WHETHER you rent or own the place , chances are that a large portion of income goes to pay for it.

WHETHER you rent or own the place , chances are that a large portion of income goes to pay for it.

Here are some ideas to help you save money on renting, buying or improving your home, as well as buying major appliances.

Renting a place

Rent can vary widely even in the same area. Do not limit your rental-housing search to classified advertisements or referrals from friends and acquaintances.

Select buildings where you would like to live and contact the building manager or owner personally.

Weigh the cost of the rent against factors such as the area, convenience, access, length of contract and so on.

Buying a home

You can use an estate agent, buy directly from the owner or build a new home.

A real estate agent can help guide you through the process and point out good and bad things about a home.

They can help you arrange financing and handle most of the paperwork as well as arrange for the closing and turning over of the keys .

But you will generally, though not always, pay a higher price because of the the commission . If you choose to use an agent try not to choose the agent who represents the seller.

Buying directly from the owner might save you money but will require a lot more time and legwork.

You will need to do some research to determine whether or not the home is worth the asking price. You will also have to arrange for an appraisal and inspection.

Be sure you fully understand the terms of the seller's agreement before you sign it because you will be legally bound to it.

Building a home allows you to get exactly what you want, but beware that not all builders and contractors are the same. Do your homework and get referrals. Check up on them. Building is usually a very lengthy process. Be aware that promises to build a home quickly often equate to lesser quality.

Do not purchase any house until it has been examined by a home inspector. Make it a part of your seller's agreement that your purchase of the home is dependent on the outcome of the inspection. That way you'll be able to legally back out if something is wrong, such as termites, mould, structural issues and so on.

When shopping for a home loan, look for a lender that offers the best rates.

Home improvement

Think of maintaining your home as protecting your investment. Home repairs often cost thousands of rands and are the subject of frequent complaints. Select from among several well-established, licensed contractors who have submitted written, fixed-price bids for the work. Ask for referrals and check on them.

Do not sign any contract that requires full payment before satisfactory completion of the work.

If you choose to do the repairs yourself, be sure you know what you're doing. People often meet with injury and even death when trying to do their own repairs. Get appropriate licences and permits as necessary.

Take a look at how doing it yourself might affect the resale value of your home. More than one home's value has been severely decreased by do-it-yourself projects that did not quite turn out right!

Decide if the money you may save is really worth the time and the risk involved.

Major appliances

One of the best ways to find out about major appliances is to consult consumer information magazines or publications.

These contain information about specific brands and how to evaluate them and sometimes they include energy use.

There are often great price and quality differences among brands. A more expensive, yet more energy-efficient model might pay for the difference in price rather quickly.

Once you have selected a brand, check the phone directory to learn what stores carry this brand, then call at least four of these stores for the prices of specific models.

After each store has given you a quote, ask if that is the lowest price they can offer you.

This comparison shopping can save you a lot of money.

From renting to owning, always remember that an investment of time on your part can generate more money in your pocket.