There has been such a surge in home buying since the second half of 2020 that there is now actually a shortage of homes for sale in many of the most sought-after areas, and well-priced properties that do come on to the market are often selling within just a few days – without even being advertised online or in print.
This can be very frustrating for prospective purchasers – especially those who are aiming to buy soon before the high demand drives prices up even further and rising inflation prompts the Reserve Bank to announce more interest rate increases.
However, they should not give up, says Gerhard Kotzé, MD of the RealNet estate agency group. “It is obviously discouraging to see ‘Sold’ signs appear on properties you didn’t even know were for sale, but now is not the time to give up on finding your ideal home, especially if you are a first-time buyer.
“Now is actually the time to become even more determined and focused on your search – and to get ready to buy as soon as the right property comes along.”
He suggests that prospective buyers take the following five steps to get ready to secure the home of their dreams at a price they can afford:
Clean up your credit record if necessary and consult a reputable mortgage originator or your bank to obtain bond prequalification or at least establish your spending limit before you start house-hunting. “This will put you in a much better position to act quickly and make a confident offer when you find a home you like.”
If you need to live close to shops, schools, or a specific workplace, for example, you should focus only on areas that match this need, and not waste time viewing properties elsewhere, says Kotzé. “On the other hand, if you are a remote worker and affordability is your biggest concern, you should probably concentrate on outer city suburbs or estates and smaller towns.
“You should also think carefully about the size of home you want and your lifestyle, then make a list of your specific requirements. If you like to entertain, for example, you’ll want a home with a well-appointed entertainment area. If you like to travel and don’t care much for maintenance, an apartment or a townhouse in a secure complex may be more your style. If you’re handy and love DIY projects, an older property in need of renovation may be just the thing for you.”
This is really important, he says, “because their ears are obviously closer to the ground than yours when it comes to new listings, and they will be delighted to try to help you find your ideal home, especially if they know you are financially ready to buy and you can give them a detailed description of what you want. Who knows, you may even become one of those buyers who gets to purchase a new listing before it is even advertised.”
Most property portals offer automatic email notifications of new listings that match your specifications. Tell everyone you know that you are looking for a home, and where. Ask them to tell their neighbours. Put a “wanted” notice on the bulletin board at the office, at the school, at the shopping centre. “Just be prepared to move fast when you are notified or told about a suitable property. And remember, the more detailed you can be in your specifications, the less likely you are to get false leads,” says Kotzé
It is important to understand that even if there are several buyers competing for the home you want, you may not have to offer the highest price to secure the deal. “Your best bet is to ensure that the sellers, through their agent, know how much you like their home and how ready you are to buy it. You should also keep contingencies to a minimum in your offer to purchase and be prepared to compromise on moving dates.
“In addition to getting a good price, sellers usually want their homes to go to buyers who appreciate them – and who are ready to proceed with the transaction quickly and with the minimum of fuss. In other words, the easier you make it for the sellers, the more likely that yours is the offer they will accept.”