Find your Goldilocks home: Not too small, not too costly but just right

Our lives change all the time, and what works for us today may not work tomorrow, which is why most people expect to move house several times in their life, from a modest flat or townhouse when they are starting out, to a second, third and even fourth home in the suburbs as their family – and status – grows, and then again to a smaller home or a cottage in a retirement village.
However, moving is not only disruptive but expensive, especially when one considers transfer duties, legal fees, bond registration fees and estate agent’s commissions on top of the purchase price of a new house.
“And with property prices growing only very slowly at the moment, it is taking longer for the value of homes to increase enough to cover those upfront costs and enable home sellers to come out ahead,” says Gerhard Kotzé, MD of the RealNet estate agency group.
“Consequently, existing home owners are increasingly looking for ways to avoid or at least delay moving. In addition, first-time buying is often being delayed now until people are in their mid-30s - and more and more, these buyers are hoping that with some forethought and a little luck they may actually never have to move again until they retire.
“It is important to remember, though, that buying too much house at the outset can be wasteful in terms of rates and utility costs, as well as the time and cost involved in the additional maintenance and gardening that will be required. The trick is to find the right balance between having enough space for a growing family, but not so much that the property becomes a financial albatross.”
And to do that, he says, prospective buyers need to ask the “right questions” before they go househunting, including the following:
*How much can we comfortably afford to pay for a property? The figures that you come up with may be very different from the home loan amount that a bank has quoted you – because in addition to your monthly bond repayment, you need to make provision for your current living expenses and property maintenance costs, as well as savings for retirement and other goals.
*What must we realistically plan for? Will we need bedrooms and bathrooms for children/ more children in the future? Is it likely that we will need a guest suite or granny flat to accommodate one or both sets of parents as they age? Should we anticipate a need for a home office or workshop to accommodate a home-based business? Will we need space for entertaining? What size garden will suit our lifestyle?

Taken together, says Kotzé, the answers to these questions will help buyers who want a “forever” home to assess what size home they should be trying to buy now for the money that they have available, and point them towards areas where they might be able to find such properties.
“Alternatively, some buyers might decide to compromise on space for now - because they have already decided they want to live in a more expensive area, for example, or because they want to have more money left at the end of each month - and accept the fact that they are probably going to have to move a few times to get to their ‘forever’ home.”
And then there will be a third group of buyers, he says, who don’t want to compromise on either space or area, and will immediately start looking for those properties in their preferred areas that are in need of renovation or which lend themselves to being extended as their families grow and their finances improve.
“Whichever course they decide to follow, however, buyers should seek the help of qualified, experienced estate agents to help them find the properties that best match their requirements, and avoid potentially costly mistakes. You don’t want to be forced into an unplanned move in future because the extensions or alterations you need to make are not actually allowed in your area, for example, or because your much-loved ‘forever’ home is about to be surrounded by office blocks and shopping centres.
“On the other hand, you don’t want to be unable to move if you do need to because your home is overpriced for the area or overcapitalised and won’t sell. A knowledgeable property professional can also save you from that situation – and help you find a new home that is exactly the right fit for your family and your budget.”

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