What to ask when buying property

Adrian Goslett shares some insight.

Property remains a viable asset class in which to invest and still forms one of the most important investment cornerstones for South Africans. For those who are currently looking at investing in a property, the timing couldn’t be better. 

Since buyers’ market conditions prevail, those who do their homework thoroughly and follow sound investment advice are sure to reap solid returns in the long run. 

There is no doubt that South Africans are spoilt for choice when it comes to property investment options. From bachelor flats and apartments to game farms and small holdings and everything in between, buyers have a range of property types from which to choose. 

However, location remains the most important factor when purchasing a property – no matter what type of property it is – and so buyers need to select the area in which they invest carefully. Buyers also need to take the time to investigate the relevant properties on offer in their area of choice and compare the costs per square metre, the fittings and finishes etc. 

When looking to invest in a residential property as a primary home, buyers need to consider what their needs are and identify which accommodation options best suit their requirements. Those buyers looking to invest in leisure or rental property will have completely different requirements to buy-to-live purchasers and those who are looking to buy vacant land. 

For example, first time, single buyers looking to get their foot in the door should consider investing in an apartment while townhouses, on the other hand, are an ideal property type for young couples or those wanting to scale down for retirement. 

Those purchasing a property in a sectional-title scheme or apartment building should check the rules and regulations governing the building or scheme, particularly ones regarding pets, visitor access, parking and maintenance. 

While single detached dwellings are by far the most common form of housing inSouth Africa, gated communities are another popular option of freehold property, because homeowners often have access to a range of facilities and amenities within the estate. These kinds of properties are very popular among families or young couples who want to start a family in the near future. This is because of the lifestyle elements they offer where children are free to ride their bikes around the neighbourhood, play in the communal parks or play areas with the security of the estate to ensure residents safety. 

No matter what type of property buyers are considering purchasing; there are some questions buyers need to ask before making one of the biggest financial commitments of a lifetime. These include: 

Why is this a good area in which to invest? 

•Are property values appreciating in the area? By how much?
•Is the neighbourhood well maintained?
•Is the neighbourhood safe?
•Are more and more houses being built or bought in the area?
•Is the area mostly zoned for residential properties?
•Are roads well maintained and is there a proper infrastructure in place?

Other important location considerations include: 

•Is the area zoned for heavy commercial development?
•Are there noisy highways, airports, or railroads nearby?
•Is there heavy traffic in the area?
•Are future highways or developments planned within the area?
•Are there wastewater plants or landfills nearby?

When buying vacant land, buyers should ask the following questions: 

•Are sewer and water lines available?
•How much fill removal or fill replacement is necessary?
•The cost of removing large rocks and boulders in order to build?
•Is there proper drainage on the land?
•Is the soil suitable for construction?

At the end of the day, a good investment can only be assured if a buyer has done all the necessary homework and comparisons and is sure that the investment they are making is worth the financial commitment they are laying down to acquire it. While the recession has meant that property is not appreciating at the rate it once was, astute property investments still have the ability to provide investors with solid gains. 

*Adrian Goslett is the CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa

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