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Where should I start looking for my first home? Are online portals enough or do I need to contact an estate agent?

Buyers would do well to search both online property portals and form relationships with estate agents operating in areas they want to buy.

Buyers would do well to search both online property portals and form relationships with estate agents operating in areas they want to buy.

Published Mar 24, 2022

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So you are finally ready to buy your first home and looking forward to all the interesting properties you will get to view.

But where is the best place to start looking for homes to view? Should you approach an estate agent or even more than one, or should you just search online property portals?

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Matseleng Magodi, founder and principal of Snooks Estates, says there are many more real estate companies listing their properties online than ever before.

“A large percentage of properties are listed online and it should be a bit questionable if the seller or agent does not list properties online.”

She says there are many websites that promote properties for sale, so you could send your details and receive alerts when properties similar to your requirements are listed.

“Although there is an influx of properties, it may sometimes be confusing to know which company to go with, because you may have a relationship with one but want a property from another. I would strongly advise that when looking to buy, first check out what is online, in general. Then you approach a property practitioner to hold your hand on this journey.

“The agent will show you what they have, and, if none of those properties appeal to you, they would start searching for properties to try source one that suits your needs.

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“When you have a great estate agent, it is wise to stick with them and they will then negotiate on your behalf among their colleagues and other networks.”

Karen Turner, property practitioner at Jawitz Properties North Coast, says it is advisable to approach a reputable agency in your chosen area – an agency with a strong area presence, a decent number of listings and a strong social media presence.

“It is not in the buyer’s interest to have too many agencies on board as often the same property is listed with a number of agencies, leading to a search becoming complicated and unwieldy. A good agency, once understanding what the buyer requires, will be able to present a number of viable options and links.”

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Estate agents are a great asset to potential homeowners, agrees property practitioner Cacisa Mgudlwa, who is also a town planner.

“It is important to find an estate agent you can develop a good working relationship with in the area you are interested in.

“Their knowledge of the housing market, and their ability to assist you in finding a home that suits your needs, will make the process much smoother.”

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In addition to finding agents online, she says you can also ask friends and colleagues for referrals.

“Look up the agents’ websites and online profiles. It’s important to read about their specialties and experience and check out customer reviews. Another, somewhat passive, way to find the best real estate agent is to identify which agents have the most listings in your area and make a list of those to contact.”

You should get a feel for the property practitioners who are most active in the area you are considering, Jawitz Properties Sandton branch manager Jeremy Craig says, adding you should make contact with them to discuss your requirements and get onto their mailing lists.

“Start perusing the main property portals and subscribe to receive their alerts. To ensure you are on an agent’s hot list, contact them frequently. Being top of mind puts you in a good position when something comes up and they think of you first.”

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