To Buy or not to Buy? How to make the choice right for you…

I have been trawling the property information keeping myself up to speed with developments. There is a gloom in the economy, but fortunately the property sales and mortgage business is not in the doldrums. Affordable housing has looked good for years and developments continue in many areas of the country. It has probably been the manner in which the SARB has guardedly raised rates that has keep the property market on an even keel. Let’s hope it stays that way; boom and bust is disruptive and we cannot afford disruption in a national asset being Residential Housing.

The question often comes up, especially from First-time Homebuyers, is this the right time to buy? In other words, To Buy or not to Buy? – that is the question.

The answer is always the same for me: Do you think the cost of building is going to go down? If the answer is Yes, then wait. If the answer is No, then buy. Let’s explore this issue in a bit more depth.

Inflation, on a global scale, has been kept in check very nicely. Some of the major countries, Japan noteably, have reduced interest rates to historic levels on the back of close-to-zero inflation. Costs of production have been driven down by the Asian countries and currencies have been relatively stable for many years. In the past year or two that has no longer been the case and currency fluctuations and even devaluations, have become the norm. As we’ve mentioned before, thank goodness for the low oil price.  So the inflation story sounds quite benign until it comes to building costs. News24, on 20 February 2015 reported, Building costs have continued to increase by more than the average consumer price inflation rate over the past 15 years, according to Jacques du Toit, property analyst of Absa Home Loans. The latest Absa residential building review compiled by Du Toit shows the average building cost of new housing constructed came to R5 828/m² in 2014, which was 12% higher than the cost of R5 205/m² in 2013. The building costs are affected by a number of factors such as building material costs, labour costs, transport costs, equipment costs, land prices, rezoning costs, developer and contractor holding costs and profit margins.

That insight answers the first question and clearly, building costs are not reducing and frankly, seldom have. I guess the question then is, what should I be buying?

Think about the following:

Don’t buy what you cannot afford. The bank will help you with this and strictly test your income and expenditure in terms of well-known affordability guidelines laid down by the National Credit Regulator. Do an affordability calculation to see what you can afford to buy.

Improve or Buy
Buying and selling homes is an expensive affair. As a rule of thumb, knock off 20% – 30% of the price of your new home for costs. Transfer and estate agent commission could already be about 12% and then bond settlement and registration costs and furnishings add to the tally. Improving instead of buying could prove much cheaper and convenient.

What to buy
If you’re going to buy, buy wisely. For normal family living, close to shops and schools, proximity to work, sport and social events makes eminent sense. Remember, what you like or don’t like as a normal consumer probably counts for many others’ opinions as well. It may be cheaper next to the highway but probably all the b
uyers agree that you can’t hear yourself talk in the garden. Then, if you can afford it, take some advice from my late Uncle – there are two strips of land that are scarce, along the coastline and along the top of a mountain range. Houses in these two places carry and hold a premium in the long run. I am also a proponent of secure estates and, in particular, golf estates. Secure estates for the obvious reason of enhanced security but golf estates, in addition, give you lifestyle for the family. And remember, few additional golf estates are being developed – they are just too expensive and water is becoming a serious problem – thus adding to the scarcity value.

Future plans 
Don’t put yourself through the trauma of moving twice! If you have your eye on emigration, a job in another town or a particular suburb or estate, don’t buy now. Wait until you can settle and then sell and settle in the new environment. By the way, building can be a real pain and you would be a rare person to not have a “builders story” after completing your house. The same can be said for renovation but it is normally on a smaller scale.

Investment or not 
Robert Kyosaki [of Rich Dad Poor Dad fame] is quite right when he says that an asset that does not produce income and requires maintenance and services, is actually a liability. In fact he goes so far as to say, buy and rent a factory and let the factory buy the house from nett rent. But most of us don’t live there and we get great pleasure from owning a property and knowing it is the domain of our family. For this reason, the comments about What to Buy become really important. You would at least look to capital appreciation to offset the costs when you sell the property so choose the Location well. This section particularly applies to “that little house at the sea”. Truth is that we could do well, in most cases, to rent or use a guest house for our holidays, rather than battle financially to pay off a second home.

If you think you can afford it, buy now. Be wise and look around. Consider all your options and do your best to think ahead a few years. But, I would posit, do not delay too long if you can afford to buy now.

And always remember Homeloan Junction is there for you. Dealing with us is free. Yes, you read right – free. And we’ll back that mortgage service up with sound advice and expert knowledge.

 Yours in Property.

Jack Trevena
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