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Buying tips: Invest in the perfect home for your (growing) family

17 May 2019

Better health, higher educational achievement and higher net wealth are among the many socio-economic benefits of homeownership.

The first thing family buyers need to establish is what they can realistically afford to spend - taking into account the additional expenses involved in raising children and saving for long-term goals such as tertiary education or their own retirement.

This is according to studies by Habitat for Humanity, and these reasons are certainly strong incentives for the thousands of South Africans who buy new homes each year to accommodate their growing families.

“Everyone wants their children to have a healthy and happy place to grow up and to do well at school or university, but it isn’t always easy to find a home that meets the needs of everyone in the family - or future family - and is also within budget,” says Rudi Botha, CEO of SA’s biggest mortgage originator BetterBond.

“However, it is possible, provided that prospective buyers don’t rush things and are prepared to do some research and preparation before making a purchase.”

The first thing family buyers need to establish, he says, is what they can realistically afford to spend - taking into account the additional expenses involved in raising children and saving for long-term goals such as tertiary education or their own retirement.

“Small children may need daycare, for example, and the cost of schooling for older children can be very high. Then there are things like school field trips and sports tours, extramural classes and family holidays to include in the budget, in addition to the home loan repayment, utilities like water and electricity, home maintenance, insurance and security,” says Botha.

“This is why we always suggest that buyers consult a reputable bond originator long before they start looking at homes for sale. An affordability calculator will help you work out what size bond you can afford given your income and expenses, and our consultants can also assist you to obtain a home loan prequalification certificate.”

Work out what size home loan you can afford here.

This will enable you to focus on homes that are within your budget, signal to sellers that you are a serious buyer and give you leverage in price negotiations that could save you even more on the total cost of your home, he says.

Secondly, he says family buyers need to think about where they want to buy, with the most important factors in that decision being:

1. Safety and security

Children need safe places to play and to meet or visit with their friends. That’s one of the reasons that gated developments and closed-off neighbourhoods are so popular with family home buyers.

2. Good schools close to home

As well as wanting to provide a quality education, most parents with school-going children would like to save time spent travelling to and fro for sporting and other extramural activities, and thus don’t want to live too far from the school gates.

3. Other families

It’s great to live in an area where many of your neighbours are at a similar stage of life and your children can all grow up together.

4. Proximity to work

Spending more time with their children and less time commuting to and from work is a major consideration for most parents.

Botha says more factors to consider will relate to finding a home that will ‘grow with you’ as your family’s needs change, so that you don’t have to sell and buy again too soon. Some features to look for in that regard are:

1. Lots of storage

Having children means having more stuff. Make sure the home you choose has long-term storage like a basement or shed, as well as plenty of easy access storage like closets and cabinets. It is also really useful to have an additional room that can be used as a playroom or as a music and computer room for older children.

2. The correct floorplan

Some family homes have the master bedroom at the opposite end of the house to the children’s bedrooms, and that may be appealing to the parents of teenagers. However, those with young children will probably feel more secure having all the bedrooms together.

3. Family space

You may not be an award-winning chef, but a good kitchen can be a major gathering place for a family. It’s also a good idea to look for a home with a large informal living space that everyone can enjoy together.

4. Extra accommodation

Working parents with young children may also need a home with room to accommodate a full-time au pair or nanny, and those with students still living with them might also prefer that they have their own cottage or granny flat.

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