After all those months of house-hunting you’re finally a property owner and excitement is likely to be running high at the prospect of moving into your very own home.
But, before you get swept away by it all, it’s important to remember that it’s probably also your largest financial investment and in order to safeguard yourself, it’s essential that you start off on the right foot.
This is according to Dawn Bloch, veteran agent for Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty in Cape Town’s Southern Suburbs, who says: “Owning one’s own home has a multitude of advantages, both in the short and long-term, but there are also a few disadvantages, like not being able to call your landlord when something goes awry and being responsible for all maintenance and the cost thereof.
“But, by taking certain steps at the onset, you can offset many of the potential problems and are likely to save yourself a lot of stress, effort and money down the line.”
Bloch suggests the following:
Do a deep clean of the home prior to moving in – It’s best to start out with a clean slate and very few sellers will have a home professionally cleaned before they move out. So, before you move in belongings and furniture that will render many places hard to reach, make sure every room is scrubbed clean and disinfected.
Change the locks make spare keys – It may seem unnecessary, but there’s no way to know whether there are copies of your old key floating around, and who might have them. Over time, most people will give out keys to baby sitters, contractors, domestic staff and friends and very often they are not returned.
Make sure you are properly insured – It’s important that homeowners understand that they need to be adequately insured for the replacement value of the building, not just the market value, plus all the contents and they must specify items that are valuable.
No-one wants to dwell on unpleasant events that may never happen but the fact is that they can – and often do – occur and being well-prepared for any eventuality is not only sensible; it affords you peace of mind, allowing you to get on with life with one less thing to worry about.
Get to know Your house before making big changes – If you bought a property with room for improvement, chances are you will have a good idea of what those changes should be. However, these ideas are very likely to change once you have lived there for a while and have a sense of the flow of the house.
So, if possible, live in your new home for 12 to 18 months before undertaking any major renovations such as additions or knocking down walls which you will have to live with for many years to come.
Don’t overspend to personalise – It’s very tempting to want to put your personal stamp on your new home immediately but you have just spent most, if not all, of your savings on a deposit, committed to a mortgage for the next 20 years and will now also have additional expenses such as rates and maintenance.
But just as crucial as acquiring your first home is, so is staying in it. Rather start with small things like new curtains or a coat of paint until you have adjusted to your new home ownership expenses and have a better idea of what your new expendable income will be.
Don’t ignore important maintenance – Whilst you should exercise restraint in purchasing non-essentials immediately, don’t neglect any problems that are likely to worsen over time and which could become very costly to repair. Cosmetic repairs can wait but not issues like a leaking roof or blocked plumbing.
Create a home maintenance checklist – Include regular home maintenance tasks that you’d want to do on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. Doing so will extend the life of almost everything in your home, potentially saving you a lot of money over time.
Keep the receipts for all improvements – When you sell your home you will have to pay capital gains tax which is calculated from the difference between the original price you paid and your selling price. You can offset all improvement costs against this which will reduce your tax bill.
Keep all important documents in a safe place – This includes all appliance manuals, warranties, home insurance and the like. Not only will this make your life easier, but you may have to pass some of the documents on the new homeowners when the time comes for you to sell.
Maintain an emergency fund for unexpected problems – As a homeowner, you can no longer call the landlord when there’s an issue and you should be prepared to deal with unexpected problems when they arise. These can be expensive and you can’t do without a geyser or working plumbing or live with a leaking roof.
Bloch concludes: “Creating a home is a work in progress, and it takes time to get the feel for a new place. Not only can doing too much at once can be overwhelming, it can kill the joy of the experience.
“So, take your time to get to settle in and to get to know and love your home and who knows, you might just grow to love that vintage wallpaper in the lounge or change your mind about adding another room.”