Buy in Haste, Repent at Leisure

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

Buyers looking to invest in distant towns or cities need to investigate the area thoroughly before making a purchasing decision. The three most important words in the world of property are location, location, location. Get it right and you’ll reap the benefits. Get it wrong, however, and you may well find yourself saddled with an expensive investment from hell.

Interestingly enough, it appears that it is far easier to glean in-depth information about towns and suburbs in places like Australia than it is in our own backyard. An Internet search indicates that everything, including crime stats, schools, the population figures and amenities as well as general information of the demographics of any area is basically at your fingertips.

In South Africa, however, crime stats are fairly difficult to come by as officially the police only release these on an annual basis, while population stats are fairly sketchy and although some information regarding the area may well be documented, essentially a buyer is reliant on what local estate agents tell them. For this reason it is advisable to visit an area and conduct essential personal research before making a purchasing decision. Many people have bought homes and discovered too late that the area they have chosen is not as desirable as it seemed from a distance.

Proper research is particularly important when investing in a holiday unit or second home. Visiting an area during peak holiday season and basing a purchasing decision on the fact that there are thousands of visitors and therefore assuming that the property will be rented out at a premium all year round can be a fatal mistake. Many coastal areas are virtual ghost towns out of season and there is absolutely no way a landlord will be able to charge a top rate when one takes into consideration the number of vacant holiday units available.

It is as important to do your homework before investing in property in a new town or city and it may be a wiser option to rent in an area for a short period of time before taking the final plunge. Buying property is a huge financial commitment and discovering a month down the line that the local schools leave a lot to be desired, that the neighbours are not on a par with your social standing or that the commuting costs are too high can hurt horribly.

While it is helpful to speak to a local agent, it pays to remember that different people have different standards. What is acceptable to one will be totally unacceptable to another. Visit the area as many times as possible before the move. Hire a car if necessary and drive around the various suburbs, popping in at local estate agencies to garner as much information about the area as possible.

Speak to the locals, go to the neighbourhood restaurants, country clubs and even visit nearby schools. Most people are more than happy to chat about their neighbourhoods and a great deal can be learnt from this.

Use Google Maps in order to get a clearer idea of the layout of an area. This is particularly helpful when it comes to ascertaining how far the work place and schools are situated from the area in which you are considering buying. Again, speak to the locals about traffic congestion. In some centres, rush hour traffic can be a major issue and discovering that it’s going to take an hour and a half to drive 6kms to the nearest school can be off-putting.

Never make a rushed decision, take your time, gather all the facts and the transition should be a smooth and happy one.

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