Preparing to buy a home


Six questions to ask your estate agent when house hunting

Six questions to ask your estate agent when house hunting

Buying a house is a life-changing moment, especially if you are a first-time buyer and don’t have any experience in navigating this journey. After you’ve made the decision to buy your first home or relocate to a new home, you need to think about the area you want to live in, your budget and your lifestyle requirements. Armed with all that information, you start the house hunting adventure.

At this point in your journey, it is important to have a list of six handy questions ready for the estate agent when you come across a house you could imagine calling your home.

1. How long has the property been on the market?

This is an important question because if a house has been on the market for longer than two to three months (the average time for a house to be on the market) there may be cynical reasons for it. Perhaps the crime in the area is very high, or the house is built on a clay belt, which causes ongoing cracks in the walls. It could even mean that the price is too high for the area and the homeowners are refusing to negotiate to a more reasonable price. It’s good to find out why the house isn’t selling.

2. What is included in the sale?

It is not uncommon for homeowners to specify that they will be taking certain plants with them, or swopping the brand-new gas stove for the original electric stove hob when they move out the house. If there is something you really like about the house, make sure to ask if it is included in the sale.

3. Why are the homeowners selling the property?

If the homeowner is selling their home to downscale after the kids have left the coop, or because they are going through financial challenges due to retrenchment – these are good reasons for selling. However, if for example they are tired of the neighbour’s loud music or keep getting burgled – these are tell-tale signs that the house is not going to be a good buy.

4. What are the running costs of the property? Can I see the latest monthly municipality account?

Every house will have its own running costs – this cannot be accurately estimated. Each area is different and the water and electricity needs are unique. One house may have a borehole, while another house may have three-phase electricity (usually for business requirements like a heavy-duty stove or printer). This can increase or decrease the running costs substantially. To get an accurate view of the running costs of the home, ask for the homeowner’s latest municipal accounts. If they are hesitant, this should immediately raise a red flag.

5. Can I chat to the neighbours to find out what it is like living in the area?

The neighbours on either side of the house can give you a realistic view of what it is like to live in the area. Besides getting to know them on a personal level, you’ll get insider information that the estate agent may not be able to give you. Buying a house is one of the biggest investments you’ll make in your lifetime. It is worth getting the word on the street so that you have a complete picture of what you are considering spending a lot of money on.

6. Have there been other offers and are the owners open to negotiation?

Why is this important? If there are a lot of offers on the table, you could end up paying more for a house than what it is worth. On the other hand, if there are no offers on the table, it could mean that the house is overpriced or there are underlying reasons why the house is not getting attention.

Many owners are open to negotiation but without asking, you won’t know. If you can cut some money off the purchase price, you can use it to buy some new furniture or paint the house in colours more suited to your taste. You could even put this saving towards renovations. When you ask these six questions, you’ll notice that as the estate agent replies, you’ll be prompted to ask more in-depth questions. The more questions you ask, more information you will have about the investment you are about to make. A 20 to 30-year home loan is a long-term investment. Ask all the questions you need to make sure you are getting exactly what you want.

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