Diary of a house hunter

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I have been watching the property market closely for the past year. When I say 'market' I really mean house prices – and boy are they scary.

But hey, it's not as if they will be coming down anytime soon so, as a colleague recently advised me: "Just do it – the sooner the better!"

The more I thought about it the more frustrated I became about the thousands and thousands of rands that have gone down the tubes in rent – money that I could have been paying towards a bond over the past few years.

I'm now sold – I have bought the idea of investing in a home and I am going all out to find the perfect place. Where does one start? Do you first identify the areas you would like to live in or do you merely go for the most affordable option?

According to Monica du Toit from Xinglo Estates in Somerset West, the first thing you need to do is decide on the area in which you would like to live.

Finding an agent
Once this has been established you should find the best estate agent operating in that area. It is always reassuring when an agent knows the area well and is able to answer all your questions.

"A good idea is to take a drive around and look for "For Sale" or "Sold" boards, see who these agents are and get in touch with them," says Monica.

"It's also extremely important to establish whether the agent is registered with the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) and has a valid Fidelity Fund Certificate, as the EAAB protects the public from unethical estate agents," she explains.

Sales service
As a first-time buyer you must make sure that you receive the best possible advice and service. A good agent should make you feel comfortable and guide you through the entire process from the beginning until you move into your new home.

This communication is vital and will help you to understand why processes such as transfers can take between six weeks and three months, as well as all the additional costs involved in buying a property.

"You want an agent who goes beyond the call of duty. Many agents only work with clients until the time the contract is signed, when in fact most of the work lies between this point and the day the property is registered in your name.

"This is the time when you need outstanding sales service in the event of any problems arising," says Monica.

One of the most important things to remember when buying a house is that, for you as the buyer, the services of the estate agent are free, as he or she will receive payment from the seller once the sale has been concluded successfully.

In next month's Home read all about all the little extras that'll end up costing you, as well as banks and interest rates.

Remember...

  • At all times remember that your estate agent is an expert you have chosen to help you make the right decisions, but you have the final say.

  • Buying a house is the single biggest investment most people make, therefore ensure that you buy wisely.

  • Don't rush.

    Helpful hints

  • Ask your chosen estate agency how long it has been operating for and when it became licensed.

  • Question the agent about the area you would like to live in. Ask about amenities, public transport, schools, the location of the police station, crime levels, and so on. This will help you to assess whether he or she really does know the area well.

  • Enquire about how many buyers and sellers your estate agent has previously assisted.

  • There is no prescribed commission rate.
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