Buying that first home is super exciting,  the entire process of going online looking at your possible dream homes, making drawings and plans and finally calling the agents, just to have a closer look.  I remember this as a very exciting time in any home owners life, the new possibility of a better tomorrow.  With all of this dreaming and hoping and lots of anxity one often forget to do some of the most important steps, and that will be to be very clear headed and doing your research.It may seems like somewhat of a damper on the entire experience, but to be honest your property may be one of your singular highest investments in your entire life.  It is for this reason that research, planning and patients must be in the equation.


1.     Neighbourhood Information

Researching the past and future developments of your prospective neighbourhood will give you a clear indication if this is where you would want to live. Consider the past community newspapers,online research, community site, governmental sites and blogs will give you a good indication of where this neighbourhood came from and where it might go.

Lets say for instance you want to buy a property away from it all.  Knowing that there is a property developer that brought a large field close to you, might have you reconsider this new prospective home.


2.     Security and Crime

We might not want to consider this, but sadly we all have to consider this factor.  Living in a crime neighbourhood will mean less capital growth, meaning its simply not worthy of your investment, not to mention the harm you might come to.  I suggest other than doing the traditional research you might want to walk the streets on a Sunday morning (with a friend or two).  Get a feel for the neighbourhood, talk to the people of the neighbourhood and also consider the looks you get from the neighbourhood.  These might seem a bit paranoid, but rather safe than sorry.


3.     School Districts

Buying a house in a good School District will also give better guarantees for a better potential capital growth.  This is true whether you have children or not.


4.     The neighbourhood/local amenities

Consider finding out if the community still uses their community centre, if they have a homeowners association, a CID and if there is a security patrol system in place.  This will give you an indication of the types of activities within your community and also if there might be extra fees to the neighbourhood.  Your real estate agent should be able to help you with this assignment.


5.     Visit your prospective home more than once

Buying a house takes time and you will have to give it to ensure you by the best house you can. It is for this reason always a good idea to visit your prospective home several time at different times of the week.  Considering the noise of schools, kindergartens, retailers and traffic is something that can drive one nuts after the excitement has dissipate.

You don’t want to say “I made a mistake, and I want to move” in a few month.  I truly encourage this assignment, even if you just sit in your car in front of your prospective home and read a book for an hour or so.  Get a feel for your street and the noise that comes with it.

If you are however consider buying in the city, I suggest you forget this assignment.  For the city is loud, plain and simple.


6.     Traffic, test it

Visiting the prospective homes over the weekend should give you the best commute times, but this is not the time by which you will be swearing over being late for that meeting.  Try driving from the prospective home to work on a Monday morning and also a Friday afternoon.

These are apparently the worst traffic times!


7.     Home Inspection

A home inspection to the maintenance, repairs and improvements you might want to make to the prospective home should be done before signing on the dotted line.  It must be noted that we are not all engineers and builders, so knowing what it will cost to fix that crack in the wall might be far more than you thought.

This is especially true if you are a first property buyer.  First property buyers’ often have to buy a fixer upper, this is fun and something you should be looking forward to.  But as much fun as it could be, it could also be a far worst nightmare.  Know your facts, get your quotes and make your financial calculations.  Buying a fixer upper that’s going to take you 7 years to fix is too much, something in the 3 year line is more acceptable, thats atleast for your own – and  your partners sanity.


8.     Talk to the Seller

The seller, if they are willing to talk to you, are the best option.  They will be able to tell you about the community, the neighbours and the property itself.  You should of course be aware that the seller wants you to buy the property, but they are still a good source of information.


9.     Milk the information train.

It is important that you try and get as much information about the property and everything that goes with it.

Consider asking about the following:


  • Water
  • Electricity
  • Property Tax (and what the tax was calculated on, the sellers buying price)
  • Community fees, such as a community security system, home owners associations, CID…

Property Itself:

  • How old is the property
  • What renovations has been done
  • How old is the geyeser and in what condition is it
  • When last was the plumbing and electricity redone
  • Are there any basements or attics (what is their condition – water damage?)

Legal Issues

  • Is the a current lease, if so how long will it still be
  • Have there been any neighbour disputes

Real Estate:

  • How long has the property been on the market.
  • How many offers has it had
  • What was the reasons for the previous offers to fall through
  • How long has the seller lived there, why are they moving


10.     What do you need from this property

After you went through the previous 9 points you will have a very good idea if this prospective home and neighbourhood is for you.  If it is, well then there are one last item on the check list.  This is the most important item by far, for you will feel like an idiot if you didn’t think about this.

“What do you need from this home, and what does that entitle”

Not making sense, well it’s simple.  I work from home and I need ecellent internet, meaning I need a fast line and good connection.  Living in South Africa fast internet and good connections aren’t a given.  As such when we bought our home we checked the average internet line speeds of our neighbourhood and also we checked if the connections are good.

If you aren’t all that technical you can try and check you phone, at least you will have a good idea if you are going to drop many calls from your new home.

This is just my example of what was important to me.  You will of course have your own important issues.  The gist of the matter is that you know what you need from this property and if you can get that.  If you would like to understand the home buying process, check out our First time home buyer, need to know the steps inforgraphic.

 Written by Lizl Brink, Lizl is copywriter and designer based in Johannesburg, she is also a frequent contributor to the Mafadi blog, and as an Urban investor and rejuvenation shares a passion for urban regeneration, go check out her personal portfolio here
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