How to find the perfect home for your budget

Feb 5, 2021 | Home Buyers

How to find the perfect home for your budget!! (Updated 07 Feb 2023)

How to find the perfect home for your budget
After reading this article you will know:

  1. How to buy the ideal property with a limited budget
  2. How to distinguish between your needs and wants when it comes to buying your ideal home
  3. How to broaden your horizons beyond the area where you grew up or where your family lives
  4. How to identify a suburb or area that is within your price range
  5. What to consider when setting up viewings with real estate agents


Don’t settle for less, find your dream home within your budget. You can still buy the ideal home. You just need to be very strategic about it. That is what this article is all about. 


The objective is absolute clarity. Clarity is power. The process of getting clear on what you want out of life should be fun. Don’t make it a mission. The process of buying a home should be a fun and exciting experience. It is something to be grateful for. Not everyone is in the fortunate position to make such an acquisition. You (or you and your spouse) can make a Saturday afternoon (or a weekend, depending on how much time you need) of getting absolute clarity before you start your house-hunting journey. Make an event out of it. Open a bottle of red wine, take out different colour markers, paper, and your laptop for research, and play your favourite music. Anything that feels like work, can be turned into fun if we have the right mindset around it.  


If you fail to plan, you plan to fail

This saying could not be truer than when it comes to buying a house. People do research before buying a phone or car, make an informed decision. The last thing they want to do is buy the wrong cell phone or car. Buy a house with care, and research even more than you do for a car or phone. Before you even think of going out and looking for a home, there is a lot of planning and thought that needs to go into your search. 


Know upfront how much you can buy for

Get pre-approved for a home loan before house hunting for a smooth buying journey. We discuss the pre-approval process in great detail in some of the other articles. Once you know the amount you qualify for, the house hunting can begin. 


Keep an open mind 

It is important to not place any restrictions on yourself. For instance, don’t be set on certain areas or certain types of homes. Be free and let your imagination go. This is what makes house hunting fun. 


Distinguish between needs and wants 

Needs vs Wants

You start the process by making two detailed lists: one for your needs and the second one for your wants. It is important not to confuse the two. A ‘need’ is something you cannot go without and a ‘want’ is a nice-to-have. 


If you are buying with a partner or a spouse, sit together and look at what you need.

This list might include items like:

  • Three bedrooms for a family
  • Two bedrooms for a couple
  • Entertainment area for entertaining guests
  • Large kitchen for home-cooked meals
  • Proximity to a good high school
  • Near restaurants for convenience
  • Accessible to transportation for convenience
  • Close to a good private hospital for elderly family members
  • Work-from-home space for remote work. 


So, your ‘needs’ list is the items that you don’t really want to compromise on. 


Once you’ve made your ‘needs’ list, you can now go over to your ‘wants’ list. 

This would include items like:

  • Have a swimming pool (optional)
  • Have a third bedroom (optional)
  • Live close to the office (optional)


Don’t feel you have to live close to family – create your own life

Don’t restrict your search for a home to where your family lives. Remember, this is your own new life that you are creating with your own new family. Consider long-term plans, not just short-term family proximity. Don’t base your decision solely on family ties or childhood memories. Think ahead and plan for future changes in family circumstances. Broaden your horizons and get out of your comfort zone. That’s how you grow in life.  


Even if the family is important to you (which is a good thing), you can still go visit on the weekend. Now is the time to build your own life and create your own traditions and values for your own family. 


Complex, apartment, freestanding house, or estate? 

Types of Properties to Consider

Decide on living in a complex, apartment, freestanding house, or estate based on budget.


In South Africa complexes are becoming more and more popular. They are safe and secure, and it is generally a lock-up-and-go scenario. Ground-level living may offer small, manageable garden. There is normally access control to the complex, so you have the added benefit of safety. The body corporate has a set of rules that all residents in a complex must adhere to. Adhere to rules for harmony: music timing, pet type, conduct standards. These rules are necessary since residents are living in close proximity to each other and need to be mindful of their neighbours. 

If you value independence, avoid a complex where noise, visitors, and conduct may be restricted.


A freestanding home in a suburb will give you all the freedom that you want:

  • Play music without rules
  • More parking for visitors
  • Bigger yard for kids
  • Freedom to alter the house
  • You need to ensure security (electric fence, armed response, burglar bars)
  • You are more vulnerable in a freestanding house compared to an access-controlled complex (especially in cities)


There are Pros and cons of an apartment and a freestanding house, decide based on your lifestyle needs.

An Apartment is best for those who are rarely home, don’t need a garden, and just need a place to sleep. Apartments are normally also the most affordable out of the lot. Having said that, there are many luxury apartments which you can consider if your budget allows it. 


Identifying suburbs or areas in your city that are within your price range

Finding the Right Location Within Your Budget

By now you have been pre-approved for a home loan, and you know what the home loan amount is that you qualify for. You know what your “needs” and “wants” are, and you’ve decided on whether you want to live in an apartment, a townhouse, or a freestanding home. You can now start by identifying suburbs in your city or town where you’ll find properties in that price range. 

Sticking to familiar suburbs in big cities may limit your options for great neighbourhoods. Explore new areas for better options… 

For instance:

  •  Don’t limit your search to what you know
  • Discover new and exciting suburbs
  • Don’t miss out on great housing options
  • Don’t dismiss it until you try it!


So, the first place to start is to go to Google

  • Go on Google and search for “map of [city name].”
  • View the map and make a list of familiar and unfamiliar suburbs.
  • Explore the unfamiliar suburbs to discover hidden gems. 


There will also be obvious suburbs that you know are clearly out of your price range, for instance, if you are looking in Johannesburg and your budget is one million five hundred thousand rands, you’ll know not to even look in Sandton. But never skip a suburb because you are guessing that it might be too expensive, if you do not know for sure, check it out. You never know. 


You can also give all the suburbs a miss that you know for sure, is perhaps not so ideal. Let’s stick to the same example. If your budget is one million, five hundred thousand rands, you know that you can give Hillbrow a miss, because you can afford better. Again, with this exercise, if you don’t know for sure that a particular area is bad or crime-ridden, don’t diss it from the word go. You might be pleasantly surprised. 


Your list of potential suburbs should be quite long, for instance, if it is a big city, have twenty or thirty suburbs on your ideal list. Never restrict yourself. Now that you have your list, you can prioritize suburbs and start doing desktop research. In other words, go on to the property portals like or, type in those suburbs and see the price range of the houses that come up. Do this for as many suburbs as possible. You will not only get an idea of the price range in those suburbs, but you will also get an idea of the types of homes that are on the market in that particular suburb. Desktop research can save you lots of time, energy, and money. You can eliminate the suburbs that are not ideal and create a shortlist of suburbs that you do want to visit. 


Setting up viewings with real estate agents

Now that you are clear on your budget, the suburbs that you want to buy in, and the type of property that suits your lifestyle, you can make appointments with real estate agents to go view the properties. You also do this on and These portals are set up in such a way that you can type in your requirements like budget, suburb, type of property, how many bedrooms, bathrooms, etc. You can view the listings and make an appointment with the real estate agents for the properties you are interested in viewing. 


Aim to make between four and six appointments on a particular day. This way all the properties are fresh in your mind and it is easier for you to compare. For this reason, it is probably better to schedule these appointments on a Saturday or Sunday. This is normally also when most people are at home and you can get a feel for the neighbours in the suburb or the complex in which you are viewing potential homes. 


On the day, first, drive around the neighbourhood to make sure that the neighbourhood resonates with you. You want to feel at home. There is a separate detailed article on how to view a property. Please refer to that article before you go house hunting. 


Keep an open mind when you view properties 

It is also important to note that you will probably not find all your requirements in one property (if you’re lucky, you may). Keep an open mind when you view properties. At least your planning offers you a guideline so that you are clear on what you are looking for. It also helps you to explain to the real estate agent exactly what you are looking for, and what are deal breakers. Don’t view too many properties. It will just confuse you and make the whole house-hunting experience unpleasant. There is something called “analysis paralysis”. It means if you over-analyse things too much, you end up not taking any action. 


Well, that’s it. I hope this helps. Happy house hunting. 


Last updated: 4 February 2023 

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