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Questions to ask before buying a home

By Danielle van Wyk

Homeownership is a big step that most consumers aspire to achieve and is often classified as one of the most important milestones of your adult life. This means that the pressure to ensure that it is a good buy is major, which is why consumers need to make sure that they are making the best possible decision for them. Justmoney chats to experts about what the most important questions to ask your estate agent before buying are.

“Searching for properties online or visiting show houses, doesn’t necessarily mean that a buyer is ready to commit to homeownership. Several factors need to be considered carefully before the buyer is certain that now is the right time for them to enter the market,” says Adrian Goslett, regional director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.

It is therefore important to understand the roadmap to completion of a purchase. “Ask your sales agency to fully explain to you the steps required in the purchasing process ahead of embarking on the exciting journey, right up until transfer. There are many steps and costs along the way that need to be understood ahead of time to allow for an easy and seamless process,” adds PropertyFox CEO Crispin Inglis.

Here are a few questions, according to Inglis to get the conversation started:

1)      How long have the owners owned the property?

2)      Why are they selling?

3)      Have there been any alterations done to the property?

4)      Have there been any criminal incidents at/on the property?

5)      When last was the house painted, and following that, have there been any damp issues/leaks in the past?

6)      Have the owners ever needed to repair any cracks in the home?

7)      Have there been any offers yet?

8)      What are the neighbors like?

9)      What is included in the sale of the home – define the movable and immovable property?

10)   What are the municipal rates for the home?

11)   Are there any approved plans for the home as it stands?

“Before making any decisions a buyer needs to establish whether they are purchasing the property as a home to live in or merely for investment purposes, as this will change the way the buyer approaches the purchase. If the home is bought with the intention of being the buyer’s primary residence, the decision making process will be far more emotionally guided.

“The buyer will look at aspects of the property and the surrounding area that appeal to them personally. However, if the property is for investment purposes it will be more important to research what will appeal to possible tenants in the area and who the tenants might be,” advises Goslett.

The RE/MAX CEO adds that while a buyer will be able to find a great deal of information online regarding the area, the estate or complex, nothing can replace checking out the location in person. “Take the time to drive around the area and walk the streets. Consider what the traffic is like and who your potential neighbours could be, as well as the facilities and amenities in the area. A real estate professional with working experience of the area will be able to provide a comparative market analysis, which will reflect recent stats and figures of sales in the area,” says Goslett.

Regardless of the phase of the property market or external influences, sound property buying principles never go out of fashion.

Goslett advises that there are fundamentals that successful property buyers keep in mind at all times. These include aspects such as the property’s location, the value per square metre and the potential rental yield, as these will always be the key criteria on which an investor makes a decision.

As a buyer, now more than ever it’s easy to understand the market place. “Do your homework ahead of the purchase process so that you have an idea of value in a specific area so that you can be confident in your offer. Also, understand the transactional costs involved in your purchase,” Inglis highlighted.

That being said, it could be useful to look to agencies like PropertyFox who charge a low 1.5% versus the industry average of 5-7%, in order to cut costs.

“Purchasing a property that provides a healthy return is not just about luck and timing, it’s about much more than that. The most important aspect is to research as much as possible, and only buy a property once all options have been carefully considered,” Goslett concludes.

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