Buying your first home can be a thrilling experience, although it can also come with its own unique challenges. It is quite common to be anxious when you’re house hunting – especially if it is your first property. A small amount of preparation can go a long way to ensuring you end up with the perfect home.
“Buying a property is both exciting and terrifying at the same time, even though it is seen as business transaction it is an emotional affair too. Try your best to try and keep your emotions under control before you make a hard-pressed and foolish decision about a home which is financially out of your reach, or alternatively settling for something within your budget, yet not what you wanted” advises Craig Hutchison, CEO Engel & Völkers Southern Africa.
In order to avoid finding yourself drowning in “house” possibilities, set priorities and organize the house hunting process early on, you can then rest assured that you have armed yourself with as much knowledge as possible.
To help you stay focused on the important details during your house hunt, here are some tips and important decisions to think about before rushing to the property market.
Know Your Budget
Determining what you can afford is the first step in narrowing down the home search. Buyers need to know what they will be able to afford on a monthly basis, and decide ahead of time what amount they are comfortable with paying per month for their mortgage. Remember to include the other costs associated with homeownership, such as home insurance, property taxes, maintenance and utilities.
Check Your Score
The higher your credit score, the better. Good credit is like gold when obtaining a mortgage and securing the best interest rate possible. If your credit score falls short, get busy repairing it -correct any errors that might be on your report, start paying all your bills on time, and get your credit limit raised.
Pre-Approved Home Loan
Most people will need to take out a bond to purchase their first home. Applying for pre-approval with the assistance of a Bond Originator puts you in a much stronger position to buy, and you’ll feel more confident of your limitations when making an offer. You’ll be able to show sellers that you are a serious buyer and have the required finances to purchase the property. Once you know how much home you can afford, you can perform your home search based on your pre-approval amount or less.
It is crucial to determine how long you think you will be living in the property you are about to buy. It is pointless to buy a studio flat knowing you wish to start a family soon. Similarly, if your job or your financial circumstances are in any way to become unstable in the near future, make sure you will be covered financially.
Find a Diligent Agent
Once you know how much you can spend, and what your planned future holds, you are ready to begin your search for an agent. Some buyers choose to first select their agent before doing any of the above. This might be a wise choice in many cases, as if you have the right agent by your side, you are covered in all areas.
Your agent can help guide you through the financing part of buying a home and will have a better handle on the market. They will represent your interests and keep a constant eye out for newly listed homes you might love. Look for an agent who is educated and who has lived in the area for a long time, knows the market, and who is knowledgeable about problems with potential homes and who’s invested in educating you about how to buy a home.
Where You Would Like to Live
If you aren’t sure about your specific location, spend some time in the areas you’re interested in at different times of the day to get a feel for the area, for instance visit during rush hour and at night time. Consider what you would prefer: an older, more established area, or a newer one? Do you like communities with plenty of activity or a secluded cul-de-sac with more privacy? Would you like to live in a gated community or are you prepared to trade some security for your independence?
To some extent, the answers to these questions will help you decide where you should start looking, but you also need to consider whether these neighbourhoods are within easy reach of work, schools, public transport, medical services, shopping and entertainment facilities.
The statement “Knowledge is power” applies multiple times to the process of buying property. A level-headed understanding of the property market, will give you an advantage.
Once you have chosen your suburbs to buy in, take your time to learn more about that area. What is the price of homes there? Does this fall within your range? Is there potential for solid capital growth? Browse the online listings in and around your budget, go to open houses, and depending on what’s important to you get to know the neighbourhoods, find out about schools, crime/safety and traffic.
Your Current Housing
It might seem very unappealing to a seller if your offer is dependent on you selling your current house, as they have no idea how quickly or easily it will be to sell. It is advisable to sell your current home before you seriously start looking to buy a new one. That would mean possibly needing to rent a storage unit for your belongings and find provisional housing.
What Features Do You Require?
You will need to decide on the features which are required in order to meet your family and lifestyle needs. Make a careful list of the things they would regard as essential and non-negotiable, for both your current circumstances, as well as your future plans.
How many bedrooms or bathrooms do you need? Make decisions around a home office or a granny flat, how much parking is required, and whether or not you need a large garden for their children and pets. This will make it easier for the real estate agent working in your chosen area to help you find your ideal home, and not waste anyone’s time showing you unsuitable properties.
Sectional Title or Full Title?
Sectional title units are less maintenance intensive for homeowners. All exterior maintenance of the property and the complex are taken care of by the body corporate, however, this will require the homeowner to pay a levy or monthly association fee to cover services and repairs within the development. On the other hand, full title homes come with more privacy and the freedom to add on or renovate without requiring permission from the body corporate. Along with the freedom comes the full financial responsibility for all maintenance.
House hunting is a learning experience and buyers need to take into account that there is no such thing as the perfect house. Ultimately you want to find that home that incorporates the things that are most important to you.
Gardens are an enormous contributor towards a home’s curb appeal, a term which has been around for centuries. One could imagine that as real estate trends change, this might have as well, but it is still very much a huge determining factor when buying a home.
The busier we are, the less time we have, the more our attention span decreases, leaving visual aspects a primary element in today’s busy lifestyle. Just look at your social platforms or how general marketing & communication has changed – photos are key, and that is true in property as well. A well-established and maintained garden is always considered an asset, unfortunately not everyone has the time to tend to a garden, and with recent water restrictions it’s not always possible.
Statistics show that the demand for water wise properties equipped with boreholes, smaller lawn areas or with small gardens has escalated. Online searches for “borehole water” and “eco estates”’ have also increased steadily. “The prolonged drought, especially in the Cape, has home buyers thinking twice about the choices they make when buying property. Homeowners that have an alternative water source or low water consumption on their property definitely have an excellent selling point, not only do buyers hope to conserve water, they are also hoping to reduce their bills” says Craig Hutchison, CEO Engel & Völkers Southern Africa.
Buyers have become more informed when making property purchases and are ensuring they have some sustainability in their homes; it is not only in the sales sector but in rentals as well. Landlords are starting to invest in implementing rainwater-harvesting systems and adding water wise indigenous plants, considering artificial lawns, and water and electricity saving mechanisms. This ensures that they offer tenants the opportunity to live in a place where the utilities are more controlled and properties equipped with these elements are more marketable.
Water wise gardening
In the past having a lush green garden was no problem, this is not the case anymore and we need to ensure we can adapt to still deliver a pretty picture but while saving water. We look at garden trends we can expect to see this year, to help create a water efficient garden.
- Lawns guzzle plenty of water, so some consideration should be given to if you really need one. Reduce its size or remove the lawn completely and replace it with paving, decorative stones, ground cover, gravel, pebble paths, succulents or a mix of all, which will provide inexpensive and low maintenance solutions. If you keep some lawn, don’t mow it too short, as this lets the roots dry out quicker. For smaller areas artificial grass can be used.
- Replace all plants that need plenty of water with low water users. Look for plants that store water such as succulents and aloes. Plant a xeriscape succulent garden – xeriscaping is a landscaping style and method that was developed in arid areas that uses a lot of stone and a succulent plants. A xeriscape is very low maintenance garden and will actually die from over watering. Remember to go indigenous, planting what occurs naturally in your area – exotic plants often need more water.
- Use mulch to stop moisture escaping, preferably organic, such as pine needles, bark, and straw or wood chips. Apply a 5cm-thick layer to soil that’s already moist. Check that water is able to penetrate; simply loosening the mulch can improve its porosity, reapply periodically.
- Build a water conserving rock garden, which can take many different forms and can be a great way to showcase different and unique plants. Rock gardens can be designed with shade or sun tolerant plants. When selecting plants consider choosing plants with the same sun, water, and soil requirements. Ground covers can create a cascading or trailing effect; succulents thrive in hot, dry sites and high elevation wildflowers can create a beautiful bloom effect.
- Check whether your garden has bore water and whether a simple spore and pump can be installed to access it.
- Install a grey water system to capture and recycle water from baths, showers and washing machines. Make sure you use cleaning products that are safe for garden use. You’ll also need a booster pump to operate the irrigation system and have your grey water connected and filtered in to the irrigation system.
- Don’t waste rainwater; harvest it from the roof, the driveway and patios. Direct it into water tanks or reservoirs which can be hidden underground.
- Install a water wise irrigation system preferably fitted with a controller, soil moisture sensor and rain sensor. This ensures that plants will only get water when they need it.
- Resurface driveways, yards and paths with porous surfaces or paving blocks and plastic grid systems filled with plants.
- To save water, change your swimming pool into a wetland pool which can be used to water the garden during periods of drought.
Even with the blessing of the needed rain, it is still going to take the country some time to restore itself, and even if we were to reach this point, being water wise will always remain a positive point. In the long-term, small changes could save you money and ensure your property is always market -ready and appealing to buyers.
One of the biggest decisions for a parent is deciding which school their children will one day attend. Some start researching their children’s education institutions from birth – or even before. The competition for space in good schools is increasing every year, so much so that some parents are on the waiting list before they even fall pregnant.
“There is a tremendous demand for homes close to good schools or universities, as properties in these zones tend to hold their value much better in tough economic times. Buyers that have kids will often migrate and be drawn to these areas and are likely prepared to pay a premium for these properties” says Craig Hutchison, CEO Engel & Völkers Southern Africa.
Education zones have also become a popular consideration for many people who don’t have kids as they will purchase property as a buy-to-let investment option. Investing in a school / varsity district will mean that the properties are easy to rent out. This high demand yields a higher rental income, and the rental periods are usually longer as the families will most likely wish for their child to complete their schooling career before relocating. “Interest in student housing has become increasingly popular over the years with the demand growing more and more as urban areas extend to, what used to be, outlying areas and travelling becomes ever more difficult with relation to fuel prices and transport costs” Craig notes.
Buying a house is usually for the long haul, so having an education institution in your neighborhood can boost your property’s value. However it is important that you understand with the many benefits, there come some nuisances that cannot be avoided. We take a look at some of the benefits as well as the possible negatives of owning property in an education zone:
- Future planning – you will not have to worry about moving closer to a school when your children reach school-going age.
- Higher property values – if the home is in a good school zone, the higher your resale value will be when the time comes to sell your house.
- Easy to sell or rent -homes close to schools tend to have a constant demand, so if you choose to sell or rent your home down the line, finding a buyer or tenant will be much easier.
- Safe neighbourhood – areas with schools generally tend to be safer to live in as they are well monitored and inhabited by people that are as concerned with safety /security as you are.
- Child friendly environment – kids will have more time and opportunities to participate in extra-curricular activities. Being able to walk to these areas is a plus, especially for working parents with multiple children.
- Time saving – eliminates wasted time and sitting in traffic.
- Cost saving – the expense of driving to and from school ads up, living close to school decreases extra fuel costs.
Take into consideration:
- Traffic – expect increased traffic and noise of idling cars when parents drop kids off and collect them again at the end of the day.
- Parking – parents might park in front of your house while waiting for their kids at pick-up or drop-off time as well as when there are school events occurring.
- Noise – you might hear kids practicing their sport on a weekly basis after school and on weekends. Depending on the proximity, you might even hear the school bell ringing between classes and kids during playing break times.
- Loitering – if your house is extremely close to the school, scholars might loiter around your house while waiting to be picked up. They might wreak havoc with graffiti, noise, and other teenage up-to-no-good activities.
- Degrading of the school – there is no guarantee that a school will remain a good school down the line, it may decline or even close. This is more of a concern if you plan to stay in the home a long time.
“It is always worthwhile exploring ones options. Speak to an area specialist, who will be able to advise you on past area trends and statistics, as well as assist with predicting what the market could be doing in the next few years” Craig advised. Remember that this is your largest asset, and you need to ensure you make the right choice.
By Chantalle Bell
The start of the New Year saw fresh new horizons for Engel & Völkers Southern Africa with the sale of the KZN Dolphin Coast licence. This territory which was acquired by husband and wife team, Karien and Stephen Hunter covers the Dolphin Coast area, stretching from the Ohlange (Umhlanga) River to Zinkwazi, north of Ballito.
Karien has over 30 years’ experience as a property attorney, and has been in the Ballito area for the last 12 years. Needless to say, she is the perfect candidate for the new licence and we are assured that she will make a great success with this new venture.
The firm, AMC Hunter Inc. was founded in 1987 by Karien, who still heads up the practice today. In 2017 Hunter Inc. celebrated their 30th anniversary, firmly established as one of the leading law firms in KwaZulu-Natal, specialising in property and commercial law. Karien has invested innumerable hours in the training of real estate agents in the property industry, over the years. She now looks forward to training and developing her own Area Partners on the North Coast.
Karien Hunter holds many accolades, she was the co-winner of the Business Woman of the Year Awards in KwaZulu-Natal in 2007, and was one of three finalists for the Women in Property Awards (WPN Awards) in South Africa in 2008, amongst a few, and is well connected on the KZN North Coast.
Although she has been involved with many real estate agencies she has always been drawn to the E&V brand. She was an avid reader of the weekly newsletters and the brand really appealed to her. She was approached by Craig Hutchison CEO, Engel & Völkers Southern Africa with the opportunity to get involved in the brand, and it was a perfect match from the get-go.
She believes in quality Area Partners, selling quality property, big or small. Karien trusts the key to success is to employ character and the rest will follow. She has a great love for people, their growth and development.
“I always hear estate agencies boasting about their systems which are all very good, but after my intro to the E&V system I am convinced more than ever that E&V does have the best available on the market, even from an attorney perspective – it makes the transactions interlink so well” Karien shared.
“Looking ahead, the KZN residential market looks set to be the most vibrant this year, at least in terms of potential house price growth and return on investment” says Craig Hutchison CEO of Engel & Völkers Southern Africa. “The North Coast of KwaZulu-Natal is the new ‘Cape Town’ when it comes to property. It’s about a preferred location because of the many opportunities for business and local economic growth. We wish Karien and her team the best of luck and all the success in their new venture going forward” Craig concluded.
If you are looking to invest in a second home, relocate or to retire at the coast, we are able to offer our exceptional service. Our culture has become the trademark of the Engel & Völkers and the access to international customers and clients through our global market network offers an extended reach with European flair.
The licence area runs from Umhlanga river northwards suburbs include:
Umdloti Beach, Newsel Beach (Umdloti), Selection Beach (Umdloti), La Mercy, Westbrook, Tongaat Beach, Tongaat Central, Zimbali, Ballito, Deepdene, Deepdale, Compensation Beach, Seaward Estate, Beverley Hills Estate, Salt Rock, Shakas Rock, Sheffield Estate, Willard Beach, Brettenwood Estate, Dunkirk, Mount Richmore Village, Blythedale Beach, Palm Lakes, Princes Grant Golf Estate, Tinley Manor, Zinkwazi, Manor Estates, Umhlali Golf Estate, Wakenshaw Estate, Stanger Central, Stanger Heights, Stanger Manor, Belvedere (Tongaat), Desainager (Tongaat), Mount Moreland, Sandfield (Tongaat).
You can contact Karien on 083 449 2969 or email Karien.Hunter@engelvoelkers.com.
About the Area:
KwaZulu-Natal’s north coast, also known as the Dolphin Coast, it is a desirable strip of coastline. A beautiful playground of warm waters, incredible waves, and glorious beaches set alongside fields of sugarcane in a part of the world endowed with humid and warm weather almost throughout the year – this why the Dolphin Coast is one of the province’s main attractions.
No longer just a family holiday hotspot, the lifestyle of relaxation and tranquillity, along with excellent schools and stylish shopping centres just minutes away, the North Coast represents one of the most desirable parts of KZN in which to live. The North Coast is renowned for the Golden Mile, natural indigenous forests, mangrove swamps and the promenade walked by locals at sundown. Residence and visitors are attracted to the friendly village atmosphere, family experiences such as beach days, animal farms, mountain bike trails through the sugar cane fields or a few rounds of golf at one of many excellent North Coast golf courses. The North Coast is primarily recognised by two holiday towns named Ballito and uMhlanga. Ballito is where you will find Sibaya Casino, King Shaka International Airport and the beautiful Zimbali estate, while the upmarket uMhlanga has plenty to offer, from luxury estates such as Hawaan Forest Estate to the uShaka marine theme park.
Area Trends and Activity:
The North Coast has become the hub of property development and is rapidly growing, particularly gated estates. The infrastructure upgrades and various blue chip investments such as the Oceans and Dube Port is attracting a number of residential developers, corporates and retirees seeking a relaxed lifestyle in a seaside location that is also conveniently close to offices, shops, medical facilities and entertainment venues.
Average Property Value:
In the North Coast area, homes currently range in a price from R 2.8 million in greater Ballito to as high as R 70 million in lifestyle estates. The average price for a full title, mid-level home is about R 3, 15 million. According to Lightstone, full title properties and sectional title units have increased in value, although sectional title properties more so by approximately 6% in the Ballito area. People are prepared to pay a premium for the estate lifestyle with the benefits of this relaxation and beach.
Typical Property Type:
The North Coast offers a number of gated communities and luxury estates with sensual architecture, whilst it is also a place with family homes, secure complexes, sought-after retail and office space.
Is sustainable living the future of Real Estate?
By Chantalle Bell
Sustainability is currently a hot topic in the home and construction sector. In light of the progressing climate change and shrinking resources worldwide, it’s one of the most important issues to consider. Sustainable living is the practice of reducing your demand on natural resources by making sure that you replace what you use to the best of your ability.
“Often the thought of being more energy efficient makes one think of expensive contraptions, modern interiors or fittings, and a lot of extra work to make the home more eco-friendly, however this does not need to be the case. A green home is attainable with a few simple adjustments, while the results may not be physically visible all the time, doing your bit in your home on a daily basis is not as difficult or expensive as you may think, and can even save you money in the long run” advises Craig Hutchison, CEO Engel & Völkers Southern Africa.
We all know that climate change, global warming, depletion of ozone layer and resource depletion are real and their impact on human and animal lives can be devastating. By altering our lifestyle, it gives us an opportunity to adopt actions for sustainable living that can help to reduce the environmental impact.
Eco-friendly housing is the future of real estate
The key to encouraging more green building is to educate homeowners. If they decide to go green, they can have a more durable, more energy- and water-efficient and healthier home for about the same cost as a conventional home and can benefit greatly by gradually starting to implement green features. As the cost of living increases, and our society becomes more environmentally conscious, eco-friendly homes will see an increase in demand.
Johann du Toit, Area Partner from Engel & Völkers Stellenbosch, has already had first-hand experience with the advantages of green homes with clients from Sweden who had had a selection of properties available to them. In light of the current water shortage in Cape Town, they opted for a particular property in Stellenbosch, after being presented with a number of alternatives, as it had its own supply of tested and approved water for human consumption, a swimming pool running from borehole water and a solar system supplying the hot water. “It shows that having more eco-friendly sustainable homes have become strengths in effecting the choices made by tourists as well as for buyers. We believe that this will add a handsome premium to the price of accommodation and real estate” says Craig.
An increasing number of people are deciding to purchase green homes; as everyone enjoys the savings on utility bills, making green homes a wise investment and also providing better durability, energy savings and water savings. If you’re selling your house, highlighting your eco-friendly features can be a major selling point to potential buyers.
Kobus Taljaard, Engel & Völkers, Licence Partner from the Winelands region says that developers and management of two estates Val de Vie and Pearl Valley have been very pro-active and have turned the negative water issue into a positive. Both these estates have disconnected municipal water and have become totally self-sufficient from underground water supplies on the banks of the Berg River and grey water purification. The switch over took place just before Christmas when the newly installed purification plant took effect – there will not be a day zero in these two estates – at least not in the very near future. “Water restrictions still apply as enforced elsewhere in the province, but the fact that the taps will not run dry is used as a marketing positive. New development phases will continue as planned and property prices will not be affected” concluded Kobus.
Engel & Völkers Potchefstroom also has quite a few estates implementing green features, one such estate is de Land Estate, which has dedicated herb gardens & fruit orchards. Carl Venter, Licence Partner of Engel & Völkers Potchefstroom has been researching green and energy efficient living since 2010. “This year, our Engel & Völkers Green Projects division will be building the first energy efficient home on Lekwena Wildlife Estate. Keep an eye out for the process as the house will be monitored to calculate the efficiency rate, providing valuable information for clients looking to make their own homes more energy efficient-definitely an industry first in Potchefstroom” Carl added.
Properties which are green and have water saving systems and boreholes will be more desirable going forward and will be priced accordingly.
Turn your own home into a green zone
Replace your shower heads: The simplest, cheapest and quickest way of saving water is by switching your regular shower head to a low flow, water efficient shower head, this will half your shower water consumption. Shortening your showers, and turning the taps off while washing yourself can save a considerable amount. By placing a bucket in the shower you can catch your grey water, which allows you to save and recycle water by reusing it in your garden.
Upgrade your toilet cistern: Older cisterns can use between 9-12 litres per flush, while newer cisterns use about 6 litres. Installing a cistern with dual-flush, that provides a button for a long flush and a button for a short flush, will save on water. Alternatively, place a plastic bottle or brick into the cistern to displace the water this will allow less water to flush out whenever the handle is pulled.
Install a timer on your geysers: Heating water is one of an average household’s biggest electricity spends. Install a digital timer on your geyser, so you can program in exactly what times you want it to turn on and off. Alternatively run in tandem with your regular geyser a system to pre-warm the water that goes into the main geyser, so that it’s not constantly heating up the water intake from cold. This could be done through an actual solar geyser, or just through a home-rigged system of black pipes coiled on the roof, warmed by the sun.
Solar panels: Use the sun’s energy to power your home. Solar power can be used to heat water and provide electricity for lighting and appliances. This works best when the panels are exposed to as much light as possible on a daily basis. It is a once-off expense that keeps producing results for years.
Use energy saving lighting: LED light bulbs are becoming more affordable now, but not everybody can afford to switch over the whole house to LED lighting in one go, even though the energy saving makes it worthwhile in the long – term. Start by replacing bulbs in the most used areas, the kitchen, the hall light that you leave on all night, and gradually work up to converting the whole house.
Start to recycle all grey water: Grey water is the water that has already been used around the home used to irrigate the garden. When using grey water, be careful not to store it for too long as it is particularly susceptible to bacteria and gas production, rather, let it run directly from the bath or washing machine into the garden or collect it in a bucket and use it immediately. The reuse of grey water may take a little preparation and forethought, however, the economic benefits as well as the enormous advantages to your immediate environment, it is certainly worth the preparation.
Green your walls and roof: Having plants growing on your walls and roof has so many beneficial effects. They insulate the building, prevent noise pollution, emit healthful oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide.