Property 24/10 - 47

First-time home buying checklist
Purchasing a home is one of the biggest financial decisions you will make during your lifetime. Managed well, it can be a very rewarding investment over the long term, so it is important to understand your rights and how to exercise them. It is also important to spend time working out what you need and what you can afford before you commit to a purchase.

Whether you intend to live in a property for a short time, or for many years to come, there are certain points that need to be considered when spending time viewing a potential new home. After all, your first property is likely the first large investment you will make.

Whether you purchase a house privately, through an agent or at auction, the thrill of finding the right house, in the right area, at the right price, never wanes.

When buying a home:
- be well informed of your rights
- shop around
- be prepared to negotiate
- don't be afraid to ask questions if you are unsure
- don't rush your decision making
- read everything before you sign anything

Toll roads - shifts in property market
For many Gautengers who drive to work using some of the major routes the cost that will be added by the new toll fees may well make the commute unaffordable.

The new toll fees will impact on commuters' monthly costs and see a shift in home buying and renting patterns.

Toll roads are a big issue for many consumers at the moment - especially in Gauteng - and they are set to have a major impact on home buying and renting patterns.

This is according to Harcourts Africa CEO Richard Gray, who says: "Hundreds of thousands of people travel between Johannesburg and Pretoria every day, many of them living in one city and working in the other, and it is estimated that such commutes will add at least R1000 a month per vehicle to the monthly household budget.

"And the situation will no doubt be much the same for those commuting between the East Rand and West Rand, or between the southern suburbs of Johannesburg and Sandton or Midrand."

Banks inconsistent in granting bonds
Banking groups in South Africa have been accused of "lacking consistency" when it comes to approving mortgage bonds and that the criteria applied by the different banks when assessing an application make it confusing and difficult for estate agents who are trying to conclude a sale.

Michael Bauer, managing director of IHPC, says that agents will check affordability levels, payment profiles, credit scoring and do a full credit check on a buyer prior to submitting an application and when the application is rejected, these agents can find no reason for the rejection.

"In a country that has a desperate need for housing, these rejections and delays are extremely frustrating and cost developers large sums of money because they cannot sell the properties," says Bauer.

Choose the right windows for your home
We all love lots of windows - we love the natural light, the views, and the fresh air they offer us. Today however, there are so many kinds of windows available that it's often difficult to decide which windows to choose. Windows must be aesthetically attractive, let in plenty of light, functional, durable, easily maintained, secure and energy-efficient. And we want all this for an affordable price.

How you go about choosing windows for your home will be determined by a variety of factors, including your budget, your area, climate, your requirements and of course, the size and style of your home. However, there are major factors that ought to be considered before making your decision, which include:
Quality and performance

Sandton apartments breach R40k/sqm
While property price growth of second hand homes remains subdued, the upper end of the newly built sectional title market appears to be bucking the trend.

Seven penthouse apartments are to be built on the top of the new Katherine & West office development opposite Sandton City and the Gautrain station.

This is particularly evident in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg where developers of luxury apartments are returning to the market. Barrow Properties, Group Five and Amabubesi Property Group this week announced plans to build seven penthouse apartments on the top of the new Katherine & West office development opposite Sandton City and the Gautrain station.
The luxury units will be on offer at prices ranging from R9m to a cool R17,25m. That translates into a rand/sq m rate of between R40 000 and R43 000, which is on a par with asking prices at Sandton Skye, another new luxury apartment development currently under construction on Grayston Drive.

Don't pay for government's mistakes
The ANC government has proudly spoken about how, in the past 16 years, it has delivered more than two million homes to indigent people around the country. And it proudly reassures its voters - who would vote for it anyway and don't need any reassurances - that it is getting on top of the housing problem.

Paddy Hartdegen writes a regular column for

Then, after research lasting more than a year, the Department of Human Settlements turns around and tells the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee that it needs R58-billion to fix the houses that have already been built.

They go on to say that it will take at least two years to repair all these properties too. And they then talk about creating a blacklist of individuals who have crooked the government in the past.

Rentals: Landlord vs. tenant costs
Lease agreements are by no means standard and cost recovery arrangements by landlords vary from property to property.

It is important to define upfront the operating costs of a rental property, and the rental agreement should clearly state which costs the landlord and tenant are responsible for.

So says, Michael Bauer, general manager of IHFM, who adds that a key to a satisfactory landlord-tenant relationship is to define in the agreement, upfront, the direct and indirect operating costs of the property, stating clearly the costs for which the landlord and tenant are responsible.

"The landlord must ensure that the tenant initials the relevant clauses in the lease and understands his responsibilities," says Bauer.

Although leases can be verbal, Bauer says it is advisable for the landlord to have a written lease and South African law in fact makes this obligatory.

Moving to the country - pros and cons
With the lingering effects of the global recession still biting hard, and no real relief in sight, many families are re-examining their lifestyles and financial options.

Country living may turn out to be blissful, but more likely than not, there will be a period of major adjustment with many ups and downs, a tightening budget, and unforeseen pitfalls.

In the city it's hard to shave much off monthly expenses - schooling, travel, municipal rates, monthly power bills, food and security costs are fixed. Insurance is higher and then there are endlessly-escalating levies for sectional title dwellers. Executive wardrobes, grooming and entertainment gobble up a budget as restaurant and retail prices soar. All this adds up to a frightening whack whether it's coming off a fixed salary, or has to be budgeted for in the roller-coaster of the fluctuating incomes of the self-employed.

If you've always wanted to live in the country, now might be just the right time to sell up and make the big move. This is not the time for greed or hoping for an overseas buyer who will pay an over-the-top price for your city home, if you put your house on the market at the 'right' price you stand a good chance of finding a buyer. Or, if you have a nest egg to cover the cost of a country purchase, you could let the house and retain your foothold in the city.

Neighbourhood watch counters crime
Although the estate agency sector is often reluctant to admit it, crime in the residential suburbs of South Africa has become a major reason for the slow house price recovery, says Lanice Steward, Managing Director of Anne Porter Knight Frank (APKF).

"Constant surveillance of this kind by communities has transformed certain precincts as radically as have CIDs in some urban areas," says Steward.

"As always over the holiday season we saw a big upswing in the number of robberies and break-ins. This very definitely deterred some buyers from taking the plunge and committing themselves," says Steward.

In one case, says Steward, APKF had taken a preliminary offer to buy from a keen buyer, who then called in on the local police station to check their views on crime in that precinct - and was so dismayed by what he heard that he cancelled his offer.

What has, in many areas, prevented the situation getting out of hand, says Steward, has been the remarkable success of neighbourhood watches. These, she says, are often manned by men and women who have already put in a hard day's work elsewhere but who appreciate the need for a supplementary service.

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