9 first-time buyer mistakes to avoid in the current housing market in South Africa

Even the darkest cloud has a silver lining and, in this instance, it’s the rare combination of a record low repo rate and a very bearish market affording first-time buyers an excellent opportunity to get a foot in the market and make a good investment if they keep their wits about them.

This is according to Claude McKirby, co-principal of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty in Cape Town’s Southern Suburbs, who said: “There hasn’t been a better time to enter the market for many years as investors are also spoilt for choice in every price band.

“However, favourable market conditions don’t mitigate the potential pitfalls and, unfortunately, buyer’s remorse is not uncommon amongst first-time buyers, usually as a result of neglecting to do their homework and ensure they are thoroughly prepared.

“It really is a case of ‘forewarned is forearmed’ because if you have a clear understanding of the process and what is required and have devised a clear plan of action, you can easily circumvent costly mistakes and shop for your dream home with confidence, even during a pandemic.”

McKirby said that now, more than ever, it’s essential to have experienced property professionals onside to guide buyers, especially those who are purchasing for the first time.

“Ironically, some of the measures recently implemented because of lockdown actually engender better communication and closer interaction between clients and agents than before the pandemic.

“And, with many of the administrative processes now being digital, there is less margin for error than when dealing with reams of printed documents from various sources, especially for younger buyers who are already comfortable with all things digital.”

That said, he cautions that with almost every aspect of the process, including property viewing being virtual at the moment, it’s even more critical for inexperienced buyers to be aware of what boxes need to be ticked to make a wise investment choice and evade the pitfalls.

According to McKirby, the following are common first-time buyer mistakes:


1. Not having a clear idea of what you want

Although most first-time buyers have an idea of the type of home in which they would like to live, many don’t realise that there are other critical factors to consider which will impact their daily lives for years to come and they could end up loving their home but hating their neighbourhoods.

Would they prefer to live a peaceful, suburb area or a vibrant environment with nightlife? Do they need to be close to work or schools or would they prefer to be in close proximity to a social entertainment hub? Do they have time to take care of a garden or would a lower maintenance option suit their lifestyles better?


2. Not being sure of what you can afford

Most first-time buyers will be required to pay a deposit and apply for a bond for the balance and unless they have an idea of how much banks are willing to lend them, they are literally shooting in the dark.

The best way to do this is by obtaining pre-qualification which not only affords them the peace of mind that their credit record is in good standing, it also arms the them with the knowledge of how much they can afford to spend and the type of bond deal they can expect from a bank.”


3. Buying more house than you can afford

 It’s easy to be tempted to buy a home that might stretch your budget, but overextending yourself is never a good idea as you risk losing your home if the unexpected happens and you fall on tough financial times. You’ll also have less wiggle room in your monthly budget for other bills and expenses.


4. Moving too fast

 Buying a home can be complex and rushing the process can cost you later on as you may not be able to save enough for a deposit and the associated costs, address items on your credit rating or make informed decisions.

Take the time to map out your home-buying timeline well in advance – at least a year, if possible, bearing in mind how long you will need to save money, repair poor credit etc before you can apply for pre-approval.


5. Not making an effort to clear debt before applying for a home loan

The two most critical requirements are a good credit record with a track record of repaying contractual debt responsibly and being able to afford the monthly bond instalment.

One of the key factors that banks take into consideration when determining affordability is an applicant’s income-to-debt ratio, so it’s advisable to start reducing debt as soon as they even start to think about buying a home.


6. Don’t shop around for the best rate

Many people think that just because they have banked with one institution for a number of years, they will automatically get a better interest rate than from any other institution.

However, this is not the case and buyers should bear in mind that shopping for a mortgage is like shopping for a car – it pays to compare offers.

One of the best ways to do so is to utilise the services of a bond originator like ooba to source the best financing option. They don’t charge for the service and their access to multiple lenders, enables them to negotiate on your behalf and to obtain the best deal, thereby saving the homebuyer thousands of Rands in interest over the term of the bond.


7. Allowing their emotions to influence decisions

Buying a house is a major life milestone; you are choosing the place where you’ll put down roots, make memories and create a space that’s truly yours, so it’s easy to get too caught up and make emotional decisions.

It’s important to remember that you’re also making one of the largest investments of your life, and a bad decision could have repercussions for years to come.


8. Paying a deposit that’s too small

You don’t always have to make a 20% down payment to buy a home but paying too small a deposit is one of the most common regrets amongst first-time buyers who misjudged the importance of smaller monthly bond repayments down the line.


9. Emptying your savings and underestimating the running costs of a home

Unless you are buying a brand new home off-plan, you will most likely have to do unexpected repairs not too long after you have bought your house and you could quickly find yourself in a financial hole if you have drained all your savings to buy the property.

You may also use more electricity than in your previous home and will have other monthly bills like rates and home insurance.

McKirby offers a final word of advice: “It’s also a good idea to show the property that you are thinking of buying to friends or family members who know you well and will advise you with your best interests at heart.

“Being prepared will not only minimise the stress of the process, it will allow you to save money from the get-go and will minimise the possibility of ending up with a mountain of unforeseen debt.”


Read: Here’s what South Africa’s rental property market will look like after lockdown has ended

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9 first-time buyer mistakes to avoid in the current housing market in South Africa