House hunting is not for the faint of heart
Buying a new home should be a happy event, not a stressful nightmare, but it can go from one to the other overnight.
In our 6 month- long quest for a new home, I’ve learned some extremely valuable and expensive lessons.
- Don’t look at houses you can’t afford.
- They will be more beautiful and perfect than the ones you can afford and will just depress you.
- Make a list of exactly what everyone in the family wants and only see homes that meet those criteria. E.g. A view, a pool, close to school, etc.
- That said, look about R200k above your price range.
- Estate agents and sellers want to get more for their properties, but everything is negotiable. Most properties are listed higher than their actual value.
- Don’t be bullied.
- Estate agents want to make a sale quickly. Don’t fall for it.
- Take your time. Go away and think about it. Come back and look again more critically.
- Read the contract
- This is VITAL. Don’t let the legal jargon confuse you.
- Refuse to sign any offer that contains a voetstoots clause.
- Add in your stipulations too.
- You don’t have to use the agent’s or seller’s lawyer, you have every right to use your own.
- Get an independent assessor
- You have the right to get in an independent property assessor.
- Make sure you include in your offer to purchase that you will do so and that your offer is contingent on the assessor’s report.
- It costs between R3k and R5k, but is worth it for your peace of mind.
- For example, if we’d done this earlier we’d have known that the roof was about to collapse and we wouldn’t have spent R20k on legal bills to get out of the sale.
- If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is
- If everything looks amazing and you’re congratulating yourself on finding a Home and Garden house for a fraction of what its worth, STOP. Get in an assessor.
- Look beyond the obvious
- Check for new paint on the walls or ceilings. This could be covering up water damage or a leak. (Been there, done that).
- Look at the roof. Check it out on Google Earth. Cracked tiles, wonky sheeting, rotting brandering, etc. are BAD things and will cost you to repair.
- Check the gutters. If they’re falling down, cracked or blocked you don’t want to deal with that after the fact and could be a sign of roof damage.
- Check how long the property has been on the market and if it’s been left unoccupied for any length of time.
- Get quotes for any repairs and make sure the offer is contingent on repair being completed before transfer.
- Dot the I’s and cross the T’s
- Make sure there are approved plans for any alterations made to the property.
- Ask for the warranties on any work done in the last 3 years.
- Find out the actual boundary of the property and if it encroaches onto public ground.
- You can pay a nominal amount to rent the space from the city council, but make sure this is all legal.
- Meet the neighbours
- Seriously! My colleague ended up buying a beautiful home in a lovely area really cheaply, only to discover his neighbour was a paranoid schizophrenic who would periodically shoot a high powered rifle through his windows.
- Google it
- For a small fee you can buy a property report on the area and get a good idea of house values over the last year.
- Google Earth and Street View also let you go back in time so you can see what work has been in the last few years.
And try not to be put off by the property’s current décor.
I’ve seen a life-sized Elvis mannequin, innumerable terrifying Chucky-like dolls, questionable porcelain shepherdesses and, my personal worst, the House of Death with the deathbed intact.
It’s just stuff, you can make it your own.