Home buyers: clarify exactly what you want in advance

In many of the larger urban areas of South Africa today, the residential property market has swung to being very much in the seller’s favour. 

Nancy Todd, a co-franchisee of the Rawson Property Group’s Constantia franchise, has compiled a list of 18 tips to help buyers adjust to and succeed in the new, more competitive house hunting market.  Todd is prepared to email this list to anybody who contacts her.

One of the most important of her tips is that buyers must to recognise the absolute necessity of clarifying in their own mind exactly what they are looking for. Todd advises compiling a list under three headings: must-haves, nice-to-haves and deal-breakers.

“It is,” says Todd, “quite surprising how vague some buyers are about what they are looking for and this can make the agent’s job extremely difficult. The clearer the buyer’s parameters are in looking for a property, the more the agent will be able to help him.  What is more, when the buyer does come across a home which more or less matches his aspirations, he will recognise it if he has already formulated his ideas.”

As a corollary to this, adds Todd, it is wise for the buyer to set their parameters as wide as possible and avoid being too specific.

“Look at suburbs you might not have originally considered,” she says. “Often the right home is not quite where you expected to it to be.  It is important to realise that suburbs’ reputations do change:  what was very much ‘in’ ten years ago may be less so today.  Conversely, certain suburbs will be steadily making their way up the social ladder, becoming more and more acceptable and increasing their values year-on-year.”

“Also,” says Todd, “be prepared to think out of the box.  If the sale price is not too onerous and you are likely to have spare resources either now or later, consider seriously what renovations and upgrades could do for the home.  Right now in many Cape Town suburbs hundreds of owners are adding great value to their homes through sensitive and appropriate upgradings which give the home a completely new life.”

This visualisation process, says Todd, often involves looking beyond unappealing features such as face brick façades, tatty carpeting, antiquated light fittings, outdated bathrooms, inconvenient kitchens with inefficient equipment and similar drawbacks.  These unfortunate features will help keep the asking price down – and they can all be changed in due course.

The clarification/visualisation process, says Todd, must also include a truly realistic appraisal of the resources at the buyer’s disposal – and those who are careless about this are usually in for a rude awakening.

“Try to avoid applying for a 100% bond,” says Todd. “They are expensive and fairly seldom awarded.  Hold back your house hunting until you have saved a 10% or 20% deposit.”

Once the buyer has found the home that he and his spouse/partner know will suit them, they should, says Todd, act fast.

“Try to avoid a ‘give me the weekend to think about it’ mind-set and accept that in making so big a decision you will be nervous – this cannot be helped. Go for it: don’t mess about making cheeky offers.  If the property is quite clearly listed at the right price, offer that price.  In today’s market any hesitation or too low an offer will carry with it the risk of losing out to a better offer.”

“Also remember to be friendly to the sellers.  Often sellers will sign a deal with a person they like because they feel that he or she will appreciate and enjoy the home in the same way they have always done.”

Finally, says Todd, the buyer must try to make his house hunting fun - and avoid getting despondent when after weeks of looking and having reasonable offers rejected, he or she still has not found the ideal home. Eventually the right- if not the perfect home will crop up if they persevere.

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