What first-time homebuyers need to know about owning a home in South Africa

 ·8 Jun 2024

Buying a house may be a dream for many, but homeownership is far more intensive than owning.

“Buying your first home is an incredible accomplishment and milestone, however, once the moving boxes are unpacked and the new home excitement wears off a bit, many first-time buyers are surprised to find that homeownership is quite different from renting and it comes with much more responsibility on a day-to-day basis,” said Cobus Odendaal from Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty.

“As a renter, your main financial obligation was paying rent and electricity each month, with the landlord handling maintenance, repairs, and other housing costs. But as a new homeowner, all the responsibility and costs of maintaining your property now fall squarely on your shoulders, and it can be very daunting.”

The best way to deal with new challenges is to be proactive rather than reactive.

“It’s easy to be overwhelmed when problems and unexpected expenses arise, especially during your first year of homeownership, and the only way to handle issues with minimum stress is to be prepared from the get-go.”

Be Prepared for Extra Costs: 

A major shock for new homeowners is how expensive keeping a house in good condition can be.

Renters phone their landlords for help with issues, but owners are now responsible for organizing and managing any repairs.

Experts said that budgeting 1 to 4% of a home’s value for maintenance and repairs is best.

“It’s also a good idea to line up reliable contractors for when something inevitably needs fixing rather than having to phone around for a professional mid-crisis. Tackle small projects yourself, if possible, but it’s important to be able to call in the professionals for major issues.”

Establish Where Everything is Located as Soon as Possible

It is important to know where everything in your house is.

For instance, you don’t want to run around your flooding house to find where the municipal water tap is.

Get Comfortable with DIY and YouTube:

The first year of homeownership is the ideal time to start learning basic home maintenance skills via books, online tutorials, and YouTube videos, such as unclogging drains, sealing wooden decks, and fixing wonky door hinges.

“Not only will you save money, but you’ll gain useful skills and confidence as a homeowner. But be honest about your limitations, and don’t try anything overly dangerous or complicated until you’re ready. The right tools and safety gear are musts as well.”

Prioritise an Emergency Home Repair Fund

It’s never a nice feeling to fork out over an expensive repair like a burst geyser.

An emergency home repair fund is thus a priority for first-time buyers.

They should start by setting aside a monthly amount as soon as they decide to buy a property or when they move into their new home.

Understand Your Home’s Efficiency and Costs

The utility and efficiency costs for a new home may vary drastically from what you’re used to, depending on the property’s size, age and construction quality.

Thus, first-time buyers should monitor their electricity, water/sewerage, and internet usage to establish a realistic baseline.

Small measures, such as energy efficiency through insulation, can result in long-term savings.

Stay On Top of Seasonal and Annual Maintenance

Buyers must also stay on top of their seasonal and annual maintenance tasks.

This maintains the property’s condition and will help discover issues before they become big and costly.

Important tasks include:

  • Cleaning gutters, downspouts, and drainage areas

  • Checking for cracks/leaks and recaulking windows and doors as needed

  • Testing alarms and replacing batteries

  • Pruning and trimming trees/bushes, etc

Make Sure You’re Properly Covered

It is important that homeowners choose the best building and household insurance for their specific needs and update their policies every year.

Insurers should also be informed when you do any renovations or make improvements.

And don’t forget to inform your insurer when you are going to do renovations or make improvements.

Read: ‘Landmark’ precinct up for auction in South Africa – including its own shopping mall

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