Look out for bad roads, bad rules and bad vibes before you buy
Proximity, price and security have become such big factors in the choice of home that it is easy to miss some warning signs that should make you think twice before signing a sale agreement, says Rudi Botha, CEO of BetterBond, SA's leading bond originator.
"Modern life is fast-paced and complicated, and buyers tend to concentrate on finding homes that are affordable, secure and as close to work and school as possible, but they do need to be aware of some pitfalls that could have a very negative effect on the value of their investment.
"These include negative environmental factors, local infrastructure that is not in great shape and sometimes, rules made by a body corporate or home owners' association that won't suit their personal lifestyle."
To avoid these problems, he says, prospective buyers need to look beyond the property they are interested in to the neighbouring homes and the surrounding area and take the time to do some research.
"We see an increasing number of reports on the problems caused by various kinds of pollution in our water sources, for example, or supply disruptions as a result of substation failures, pipe bursts and other factors like cable theft, and while this can happen anywhere, you obviously don't want to choose an area where such problems are frequent - or where the roads and stormwater systems are visibly crumbling.
"In addition, you want to avoid areas with unusually large amounts of air pollution from nearby factories or power plants, or close to landfill sites or dangerous installations like fuel and chemical storage dumps."
Closer to home, says Botha, you need to assess how noisy the area really is by visiting at various times of the day and on different days of the week. "In recent years, we have seen many illegal churches spring up in suburban homes and cause noise and parking problems for their neighbours, and you also need to look out for local cafés and restaurants that can become noisy at night, as well as weekday traffic patterns.
"And then of course there are the neighbours with the dogs that bark all day while they are at work, or a fondness for loud parties, leaf blowers and power tools. You will most likely only learn about these individuals when you visit the area unannounced."
If you are thinking of a community housing scheme like a sectional title block or an estate, he says, you must also be sure to establish what the monthly levies are and what they cover, and to read the conduct rules before you commit to a purchase.
"The standard conduct rules set out in the Sectional Title Schemes Management Act are often altered in specific complexes to suit the existing residents' views on pets, parking, swimming pool use, children's play areas and so on, but the rewritten provisions may not suit you and in that case, you would do well to look elsewhere.
"Similarly when considering an estate, you should read the rules compiled by the Home Owners' Association, and make sure you are completely comfortable with any architectural guidelines and any restrictions with regard to rentals, home businesses, and additions like carports, toolsheds, fences and even satellite dishes."
However, says Botha, when you do find the right home in the right area, you should waste no time in making an offer and applying for a bond through a reputable bond originator like BetterBond.
"We are currently securing approvals for more than 80% of the applications we submit, and we also use a multiple-lender application process to ensure that you get the very best interest rate available. This can save you many thousands of rands over the lifetime of your loan.
"The average variation between the best and worst rate offered on an application is currently around 0,5%, and on a 20-year loan of R1,5m this translates into potential savings of R6000 a year off your home loan instalments, and more than R120 000 worth of interest over the lifetime of the loan."
*BetterBond is SA's biggest bond originator, accounting for 25% of all new mortgage bonds registered in the Deeds Office annually. Its statistics are thus a reliable indicator of the state of the residential real estate market.