How to buy a home that’s a ‘keeper’

George Herald - Private Property - - Property News -

When buy­ing your first home, should you be look­ing for a tiny town­house that is just big enough for one (or maybe two at a pinch) and suits a lock-up-and-go life­style? Or should you con­sider a big­ger apart­ment or house so you won’t have to move when your fam­ily starts to grow or when you slow down and develop an in­ter­est in gar­den­ing?

“Sta­tis­tics show that the av­er­age age of first-time buy­ers is now around 34,” says Rudi Botha,

CEO of SA’S big­gest bond orig­i­na­tor Bet­ter­bond, “and that would sug­gest that many, if not most, are plan­ning a longer-term com­mit­ment to a home with enough bed­room and gar­den space for chil­dren, as well as enough liv­ing space for more at-home en­ter­tain­ing. Sell­ing and buy­ing again can be stress­ful and ex­pen­sive. As well as the trans­fer duty, le­gal fees and bond regis­tra­tion costs for the new home, one must ac­count for the costs of mov­ing, re­con­nect­ing util­i­ties and all the time spent on or­gan­is­ing the move. Other hid­den costs can in­clude new school uni­forms, more in­surance and ex­tra se­cu­rity.” It’s hard not to be­come emo­tion­ally at­tached to your first home and re­luc­tant to sell it, es­pe­cially if it’s the only home your chil­dren have known and the one where you have built up strong con­nec­tions to a com­mu­nity. But if you want a home that is worth hang­ing on to, you need to buy right in the first place, which can be tricky if you are young and don’t yet have a fam­ily-size bud­get. “The best place to start is with the big­gest de­posit you can man­age to save. This will not only im­prove your chances of be­ing ap­proved for a bond but could also mean that you qual­ify for a lower in­ter­est rate, es­pe­cially if you ap­ply through a

rep­utable bond orig­i­na­tor like Bet­ter­bond, that will ap­proach South Africa’s ma­jor banks to get you the best home loan deal. And a lower in­ter­est rate means more af­ford­able monthly re­pay­ments plus big sav­ings on the to­tal cost of your home over the life­time of the bond.

On a R1-mil­lion bond taken over 20 years, for ex­am­ple, an in­ter­est rate that is just 0,5% lower than the cur­rent prime rate of 10,25% will save you al­most R80 000.”

Mean­while, he says, first-time prop­erty buy­ers who would love to set­tle and stay put for a decade or more should also look for the fol­low­ing fea­tures:

Great ba­sics

If you’ve de­cided to buy a house rather than a big­ger apart­ment, make sure you choose one that is struc­turally sound, and that the roof, plumb­ing and elec­tri­cal sys­tems are also in good con­di­tion.

This will mean big sav­ings on home main­te­nance, es­pe­cially in the crit­i­cal first few years of own­er­ship.

You should also be pre­pared to forego things like a pool or even a lockup garage at this stage, in ex­change for fea­tures you need more right now, like good se­cu­rity mea­sures.

Room to grow

The house may be small now but if it is in a good area and there is yard space to add on ex­tra bed­rooms and bath­rooms as you need them, this may be your ideal prop­erty. Well­pro­por­tioned rooms and gen­er­ous ceil­ing heights are also a plus if you an­tic­i­pate mak­ing al­ter­ations at a later stage.

Sta­tis­tics show that the av­er­age age of first-time buy­ers is now around 34.

En­ergy ef­fi­ciency

A home that makes use of so­lar and other re­new­able en­ergy sources to pro­vide elec­tri­cal power, heat wa­ter and cook your food is not only good for the en­vi­ron­ment but also helps to make home­own­er­ship more af­ford­able by low­er­ing your monthly run­ning costs. You should also look out for homes with wa­ter-sav­ing in­stal­la­tions like rain­wa­ter tanks and low-flow taps, show­ers and toi­lets.

Good schools

Be­fore com­mit­ting to any prop­erty, make sure there are good - and af­ford­able - pri­mary and high schools in the area, as well as shops for your day-to-day needs, med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties, places of wor­ship and pub­lic trans­port. In ad­di­tion, you should try to live as close as pos­si­ble to work.

Man­age­able gar­den

If lawn-mow­ing and tree-trim­ming are not your idea of a fun week­end, and you don’t have the bud­get for a gar­den ser­vice, you should steer clear of very large prop­er­ties. A smaller yard will usu­ally also cost less to se­cure and at­tract lower city coun­cil rates and taxes.

Fair levies

Buy­ing a home in a sec­tional ti­tle com­plex or an es­tate can have many ad­van­tages, such as bet­ter se­cu­rity and ac­cess to shared ameni­ties like a pool or a club­house, but you will be li­able to pay a monthly levy in ad­di­tion to your home loan re­pay­ment. You need to find out how much this is and what it cov­ers be­fore you sign any sale agree­ment.

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