Area essentials for first-time buyers

The type of area that today’s first-time homebuyers want to live in may be quite different from the suburbs that their parents or grandparents chose, but there are still certain fundamentals to consider before they sign an offer to purchase, says Jan Davel, MD of the RealNet estate agency group.
“These include safety, convenience, noise and a few other factors that will determine whether their home is a good investment in the medium to long term and, just as importantly, whether it will be a pleasant place to live in the meanwhile.”
For example, he says,it is very important to many young people now that they live in a “walkable” neighbourhood, with shops, restaurants, entertainment venues and the gym all close to home, but this does not necessarily mean that they have to buy a home in the city centre.
“There are an increasing number of lifestyle estates and new urban developments in the suburbs, where everything one needs is on the doorstep, and which are often safer, less noisy and more affordable than CBD precincts.
“In addition, as the rapid bus and train transport networks expand in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria and Durban, more and more young buyers are finding that they don’t necessarily have to live close to work to avoid traffic and long commutes. They can buy a home in the trendy beachfront suburbs of Blouberg, for example, and be in the centre of Cape Town in less than 30 minutes on a MyCity bus.
“Similarly in Gauteng, they can live in Centurion or Midrand and quickly get to work in Pretoria, Sandton or Johannesburg on the Gautrain.”
Something else that is very important to many young buyers these days, Davel says is a strong sense of community, so they need to consider what sort of social life they hope to have once they become homeowners. “If they and their friends tend to spend evenings and weekends in a ‘hip and happening’ part of town with fashionable restaurants and clubs, that is probably where they should look for a home, as they aren’t going to have much time to get to know their neighbours anywhere else.
“On the other hand, if they prefer entertaining at home and being able to sleep in on weekends, they would probably soon resent the nuisance of other people coming to party in their neighbourhood, taking up all the parking and making a noise way past midnight. And in that case, they would do better to pick a quieter area – and maybe persuade some of their friends to move there too.”
It is also vital, he says, that prospective buyers do their best to pick an area that is as safe as possible. “Any good estate agent should be able to provide you with the crime stats for the area you are considering, but you should also make a point of visiting the area on different days of the week and at different times of day to build up your own picture of what it’s like.”

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