Home buying rules for first time couples

Private Property South Africa
Martin Hatchuel

They say that love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage, but what about love and a mortgage? What should you consider if you’re buying your home as a couple for the first time?

“A bit of planning now could save you a lot of heartache down the line,” said Chas Everitt Knysna estate agent, Angela Clack, who currently has 22 properties listed with PrivateProperty.co.za.

Angela proposed a seven-point checklist to guide you:

Aim for the same target

“For many couples, buying a home is the single biggest investment they’ll ever make, so it makes sense to know as much as possible before you even start looking for the right place,” she said.

“This includes knowing what each of you wants, and coming to an agreement on the type of property you're going to buy. You can imagine the soap opera that could ensue if she wants a fixer-upper, but he hates DIY!”

Angela suggested you draw up a list of how much space each of you needs, what work you’re prepared to do - or even want to do - on the property, and so on.

“When you’ve got it down in black and white like that, you can look at it more objectively, and find areas where you can compromise,” she said.

Credit, credit, credit

If you can’t buy with cash, you’re going to have to look for finance.

“The three rules of property might be ‘location, location, location,’ but the three rules of applying for a bond are ‘credit, credit, credit’,” said Angela.

“So before you begin, you need to make sure that your credit records are clear. The local credit ratings agencies will provide you with a credit report at no charge once a year. If you find black marks against either of your names, you might need to take advice and you’ll definitely need to take steps to correct this, because the banks will look at your records separately - even if you want to apply for a mortgage as a couple.

“Rebuilding your credit rating might mean delaying your purchase for 18 months or even longer - but it’ll be worth it in the end.”

Consider your budget

Angela said that affordability is often the biggest consideration in any purchase.

“One reason I like working with PrivateProperty.co.za is because it has an affordability calculator on each of the properties we’ve listed there.

“Bearing in mind that the banks will take your salary after deductions, your monthly expenses, the interest rate, and the term of your loan into account when it considers your loan application - and that the rule of thumb is generally that you shouldn’t spend more than 30% of your nett income on your bond - this is a very convenient tool for anyone who’s thinking about buying a home.”

Work with an agent you trust

Angela said that a real estate agent will guide you through every step of the process.

“It’s impossible to underestimate the value of a good agent, so it’s a good idea to spend some time meeting and getting to know the agents in your area before you make a decision.” (see Choosing an estate agent.)

“It’s probably also a good idea to ask your agent early in the process about the documentation you’re going to need - and to get your papers in order so that you’re ready to act when the time comes.”

Learn about the market

“Your agent should guide you here, explaining trends, prices, and the general feeling in the market, but you should do your own homework, too: check out the homes for sale on the web sites, and keep an eye on the property pages in the local papers.

“The better you know the market, the more chance you’ll have of finding the home of your dreams, and at the right price, too.”

Inspection makes sense

“Most houses are sold ‘voetstoots,’ and in these cases there’s very little protection in the law against defects that turn up later,” said Angela. “So once you’ve identified a home, it makes sense to get a professional opinion about the physical state of the buildings from a home inspection service - and to take their findings seriously.” (See Check it; it makes cheque-book sense).

Decisiveness counts

Angela said that while it’s a good idea to shop around, you do need to act decisively when you find the place that’s right for you.

“Don’t delay when it comes to putting in your offer: the chances are that you’re not the only couple who want the house.

“If you’ve done your homework, you won’t be sorry!”

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