For many, buying a home is the biggest investment that they will expect to make.

As in many other situations, says Gerhard Kotzé, MD of the RealNet estate agency group, the key to making good decisions is preparation, which in this case means doing some work to formulate a very clear idea of what you want.

“So before you even start looking at homes for sale, you need to set time aside to discuss and compile a wish-list of everything you would like your new home to have, and then whittle it down to features that are absolutely essential, and perhaps a few more that would really enhance your lifestyle if they were included at a price that matched your budget.

“In addition, you need to decide what type and size of property you would like, what you can comfortably afford to pay for your new home, and where you would like to live. This will really help you to focus and make your home search much less stressful.”

To make your list, he says, you need to answer at least the following questions:

  • Would you prefer an older area or a newer one?
  • Do you like dense, mixed-use communities with lots of activity, or would you really prefer a secluded location with lots of privacy?
  • Would you like to live in a secure complex or estate, or would you rather have a freehold home in a traditional suburb? Or maybe even a home in the countryside?
  • Do you need to be within walking distance of schools and shops and sporting facilities
  • Do you need to be on a bus route or close to other public transport?
  • Do you like older homes, or would you rather have a newly-built one?
  • How much time do you have to spend on home maintenance and gardening?
  • How many bedrooms and bathrooms does your family need?
  • What sort of living space would suit you – open-plan or traditional?
  • Do you need a separate home office or study?
  • Do you need an outdoor leisure and entertainment space, such as a patio or balcony?
  • Do you need a garage or a storeroom?
  • Have you been pre-qualified for a home loan so that you know what your buying power is?
  • Have you estimated how much you can afford for insurance, municipal rates, maintenance and levies in addition to your monthly bond repayment?
  • Have you worked out a monthly budget to ensure that you buy a home that will remain affordable, allowing some room for possible interest rate increases in future?

READ MORE: MortgageMe and Lightstone partnership helps buyers

“Once you have gone through this exercise, you will be well-equipped to start searching online and selecting homes to view, and if you stick to your list, you won’t be distracted by features that may be attractive but are non-essentials for you, and you won’t be tempted to make any hasty decisions based solely on price.”

You will also be able to give estate agents in your preferred areas a very definite and clear description of what your requirements are so that they can assist you in your home search and “match” you to any suitable properties that they have listed.

“However, in the current market you do also need to be motivated to buy. Hunting for the right home does of course take some time and you should definitely not leap into a purchase until you have looked at several properties in your preferred area and price bracket.

READ MORE: Is it better to build or buy your dream home?

“But you should also not hesitate to commit to a property that does fit your carefully considered criteria. It is unlikely at this stage, when there is a shortage of homes for sale in many areas, that something better will come along next week or next month. In fact, it is more likely that you will end up having less choice and having to pay more for a home that suits you, says Kotzé.”

SUBSCRIBE: to our content here