Buying a house is, for most people, the biggest investment they’ll ever make. We asked property agents around the country about the mistakes they frequently see buyers making and their top tips for avoiding potentially costly errors.

The Budget Blues

Johannes van den Berg, of Just Property’s N1 City Branch says that a lack of proper planning is the most common mistake he comes across. “When looking to move, always properly assess the value and sellability of your own property first. ‘Shopping around’ before-hand often results in buyers needing to sell urgently, frequently at a below-market price.”

Lindy Breytenbach, of Just Property Mossel Bay and Hartenbos agrees: “Buyers often make the mistake of putting in an offer on a property subject to the sale of their own home. Time is then lost while they prepare their current home for sale, and they lose their dream home to a cash buyer. Rather list your own property and wait to get a good offer before looking for a new home.”

“For the same reason, I recommend my clients get pre-approved for a bond,” says Maritza van Rooyen, of Just Property Durbanville. “This ensures they know their budget and don’t fall in love with properties they can’t afford. I also explain all costs involved – so many buyers don’t factor in transfer and other hidden costs.”

Many buyers don’t even know their credit rating, notes Tracey Hutton, of Just Property Port Elizabeth. “This is so important. It may indicate that you need to take some time to improve your score before starting the bond approvals process.”

Another mistake buyers make is not properly investigating the defects in their prospective new home, says Lezaan Mentz of Just Property Kalahari. “Buyers often buy with their heart not their head, and this can cost them dearly down the line. The new Property Practitioners Act requires the seller to disclose defects, but also gives the buyer the option to make use of professionals to do an inspection before buying. This is always a sensible move.”

Debi Detleefs of Just Property Stillbaai warns against rushing into renovations before moving in. “I’ve heard of people who spend a small fortune on big windows and stacking doors, and later discover that their dream indoor-outdoor living area faces directly into the prevailing gales. Always visit the site at different times of the day to check the influence of weather on living areas, lighting and views. It’s a good idea to ask the neighbours what they like about their house design and what they would change.”

READ MORE: Big first-time homebuyer blunders and how to avoid them

Other Tips from Top Agents

“Forget finding that picture-perfect, move-in-ready property. Buy a well-built home you can afford, and change the tiles, cupboards and finishes as your budget allows. Your home will show a better increase in value over time, and you’ll be able to stamp your own personality on it,” says Debi. “Oh, and if you’re not sure about anything, ask! Never, ever presume.”

“Avoid adding too many demands and conditions to your offer to purchase. Sellers who get multiple offers on the asking price will go with the least onerous one,” says Lindy. “Also, treat your agent well – we go the extra mile for those who respect us.”

“Before you buy, analyse the area to see if values are deteriorating or improving, and ask your agent for a CMA report,” advises Lezaan. Mona Broadhurst of Just Property Alberton agrees: “Research the location with a view to long-term value. Familiarise yourself with the crime stats, schools and infrastructure in the area. Always ask for a copy of the approved municipal plans, look carefully for defects and plan for interest rate increases.”

“Also remember, to put your offer in writing – a written offer means more than a verbal offer! You don’t want to lose the perfect home because you’ve taken too long to decide or only made a verbal offer.”

Johannes has advice for first-time buyers: “If you’re currently a tenant, make sure you choose a rental that will still allow you to save up for the deposit you’ll need when you buy one day. Deposits impress the banks and have a positive impact on interest over the term of your home loan. And when you are ready to buy, choose a flexible bond so that as soon as you are able to, you can put in more than the minimum payment. You’ll save big on interest over the long term.”

Martiza adds: “It’s also a good idea to buy for less than the full pre-approved amount to ensure you can live comfortably and still afford the ongoing expenses of home-ownership.”

“Select a personal agent to work with,” says Tracey. “A buyer’s agent will ensure that you’ve followed all the necessary steps to get ‘buyer ready’. They will get to know exactly what you’re looking for and be able to match you to the correct property, sometimes even before a home hits the market.”

“Just Property agents can also help with a pre-approval check to assure our buyers what they can afford before they commit or sign anything,” adds Martiza. “On the flip side, your agent can also tell you when a bargain is not a bargain and insist that the seller’s agent supplies all the figures that justify why the property is a good buy.”

CEO of Just Property, Paul Stevens, notes that buyers often don’t realise how stressful the purchasing process can be. “The most important advice I can give to buyers is to work with a knowledgeable property practitioner. Of course, you can spend all day on the property portals and arrange to view homes yourself, but an agent who knows your preferred area will assist you to prepare your offer and with the transfer process, guiding you through what can be a fraught journey to navigate on your own.”

Source: Just Property

READ MORE: Knowing your affordability can buy you your dream home

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