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Avoid the top 10 first-home buyer pitfalls

You're in the lucky position of being able to draw on the experiences of others, so check out these top 10 pitfalls and how to avoid them on your way to going from homebuyer to homeowner!


Choose the property first, not the neighbourhood. Before falling in love with a place, make sure you also like its location. You can DIY or renovate your way out of problem areas inside, but on the outside, you can't change location.


Save a deposit. A deposit lets you borrow less from the bank and brings down your monthly repayments. It also makes it more likely that your home loan will be approved because it shows you're a committed buyer.


Clear your debt. If you have debt when you apply for a home loan, it could negatively impact your credit score and increase your risk profile, which means banks could be more reluctant to lend you money.


Count the costs. All of them. Apart from your bond repayments, remember to budget for the full range of costs that come with property ownership, like rates and taxes, levies if you're buying sectional title property, electricity, water, fibre, etc.


Ask for expert advice. An experienced estate agent with a good reputation will have invaluable advice to offer about the area and property you're looking at.


Negotiate the purchase price. The list price of a property is only the starting point. Don't be afraid to negotiate on price. Here too it pays to ask expert advice before going into battle to bargain.


Keep emotion out of it. Be rational and don't take things personally, especially when you're negotiating the price. Stay calm, decide beforehand what you'll settle for, and be prepared to walk away if things don't work out.


Shop the best interest rate. It doesn't cost you a cent to let a bond originator like BetterBond get you the best deal on your bond from the banks, and it could save you hundreds of thousands of rands in interest over your bond term.


Let the pros do their thing. Pre-purchase inspections protect you as the buyer, so they're not the place to cut costs. Otherwise you run the risk of getting caught out by a major issue that could cost you dearly later on.


Take one final look. If you're really keen on a place, go and see it more than once, and make sure you see it in good light. Then, before you sign on the dotted line, feel free to ask for a final walk-through, to make sure it's in the same condition as when you decided to buy.

First-home buyer 'shopping lists'

Give yourself the best chance at a successful house-hunt! Give yourself the best chance of finding a place you could happily call home by doing your homework and asking yourself some important questions.

When choosing an AREA, ask yourself...

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    Appearance. Are the homes and buildings, gardens and pavements in the area well maintained, are fences and gates neat and in good working order?

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    Atmosphere.Is it the kind of area you like? For example, quiet vs busy and bustling?

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    Access. Is it accessible in terms of roads and public transport?

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    Proximity.Are the places you need on a regular basis conveniently close, like shops and malls, health or sports clubs, salons, doctors, hospitals, childcare or schools, etc.?

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    Connectedness. Is it easy to get to your friends and family, or for them to get to you?

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    Connectivity.Are the area and property fibre-enabled, even if fibre hasn't been fully installed yet?

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    Surrounds.Is there a park, green belt or other natural area nearby?

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    Public areas. Are public areas neat and clean, and free from litter?

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    Traffic.Are there traffic-calming measures like speedbumps, pedestrian crossings and circles?

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    Crime. Is there visible crime control? For example, do security companies conduct vehicle, bicycle or foot patrols, are there CCTV cameras, a neighbourhood watch, etc.

When choosing a HOME, ask yourself...

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    Budget. What are the total costs of owning it? Remember to include rates and taxes, levies if you're buying sectional title property, electricity, water, internet, etc.

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    Type. Do you want a freestanding house, a sectional title apartment, a unit in a brand-new development, a home on a lifestyle estate, etc.?

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    Lifestyle.Is the property close to the kind of places you enjoy, like restaurants and bars? Will it be easy to get to work? Are there healthcare providers, shops and other essential services nearby?

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    Security.How safe and secure is the property and surroundings? Is crime under control in the area?

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    Space How many bedrooms, bathrooms and parking bays do you need? Do you want an outside space, balcony, patio, braai area, garden or pet-friendly place?

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    Connectivity.Is the property fibre-enabled or has wi-fi or fibre been installed, and what will it cost?

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    Renovations & repairs.Would you have to spend time and money renovating or fixing things before you could move in or live comfortably?

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    Maintenance.Would you have time, money and inclination to do what's needed to maintain the property in good condition over time?

Viewing checklist

You've found a place you like. It's time to go and take a look. Make sure you don't miss anything important by saving this list on your phone so you'll have it handy. On the day, take your time during the visit and don't let yourself be rushed.

  • Is this the right location for your lifestyle?
  • Is the property overall in good condition, is the physical structure sound, are there any obvious defects?
  • Does it offer the space and accommodation you need?
  • Are there enough parking bays for your needs, and are there safe and secure visitor bays when friends and family visit?
  • If it's a sectional title property, is the complex neat and well-maintained and are things like electric fences and entry gates in working order?
  • Are pets allowed?
  • What are the noise levels in and around the property, and in the area?
  • What is happening in the surrounding area - is it rundown or being developed?
  • Is crime under control in the neighbourhood?

Estate agent or online?

Both, if you want the best results when finding your first home! The internet can show you availability, prices and pictures, but it can't tell you what it's really like to live there, show you the physical space, tell you about the area, let you know why the owners are moving... expert knowledge can be invaluable. Make contact with estate agents who are familiar with the areas where you're looking to buy. Remember that agents work for sellers because that's where their commission comes from, but this doesn't mean they don't have a lot to offer first-home buyers. Just keep in mind that every conversation you have is potentially part of negotiations later on, so don't lose your heart on a place before it's really yours!

Holding out for a unicorn? Don't!

Looking for a place that's 100% perfect could see you pass up strong contenders in favour of finding something better. Being unwilling to compromise on perfection could limit or sabotage your search. It could take longer to find a home, and possibly to overpaying for a property. Keep an open mind about what's on the market and be willing to put in the hard work when it comes to a thorough search and viewing different places.

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Preparing to buy a home
Making an offer
Buyers Guide