Can you really buy property online?
It's unlikely that anyone would part with so much money without first seeing a property, but thanks to the wonders of the digital world, there is plenty you can do online to make the house-hunting and buying process an easier one.
There can be little doubt that the younger generation is driving the property market in South Africa. According to research done in May by ooba, the country's leading bond originator, the average age of first-time buyers is 34, while the average age of home buyers overall is 38. “From this data, it's clear that the property market needs to keep pace with the demands of younger, technologically-savvy consumers,” says Bronwyn Philip, an oobaelite consultant.
The pros of online house-hunting
“The advantage of purchasing property in a digital world is that everything you need is at your fingertips,” says Philip.
She recommends starting your journey with a bond originator like ooba to find out what price range you can afford to buy in. ooba's website includes many nifty tools, such as an affordability calculator which helps you work out your monthly mortgage repayments and a home loan deposit saving calculator. All of these tools are compatible with mobile phones, which means you can access them anytime, even when you're not in front of your computer at home or work.
Now that you've established your price range, your house-hunting can begin in earnest. “There are many property portals and real-estate websites which allow you to search in specific price ranges,” states Philip.
Some of these sites will include the floor plan of the house, which will enable you to see whether it's north-facing and give you an idea of the overall flow.
“You'll be able to find useful information regarding property growth in the area, which should give you peace of mind that you would be making a sound investment,” she says.
Many property websites also have links to Google Maps, showing you where the house is situated in terms of schools, parks, shops and other nearby amenities.
Philip believes that SA property websites could improve their offering by giving virtual tours of the properties they're advertising, in line with international trends. “Many people do not have time to look at every property on the market in their desired neighbourhood or they may live in another city,” she says, “so how property portals present homes online can be of huge value.”
“Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of virtual house-hunting is that the property may appear far better online than what it actually is, resulting in a feeling of disappointment for the prospective buyer,” Philip asserts.
Another valid concern is security, she says. “There is always a risk in terms of supplying your personal information online and the various portals this information may be leaked to.”
Despite these potential downfalls, the plethora of available digital tools certainly takes much of the pain out of the house-hunting process, including applying for a bond online. “With the correct financial guidance from the start, your job is merely to find the right property before your bond originator assists you in making your dream home a reality,” Philip concludes.