My journey from a first time home buyer to owner is nearly at an end. It started almost a year ago with an idea and a hope that I would be able to find, finance and finally own my very own property. Through it all I’ve learned some valuable life lessons, as well as a fair amount about the South Africa, and Cape Town, property market.
As I went through first the search, then the deal and finally receiving my keys, there were a few things that stuck out in my mind. The most important is probably compromise. About as clichéd as a hairdresser wearing pink, this rather long and complicated word seemed to pop up constantly. Whether it was during the endless days and nights of property searches, conversations with my girlfriend about off-street parking or discussing the finer details of renting rather than buying, compromise was always there.
Here are a few of the biggest compromises I had to consider when looking for my first home:
- Rent or Buy – this is a tough one. The Cape Town rental market is about as cutthroat as you get. I think we’ve all heard the horror stories of landlords pitting potential tenants against one another in a financial game of chicken, or struggling to get past a seriously sweaty individual in an overpopulated open house. These are the moments that make you really wish you didn’t want to rent. In the end, it came down to finances. I was initially looking to rent but when I looked at my finances I worked out, with a little compromise, I could rather buy a home and never need to bribe a landlord with an extra R100 a month again. If you aren’t 100% sure if you can afford to buy, make sure you contact the right people and get a clear picture of what you can and cannot afford.
- Occupants for Hire – the main reason I could afford to buy was the fact that I was willing to compromise on my living arrangements for a little while. By getting in two tenants to live in the house with me I ended up paying the same amount I would have paid someone else in rent, but instead it’s going into my bond. This kind of compromise is only possible if you can afford it. Budgeting and really understanding your finances comes in handy here, not to mention being OK to eat home-cooked meals all week long! Don’t forget that along with buying a property you need to have some form of “nest egg” in order to pay things like a deposit, lawyers fees and other transaction costs. Often these costs can reach into the hundreds of thousands of Rands and they need to be considered when looking to buy a property.
- “Allow for Cookies” – having never had household insurance, I immediately set about trying to figure out how much it would cost and whether it would be a make or break factor in my life going forward. Luckily that friendly neighbourhood Hippo was on hand to give me a seriously detailed look at insurance and how much it would cost. What I didn’t factor in was how this little peak behind a hippo’s curtain would leave me with something I just can’t rid of – telemarketers!
[blockquote]If you do choose to use an online insurance portal of any sort be prepared to be subjected to several phone calls wanting to explain the insurance process to you, and offer you a more detailed financial plan. While this is supremely useful it can also get a little annoying after a while![/blockquote]
Finally, my year long odyssey is over. It’s been an interesting journey and something that has offered up many a braai-side story. If you are in the Cape Town area and looking for property, I wish you the best of luck. Gather as much knowledge as you can and approach each property with a critical eye. Buying a home is probably the biggest decision you will ever make so don’t be afraid to ask questions and, if necessary, walk away.
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