Ask the right questions

As the biggest investment decision many South African consumers will ever make, purchasing property is not one to be taken lightly and it is important for buyers to ask the right questions before committing to such a large investment, says Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.

Goslett says that with the increase in home loan approvals and increased activity in the property market in recent months, it seems likely that many more buyers will be entering the market looking to buy their first home.  “While purchasing a home is an exciting venture that many South African consumers aspire to, there are a number of elements that buyers should consider and query before they make their final decision,” says Goslett.

He highlights the most important factors that buyers need to think about when searching for property in which to invest:

1.    What does the future look like?

Property investment is a long term commitment, so know what the plan is for the future.  A property that may meet the requirements of a buyer now, might not in a few years time. Consider the property’s location and the size and shape of the stand.  A young couple may be happy with a small home for now, but they may want to build on at a later stage and extend the size of their home for children. It is also important to consider the home’s proximity to amenities such as good schools, medical facilities and business districts.

2.    Is this home structurally sound?

While there are good value-for-money homes that require some attention, certain fixer-uppers can be an investment nightmare if the structural integrity has failed.  Some cracks in the walls might be insignificant. However, structural cracks, which are deep and appear on both sides of the wall, can indicate that the foundation has failed or that there is severe structural damage to the home. “Once a property has been built, it is a very costly affair to rectify structural damage, if it can be rectified at all. Buyers should look out for heavy filler work on the walls, diagonal cracks running from the corners of window or door frames and deformation along roof lines. If in doubt, ask a structural engineer to inspect the property to make sure,” says Goslett.

3.    Are the plans of the buildings legal?

Buyers can make an enquiry with the local municipality to ascertain whether the buildings on the property are legal and built to the required standards. Any building that has not been approved through the necessary channels will not appear on the database and will be deemed illegal and could very well be built to substandard criteria. The records of the property will also show the current zoning of the property and its development potential if the buyer would like to add on at a future date.

4.    Is there a leaking roof or water damage?

“Having water in places it shouldn’t be is never a good thing for a home. Water damage or rising damp can also be a costly exercise to repair,” says Goslett, “Look out for areas in the home where the paint is scaling or bubbling, as these are usually indications that there is damp in the walls or ceilings. If buyers are unsure, they can get a plumber to check the property or they can request the seller to provide them with a certified plumber’s certificate, although it is not required by law.”

5.    Are all features of the home in good repair?

While a home with a swimming pool is appealing, if the pump is not working or the pool is leaking, it will only cause headaches for the buyer in the long term. “Inspect all aspects of a home such as the electrical wiring, although the seller is obliged to provide the buyer with an electrical compliance certificate, it might be worthwhile getting an independent electrician to go over the home,” says Goslett.

He concludes by saying that buyers must always do their research and take their time to ask themselves whether they are making the best possible investment decision. The old adage that knowledge is power has never been more appropriate than when investing in the future and one’s home.

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