Getting it Right - The First Time

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

Experts have been saying for years that the sooner individuals get onto the property ladder the better, and they are absolutely right. Those who buy property while they are still young are distinctly more advantaged than those who choose to wait and only invest when they reach their thirties.

However, the young often have highfalutin ideas of what they deem to be the perfect property and are often reluctant to settle for anything less. Many assume that they will be able to afford a property similar to that of their parents from the get-go. This is, of course, unrealistic - and unless they have been born with the proverbial silver spoon in their mouths - highly improbable.

"Although affordability is of course the major concern of all those entering the market for the first time, there is often quite a serious disconnect between this concern and the size of home they would like to buy," says Berry Everitt, MD of the Chas Everitt International property group.

He says, however, that rather than becoming discouraged, they need to understand that bigger isn't always necessarily better these days, and not only when considering the purchase price or monthly bond repayments.

He correctly notes that a smaller freehold home or townhouse also means lower property taxes, maintenance costs, insurance premiums and electricity and water bills - and being able to enjoy a better lifestyle at the same time as becoming a homeowner.

Research shows that the average first-time buyer looks at between 10 and 20 homes before buying, but it can really pay to be patient and view many more than that, especially homes that have been listed for more than 90 days, because that is typically when anxious sellers start to reduce their asking price.

Position is also very important for those taking the important step of investing in a home of their own. Everitt says that proximity to the buyer's workplace is second on their lists of preferences, which makes perfect sense, given the rising costs of fuel, toll fees and traffic congestion. The trouble with this, however, is that homes close to office nodes often cost more precisely because of the added value of reduced transportation costs and commuting times.

A property purchasing decision is never one to take lightly and those considering entering the market need to understand that finding the 'right' home takes time, and usually a fair amount of effort. Price isn't everything, and first time buyers should seriously consider looking at properties in need of some repair work and therefore on the market at a lower price. We are not talking about a complete renovation job here, but rather a home that merely needs a makeover.

"Homes that need a basic facelift - paint, new carpeting, modern light fittings and some landscaping - can come with big savings, especially if the owners are keen sellers. Homes that require bigger upgrades - such as rewiring, replumbing and reroofing - will usually cost even less, although buyers do need to proceed with great caution here and get a professional assessment of the work to be done and the probable cost before making any offer to purchase."

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