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7 ways to make sure you buy your home in the right neighbourhood

A wise man once said “Home is where the heart is.” True of course, but whether you’re a first-time prospective homebuyer, or someone on the move, you want to make sure your heart feels at home in the right place!

If you’re shopping for a new house, affordability is probably the key factor on your mind. But as a sensible buyer, you owe it to yourself and your family to sit down and think about the OTHER factors, so you can be sure you make the right choices. Don’t get too caught up in the excitement and forget about location!

Here are 7 surefire ways to help you buy your house in the right area.

1. Make a list and check it twice

People have different needs and what is important to, say, your single friend isn’t going to matter as much if you’re a person with a family. Singles usually opt to live in smaller homes close to nightlife, or in bachelor pads in “fashionable” neighbourhoods that might be relatively expensive –all that disposable income, what a pain, right?! If you have children, you’ll be interested in quieter neighbourhoods close to schools and with little traffic, while older buyers are more likely to consider being close to hospitals or shopping centres when looking for a new home. 

So before you rush out and start shopping for your house like there’s no tomorrow, sit down and write out a list of everything that is important to you. This will help you make smart choices

2. Going Google

Google Maps is a fantastic invention that helps you start the process of looking for your new home without even leaving the comfort of your chair. If you find an affordable house that seems like a sweet deal, but don’t really know the area, you can have a good cyber-stroll around the neighbourhood and get the feel of it. You can also use the internet to make sure you’re paying a market-related price for your new house by searching for an online property valuation report that lists prices that properties in the street or suburb recently sold for. These are available for most areas.

 3. Check out the Crime

As South Africans, awareness of crime is unfortunately a big part of all our lives, especially in the bigger cities. But don’t be disheartened if you’re a buyer on a budget and think that the lower to middle-income neighbourhoods are all dangerous – this is certainly not the case! Visit the neighbourhood you’re thinking about moving to – take a drive around there, in the week and at the weekend. Are there lots of unemployed-looking loiterers, or evidence of vandalism? Are there police stations in the area, and can you spot any patrol cars out doing their thing? Check online if there are forums that the neighbourhood folks chat on about the local goings-on – this is a good start to figuring out what it’s like to live there. Find out if there is a good community policing or Neighbourhood Watch system. Visit local businesses in the area and chat to the staff and owners. You owe it to yourself to put your safety first -  also, don’t forget that a high crime rate could have a negative effect on the property values in the area, so the safety of your investment is at stake too! 

4. Are the Locals Lekker?

When you’re doing your drive-arounds and investigating in different areas, take a good look at the people who live in the area (not too closely, you don’t want to look suspicious to your prospective new neighbours!) Who are these folks? How old are they? Do they look like all-night party people or a little more relaxed? This may not seem important when you’ve found your favourite house, but you’ll be there for a while – you want to feel at home with people like you – don’t end up like the family in the movie with the noisy students next door!

5. Parks and Pavements

This seems pretty obvious, but lots of people don’t pay much attention to some details when house-hunting. If the pavements and recreational areas are well-maintained and litter-free, then the locals are probably more prepared to get involved and take pride in their suburb. Of course, you can always take a chance in an area that doesn’t look perfect but ticks your other boxes – be the family who takes an hour or two a week to clean up your immediate area, and who knows – the neighbours might get motivated to join you! Remind them that a nice clean suburb means houses worth more money for all of you.

6. Test the Traffic

Hands up who doesn’t hate traffic, and the cost of fuel. One or two “fancy folks” who have drivers or lots of money for petrol? Great, but that’s not most of us!

So you’ve gone to a house showing on a Sunday and loved the area, and the house. It’s a quiet safe neighbourhood, great for kids, etc etc. But before you sign on the dotted line, do yourself a favour and head over there after work on a weeknight – it might be a whole other story. You don’t want to add 2 hours to your travel time every day sitting bumper-to-bumper while your life ticks away and your petrol gauge sinks lower and lower!

 7. Convenient Consumerism

Shopping convenience is important to people with busy modern lives. Not all of us can spend a few hours a weekend at the mall with the whole family in tow, doing the weekly shop. Sometimes you just need to get a few things for supper and school lunches, and you don’t want to drive miles out of your way. Look at what’s in the area – one or two decent supermarkets with convenient shopping hours, maybe some inexpensive restaurants for those treat nights, some coffee shops if that’s your thing? If you like to keep fit, how far is the gym or sports facility from home? Consider these things, because they can shift your lifestyle from OK to great.

 

 

 

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