Top 10 steps to find your dream home

Due to the fact that the current property market offers buyers a wide selection of homes to choose from, the selection process can sometimes be tough. Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, says that while most buyers probably have a good idea of what they are looking for in a home, there are a few steps they should follow to help with their final selection.

1.   Make a wish list

Goslett advises buyers to write down everything they need and want in a property. The first aspect buyers should consider when making their list includes the type of property they prefer.
“Buyers need to decide if they are looking for a freestanding home, a cluster or a unit in a sectional-title complex or secure estate. Then they need to decide if they would like a home they can renovate or one they could just move right into without changing a thing. A property in need of attention should have a lower asking price than one that's fully renovated and a place that's two or three years old will be cheaper than one that's brand new,” says Goslett.

He says that buyers should also determine the details in terms of the number of bedrooms they require, the entertainment and garden space they would need, etc.

2.   Differentiate between wants and needs

Once a wish list has been drawn up, Goslett recommends that buyers separate out items that fall into the wants category, which are the nice to haves but not essentials, from those that fall into the needs category, which are specifications that the buyer cannot compromise on. “Buyers need to determine whether or not they really need that swimming pool and a large stand, or if they could compromise by buying a smaller stand in an estate that has communal facilities, instead, for example.”

3.   Work out affordability

“Determining a price range,” says Goslett, “is one of the most crucial steps in the selection process.” Buyers need to figure out how much they would be able to afford on monthly costs, including bond repayments, maintenance, levies and rates, etc. “Since this exercise will undoubtedly impact on the type and size of a property that a buyer can actually afford, many buyers may choose to revisit their wants and needs list after adding up the cost and change some items that impact most on the price.”

4.   Pre-qualify for a bond

Buyers will just end up wasting everyone's time by looking at homes that they cannot afford to purchase. “By getting a pre-qualification on a bond, buyers will be able to determine whether or not they qualify for the necessary finance and will get an idea of the estimated amount that the financial institution would be willing to lend,” says Goslett. “This, along with the step above, will determine the price range in which buyers can begin searching for properties.”

5.   Location

The emphasis on the importance of location remains as strong as ever. When looking at areas in which to purchase property, Goslett says that buyers should consider what locations they need to reach regularly, how they plan to travel there and how long the journey will take. Schools and other amenities will also play a large role in this step of the selection process for many buyers. “Buyer should make a list of their favourite or ideal neighbourhoods and then make sure that their budget matches what the homes cost in these areas, which will help to narrow the list down,” he says.

6.   Start the search

The Internet is the ideal starting place to begin a house hunt. There are numerous specialised websites that have easily-searchable property listings. “But,” says Goslett, “because property websites don't always cover everything that's for sale in every area, local newspapers are also a good research tool for buyers. Buyers should also visit their local estate agents to ask what’s coming onto the market, or drive around their favourite areas to spot any for sale boards going up. Most estate agents will also take note of a buyer’s specific requirements and will cross reference this with properties the company has on their books,” he says.

7.   Choose a good estate agent

It is essential for a buyer to find an expert to work with, according to Goslett. “Ask for referrals and interview various candidates in order to ensure you select an agent that is professional, experienced and ethical. It is also best to select an agent that has good knowledge of the areas in which you are thinking of buying a property.”

8.   Learn the real estate market

The more knowledge a buyer has about the property market in which they are thinking of buying, says Goslett, the more equipped they will be to make an informed decision. He suggests that buyers ask their agent to send them a list of homes that have recently sold in the area within their price range as well as a comparative market analysis of the area to help determine where the best value lies.

9.   Find out what is for sale

Aside from making a shortlist of the properties found on the internet, through the local newspaper, from driving around or from an agent, buyers need to match the list with all of their criteria including their accommodation requirements, price range and location. The next step is to set up appointments to view the properties on the shortlist and begin comparing them.

10.  Practice your patience

Goslett warns that for some buyers, depending on their requirements, it may take time to find the ideal home. “Buyers may look at everything for sale and not fall in love with anything. In cases like this, buyers should ask their estate agent to add them to their email list to receive notification of suitable listings as they come on the market. Patience here is key,” Goslett concludes.

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