates tariffs increase, more people are opting for sectional title properties to keep utility and maintenance costs down. Some apartments or townhouses come with small gardens so you can have the best of both worlds.

Other advantages of buying a sectional title home are that they are usually more affordable and can give you lock-up-and-go convenience. Security in such properties is also often included. You will, however, need to find out about monthly levies and other rules that will govern what you are, and are not allowed, to do in your home, to your property, and in common areas.

Of course, if you have pets or young children who love spending time outdoors then a sectional title home may not be for you and you will find yourself needing to search for a free-standing home that gives you more space and freedom.

Wherever you want to live, and whatever type of property you want to rent or buy, start your search here