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5 Practical steps to an easier home purchase

Buying a home can be an emotional, time-consuming, and complex process. Planning helps you to focus on the positive. Here a few things that you can do to make the process go more smoothly.

Get pre-qualified before you buy

Getting pre-qualified is simply getting an idea of the price range you can afford. It is based on your stated net monthly income. With a pre-qualification, your information is not verified and the home loan you are pre-qualified for is not guaranteed. 

Do your homework on the area 

You might find a home in a neighborhood that you're not familiar with, which is fine. It just means that you'll have to do a bit more homework.

If you find a property that you like, ask for a list of the neighborhood properties that sold in the last year. How does your home rank? Is it at the top of the price range? If so, it might be hard to resell. Is it average, or on the low end? If so, great - as the other home prices go up in value, they will pull your home's value up as well.

Find out about the schools. Are they sought after? A good school district means your neighborhood will always be valued by families which is a great reassurance to purchase, not to mention the fact that you'll be well placed if you have school-age children.

Next, contact the police station and ask about crime statistics. Are they acceptable to you? If they refuge to divulge the crime stats of the area, there could be reason to reconsider the area.

Talk to the neighbors

The more people you talk to, the better sense you will get of the people in the area and how they will affect your time spent in it.

Check out the location of the shopping, police and fire stations, schools, and air traffic overhead. These are all things that might affect your property value and quality of life.

Protect yourself

Ask your estate agent for a copy of the documents you will be asked to sign if you decide to buy the property. Read them ahead of time so that you understand the questions that you will be asked, the things you need to know, and the decisions you will need to make.

If buying Sectional Title, ask the agent to provide you with up to date Body Corporate Financial Statements. Check to see that the levies are not arrears.

Keep your expectations realistic

You're about to spend a big amount. And no house is perfect. Understanding and remembering these two statements will help diffuse the negotiation and the closing stage.

Emotions can sometimes run high for both buyers and sellers. The seller may have loving memories and years of sweat equity in the house. Maybe they are being relocated and don't want to leave. Understanding their motivations for selling will help you to empathise with their situation.

There are meaningful sums of money at stake for all parties involved (and that includes your estate agent). Just remember that market value (the value of a home) is the price that a willing buyer and a willing seller can agree to. If you cannot agree on a price, ask yourself: is there something you might have missed? Are there comparables that support the price that they want? Are there motivations that might factor into the price they are demanding? In the end, does it matter? What is the house worth to you today and what do you think you can reasonably sell it for based on the amount of time you plan to spend in it? Think about the answers to those questions before you make your move.

No house is perfect. Always get an inspection. It might cost a few hundred rand, but it's worth it. It's the inspector's job to find any problems with the house that could cost you thousands to repair, down the line. Some inspectors have a tendency to overplay the importance of their role and the items that they find. Get objective opinions that you trust before making a decision on an inspection report. Likewise, if an inspector says a foundation is cracked but it's nothing to worry about, get a second opinion. Ask a handyman for an idea of how much repairs will cost and how complex they are.

The home buying process is an emotional, complex and time-consuming process, but it's worth it. Nothing beats owning a home in an area where you'd like to live.

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