AA - 2020

Author:  Private Property South Africa
20 April 2020

The ‘virtual’ reality of shopping online for a property
The ins and outs of searching for a home in this new reality.

Despite the precarious economy, and because of what the global pandemic has manifested, lockdown has reintroduced property owners to their homes, which may be a blessing or a curse. Regardless, it has provided time to reflect on, and inspect, your current home, and there may be some thoughts about selling based on criteria such as:

  • Current home is too big, or too small.
  • Desired structural changes or glaring flaw repairs are no longer affordable.
  • You can envisage a future where you have neither the energy nor resources to continue with necessary home maintenance, thereby devaluing your property.
  • Bond repayments are too high – despite interest rate cuts – especially if household budgets have been badly impacted.
  • A divorce is pending.

Budget, budget, budget

Before you enter the property market with a view to buy or sell, we highly recommend you do some online research on alternative accommodation. The first step is to consider what is affordable. Never before has it been more important to focus on a budget, bearing in mind that ‘pandemic-related’ interest rate cuts may mean that you now have the means to enter the property market, or look at a different type of property than previously may have been considered. The inability to impulse-spend because of lockdown may also translate into the possibility that you may have more disposal income that can be directed towards a higher bond repayment.

These are strange times indeed, and in some ways there are advantages at play. For example, a property type that may have seemed beyond your means in January, may now be an affordable option. Only your budget will indicate how far you can stretch your rands after all the imperatives in your personal chain-of-care have been accounted for.

Overall, if you have made the decision to explore the homes-for-sale market, even if only because you have the time, there are tips to consider that may assist your online search criteria.

Define your property search: the dream list

You need a list of tick-boxes that define your needs:

  • What is your budget?
  • Size and type of property (eg: house/apartment, number of bed-/bathrooms, garaging, study, outside buildings, garden, square meterage, etc.)
  • Areas or suburbs you are keen on
  • Neighbourhood facilities (eg: close to schools, medical care, highways and transport, etc.)
  • A turnkey, fixer-upper, or character home
  • Kerbside appeal
  • Security and fencing
  • Animal friendly

The list can be endless but it’s a good idea to write down everything you’ve ever dreamed of a home providing you with, be that outrageous or as quirky as having TV connections in every room, or a separate mancave/meditation room. The difference between getting what you want versus what you can afford, is how much you are prepared to compromise on the items on your tick-list. You may therefore wish to prioritise the things that you absolutely need against those that would be considered a bonus.

A list of this nature also makes it easier for any estate agents with whom you have contact, to undertake a search on your behalf. If you are clear about your absolute needs, they won’t trouble you with properties that fall outside of those parameters.

Virtual viewings

You may not be able to physically view a property but virtual viewings have been trending for some years now. The more professional videos have been created using 3D cameras that provide high-definition 360-degree walkthroughs, which do give you some sense of the space of the room/s being featured. Be wary of the more amateur videos, often taken with a smartphone, as the sense of space is often misleading.

Internationally, but not as common in SA, is the use of a GoPro that has been applied in a walkabout of, for example, a garden or the street on which the property is sited. GoPros are also being used while travelling in a car to provide a sense of the neighbourhood, such as distance to shops, schools, medical facilities, and how the suburb is maintained.

Static photos still remain key to the having an overall impressive of a room, or an external shot of the property, particularly any unique or attractive features. You can request an agent/seller to provide images of specific areas if those are not available on the site you are viewing.


A savvy seller may have a floorplan available, or you might be able to request one. Even if not the official council-registered building plan, a hand-drawn flatplan of the layout of the home will give a sense of flow, or indicate how the rooms interconnect. You may be surprised by how much better you will understand the space available, particularly if the seller is prepared to measure rooms, against which you can compare to your existing property.


A factor that cannot be accounted for accurately online, is the surrounding noise of a property. If a house is sited near to a busy airport for example, the impact of the noise and frequency of the flightpaths may not just be a case of ‘getting used to it’. If noise is an aspect that you have concerns about, ask the seller/agent if recordings can be made during specific time frames, which can be mailed to you, bearing in mind of course that during lockdown you will still not have a sense of surrounding noise impacts.

Video conferencing

Another great tool; video conferencing allows you to meet online with the agent/seller to address any queries you have. Live viewings of the property can also be part of this process.

Have your interest noted

If you should find a home that you are keen to view when lockdown is over, we recommend you make this clear to the estate agent or seller as quickly as possible. The current situation may have had a massive impact on how we view properties, but the interest in homes for sale through web searches is likely to increase as stay-at-home workers make use of the extra time they have available.

Original article can be viewed here: