Buying a house is a big deal! For starters, it’s likely to be the largest purchase you’ll ever make.
If it’s the first time you’re doing this, you don’t have any experience to rely on to help navigate the process, which can make it quite overwhelming. Here are some practical tips to help you unearth any potential deal-breakers before handing over the cheque.
What’s the neighbourhood like?
Do some research on the area you are looking to move to – especially if it’s not one that you are familiar with.
Check out the nearby properties, roads, parks, restaurants, etc. Are there any nearby properties that are safety concerns, such as large vacant plots of land? What’s the likelihood of something disturbing the peace, such as nearby nightclubs or highways? Are there parks or greenbelts close enough to take your dog for a walk? If exercising outdoors is important to you, can you? Using tools like Google Earth can be useful to get a good idea of what’s nearby.
Find out about crime in the area. Make sure to ask the estate agent or current owner about any previous incidents. It might also be a good idea to find out about any neighbourhood watch programmes in the area – Facebook generally has a lot of groups that you can join too. Another good idea is to check up on the crime stats by using websites like www.crimestatssa.com
Meet the neighbours and chat to them about crime, the general neighbourhood and any other issues you might need to be aware of.
How much is the house going to cost in the long term?
Buying a house isn’t just about paying your monthly instalments to your bank. It entails a couple more things that you’ll need to factor in when budgeting for your home.
If you’re buying a home that’s in a complex or development, you usually have to pay a monthly levy. Find this out so you can know what to expect each month. It might be a good idea to compare one complex’s levies with another.
Also ask for the most recent financial statements and maintenance plan from the body corporate. This will help you to get an idea of the complex’s financial position and whether any special levies are likely to arise in the short term. If there are any unusual or large expenses it might indicate a bigger problem. Again, comparing the financial statements and maintenance plans with other complexes can give you some further insight.
Rates and taxes
Similarly, find out what the monthly municipal rates and taxes are likely to cost you.
TIP: To help give a better idea of what rates and taxes come with owning the property, consider asking the existing owners for their last municipal bill.
If you’re applying for a bond to buy a house, most finance providers require that your house is insured. However, this insurance doesn’t have to be bought from the finance provider, so it’s a good idea to shop around to make sure you’re getting the best price.
It’s also important to consider disability and life insurance. If you have a bond and you become ill, disabled or worse and can’t pay your monthly repayments, disability and life insurance will have you covered.
The cost of utilities (water and electricity) can vary significantly across properties and by usage, but there are some things you can try and find out beforehand which can provide a better idea of these costs:
The garden watering system
Is there a rain-water collection system? Is there a borehole? What water is being used for the garden?
What methods are used to keep the house warm in winter and cool in summer? Are less energy-intensive methods used (e.g. roof insulation and property positioning) or is this likely to contribute to a large electricity bill (e.g. air-con, under-floor heating, etc.).
Electricity generation and storage
Does the house have solar panels and a battery system? This can both reduce the electricity bill and provide a useful back-up during loadshedding.
TIP: Ask the existing owners for a utilities invoice to help you see how much electricity and water are likely to cost. Try and get an invoice from both a summer and a winter month.
Consider the once-off costs you have to pay
When you buy a home, there are a number of processes that need to take place and with that once-off fees that need to be paid. Here are the main once-off costs you can expect:
- Bond registration fees: A fee due to the attorneys who are registering your bond for the property’s title deeds.
- Transfer duties: a tax payable to SARS if your property is worth more than R1-million.
- Other transfer costs: These are costs that are payable by you (the buyer) to the transferring attorney to cover the cost of registering your ownership with the Deeds Office.
Ask for all the right documentation
Request all necessary certificates
By law, a number of compliance certificates need to be provided when a house is sold. By asking for these upfront, you can be assured that all necessary repairs and costs have been taken care of before entering into the buying process. These include:
- Electrical compliance certificate;
- Electrical fence certificate (where relevant);
- Water installation certificate;
- Gas certificate (where relevant);
- Beetle certificate (while not required by law, some finance providers do require this in certain parts of the country); and
- Engineering certificate, especially if you are in a dolomitic area or on a property that would require special foundations.
Request building plans
This is also required by law and checking this upfront can avoid potential delays in the buying process. It is also a good idea to do a walk around the property and make sure that the plans are an accurate reflection, i.e. that they have been updated for any renovations carried out.
Request body corporate rules
If the house is in a complex, ask for the rules to make sure that there are no deal-breakers, for example, a no-pets rule.
Get clear on any maintenance issues
It is a good idea to do a thorough inspection of the property so that you can get an idea of any amounts you will have to spend fixing any issues. Here are a few examples:
- Do all the doors open and close easily?
- Is there any sign of damp or mould?
- Do all the taps run?
- Do all the toilets flush?
- What is the Wi-Fi/fibre situation?
- Are the stove and oven in operating order?
- What’s the state of the pool?
- State of the security system (alarm/electric fence, etc.)
- State of the roof
- What does the paint look like inside and out?
- Current state of the garden and the cost of keeping it in shape
- Are there any spare tiles, floor boards, etc.?
Buying a house comes with a fair amount of admin but at the end of the day, you’ve got a new house!
To reiterate, be sure to have all your ducks in a row with regards to insurance. Get a quote with Naked and have your new home covered in minutes!