You’ve prepped, you’ve saved, you’ve done your research – it’s finally time to start searching the market for your dream home!
Instead of looking for a needle in a haystack, try these top tips from the experts to focus your property search like a pro.
Have a written list of your needs
If you’re ready to hit the market, you probably have a good idea of your budget and the basics that you’re looking for in a home. According to David Jacobs, Gauteng Regional Manager for the Rawson Property Group, the more details you can nail down in advance, the easier your search will go.
“Think about more than just the number of bedrooms and bathrooms that you need,” he says. “What kind of property best suits your lifestyle? Do you need the space and privacy of a freestanding home, or are the security and lock-up and go benefits of apartments more your speed? Are you willing to explore fixer-uppers, or do you need a move-in-ready space? Budget may influence your options, but laying out your non-negotiables in black and white makes it much easier to narrow your search to properties that genuinely meet your needs.”
Know your property portal(s)
Most properties in South Africa are featured on one of a handful of major property portals. Jacobs recommends sticking to these (and official real estate agent websites) to avoiding falling prey to scammers.
“Some properties may be listed on multiple portals, but others may only be on one, so it’s a good idea to get to know all of the biggest players,” he says.
Don’t go overboard on search filters
Today’s property portals make it very easy to filter out listings that don’t match your specific criteria. However, Jacobs warns against going too far with search filters in case you accidentally miss out.
“It’s not unusual for agents in a hurry to only tag the main features of a property, like neighbourhood, property type, price and number of bedrooms and bathrooms,” he says. “Adding additional filters like pools, gardens or flatlets to your search criteria may exclude properties that do have these features, but just haven’t been tagged as such.”
Of course, if your searches are consistently bringing up properties that don’t meet your needs, feel free to play around with filters to see if you can refine your results.
Sign up for automatic alerts
Even in a buyers’ market, the best properties get snapped up quickly. If you want to avoid losing out to faster fingers, it’s a great idea to sign up for automatic alerts when new listings that meet your search criteria are posted.
“Notifications mean you don’t have to manually check each property portal every day,” says Jacobs. “You can sit back and relax knowing the portal will send you a message any time a promising property is uploaded.”
Contact local real estate agents
Automatic notifications can’t cover all your bases, however. Jacobs says there are plenty of times properties never even make it online.
“Most agents will contact their own list of potential buyers before posting a property publicly,” says Jacobs. “That means, unless you’re on that agent’s radar, you may never even know that your dream house was available at all.”
To avoid losing out, Jacobs recommends calling up the most reputable real estate businesses in your neighbourhood and asking them to keep an eye out for new listings that could meet your needs.
Stay positive and don’t let your heart overrule your head
Property listings are sales tools – they’re designed to show off the very best a property has to offer. Jacobs cautions buyers not to get disheartened when homes aren’t always as picture perfect in person.
“Every property has some flaws – try not to judge a book entirely by its cover,” he says. “That said, you may have to kiss a few frogs to find your property prince.”
It’s equally important to keep a cool head when a property is even more gorgeous than its pictures.
“It’s very easy to fall so in love with a beautiful home that you’re willing to overlook all kinds of underlying issues,” says Jacobs. “If you want to avoid buyers’ regret, don’t let your heart trick your head into making hasty decisions.
“Be ready to move quickly when you find ‘the one’, but don’t cut corners on your must-have list or skip essential steps like home inspections,” he continues. “Buying a property is a long-term commitment – do whatever it takes to be 100% sure it’s the right move for you.”