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Tips for renting or buying a home

Updated: Jun 1, 2022

Recently I was chatting to a good friend on basic stuff around renting or buying a home which to me is

pretty obvious and common sense – until she pointed out to me that it is not that obvious to others and she urged me to write a blog on the subject – so here it is.

Snag list

When renting and creating your snag list within the 10 day to 2 week period given, I suggest you do more than just check the lights, flush the loo and look to see if the kitchen and bathroom has the plugs for the sink, basin and bath.

Actually take photos of badly painted walls, cracks, dings. Take photos of carpets – the condition, worn sections, burnt sections, perhaps frayed edges. Get photos of cracked or damaged floor and wall tiles or window panes, the condition of the grouting in the bathroom and if there are scratches on the built in stove and draining board. Go through every square inch of the flat or house and not only take the photos but write down where and which room each and every snag appears

Don’t forget to include the garden and gates, doors as well, latches on windows the braai area, hinges on cupboard doors, curtain rails, light fittings and blinds etc. etc. – Then email a copy to the agent or landlord/landlady and save a copy to your computer. This feels like a hassle and a lot of work on top of moving so perhaps try get this done before your furniture arrives and make is a game of 'detective' because you might as well have fun doing this task and do it with at least one other person as more than one set of eyes will help. You will be grateful for the time you took to do this on the day you eventually move out.

Memories fade over time and people’s perceptions are different when viewing the same thing – having a photograph to compare the before and after helps a whole lot!

Try view your potential new home in the morning and the evening – or at least drive by to get a feel of what it will actually be like to live there.

If moving into or buying a unit in a block of flats, go check out the laundry and bin areas – are they kept clean and neat? How is the estate or block run? – is everything in a state of good repair or run down?

Speak to the neighbours

Are there inconsiderate residents that argue loudly, party and are disruptive? What is the security like and are people friendly? What is the general age group of the other residents and will you fit in? What is the policy towards young children and pets?

If you have toddlers consider where will they be able to play, kick a ball and perhaps ride a bike if you want to stay long term and they grow to the age of 10 or 12. Being a trustee where I live I am always amazed how parents complain after 2 -3 years that their now 5 year old has nowhere to play. Nothing changed in the design of the paths, garages and flats from the day they took occupancy of their flat, only the needs of their growing child.

Ask for a copy of the house rules and see if they cover what you would want to be covered or are they over the top and unreasonable. How long in general do people stay and why do they leave? Find out how many visitors’ parking bays there are and does the scheme come with adequate parking for 2 cars per flat? Storage rooms – is there one for every flat or are there only a few that can be rented. Many estate agents tell you what you want to hear in order to get a tenant placement or the unit to be sold. Do your own homework over and above what they tell you and avoid a whole lot of disappointment and inconvenience after you have moved in.

Find out if possible how quick are the trustees to deal with issues like unresponsive security gates, burst water pipes etc.– do the trustees live on the premises even? (huge difference because if they are not directly affected the urgency to attend to things are not that great)

Knowledge is everything and I would strongly recommend you study up on the guidelines to living in a sectional title and home owners association. This will help you know your rights and where you stand as part of a Body Corporate or as a tenant. hhtps:// have a great online course that is free. A good site to look at is and always check if the agent you are dealing with is Property Practitioner compliant. Facebook has a great group where people can ask questions and get advise from others - the link is

If buying into a sectional title or home owners scheme

If buying into a sectional title or home owners scheme find out how approachable are the trustees (or better still become one and be part of the team to protect your asset).

Ask for the current financials and the 10 year budget plan. Are the levies up to date? Do they have an adequate plan for maintenance and major replacements or painting in the future? (you do not want to be suddenly lumped with a special levy for roof repairs the month after you move in)!

When last were the buildings painted and the driveway tarred? Your levies will be contributing to the repainting or tarring in perhaps 9 years’ time and you may be planning to stay for only 6 or 7 years so will be contributing to something you will receive no benefit from. Naturally, if you are buying your property as a long term investment then that will be a whole other story.

Make sure you get a levy clearance certificate from the Managing agent and check that the prepaid meter has not been tampered with – let the units go to zero and check if the lights still go on – you do not want to inherit a fraud case and possible back dated electricity bills.

If you choose to modify and upgrade your newly purchased home – keep in mind that one day you might want to sell – so will the renovations be acceptable to a potential buyer?

Be careful not to over capitalize for the area your home is in, you do not want to be at the risk of not recovering the money you spent on renovating.

Lastly, my dad gave me this great advise at the tender age of 19. He told me to apply for an access bond so that I can draw from it when ever I needed money for an emergency that was not budgeted for. I called it my safety net and it became my saving grace when I found myself divorced and raising my two children with no financial help from their father. My dad also told me to put my full salary towards my bond on payday and then live off my credit card for day to day expenses. At the end of the month I would then draw from my bond the exact figure needed to clear my credit card. That way I was always ahead of the interest charged on my bond and got to start reducing my capital far sooner than had I paid in only the required monthly bond repayment. It meant that my bond was paid up some 5 - 7 years earlier. Imagine how much interest I saved. Once I had reduced my bond by half I was able to re-instate it and buy another property, in which I placed a tenant who technically paid for the house. This was in the late 90's when the property I managed to buy was still fairly cheap, the interest rate low and the rent actually covered the bond repayments. Once your bond is paid up do not close the account - you never know when you will need the funds again and applying for a bond is costly.

I hope this was helpful to you and if you have any valuable advice to add I welcome you to drop me a line and I will edit the above to include your suggestions. (

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Thank you, Shirley! This was certainly a very insightful article. Having experienced house hunting both as a tenant and a buyer, you make some very valid points to keep in mind.

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