Home Buyers Checklist

Home Buyers Checklist

One couple share their house hunting story and what to consider when buying and looking for your first home.

My fiancé and I recently decided it was time to enter the property market. This decision came with a lot of questions, and we were fortunate enough to have the advice of my parents, who have been renovating and selling houses for years.

For cost reasons, Chris and I started looking at units, however we were quickly talked out of it. My parents helped us realise that considering the point we were at in our lives, we would grow out of a unit very quickly and end up selling again, losing more money in the changeover process. So while affording a house was a big stretch for us, we knew we would benefit more in the long run.

The next major decision was where to look. Chris and I grew up in the same area and were keen to stay nearby. We also relied heavily on public transport, so it was important we were close to a train station.

Once these initial questions were answered, we began delving deeper into what our ‘ideal house’ was. We wanted somewhere we could eventually raise our family, which meant there were many more things to consider from a kid-friendly perspective:
*    Is it on a quiet street where there isn’t a lot of traffic coming through?
*    Is there enough sunlight in the house?
*    Are there parks nearby we can walk to?
*    Are there shops nearby we can walk to?
*    Is it a family friendly area with schools/preschools nearby?
*    Are there mothers’ groups to join?

Then there were other features we would have liked, but weren’t necessities, such as a garden, an open-plan kitchen and at least three bedrooms. Surprisingly, we did find our dream home. We learned the importance of give and take: it’s all about compromise. We didn’t get the open-plan kitchen, but there is potential to create one down the track, and the house is near a freeway, so we get a bit of noise, and finally, while it’s walking distance to a station, it’s further than we would have liked. But we did get a nice backyard, walking distance to schools and many other things on our list.

With the bigger mortgage that came with a house compared to a unit, we weren’t able to move in straight away. Instead, we have rented it out, which nearly covers the mortgage, and went on the hunt for a unit to rent ourselves while we continued saving.

My mum raised a very interesting point about renting close to where we bought, so we could become part of the community and not have to move out of it.

While some of our criteria for a unit remained the same: walking distance to a station, parks nearby, open-plan kitchen (ideally!), there were other things to consider too:

*    Was there some outdoor space, such as a balcony, in the unit so we didn’t feel ‘locked in’?
*    Was this outdoor space safe for kids?
*    Were there two bedrooms (one for a future child)?
*    Was there enough light?

 

We were lucky and shortly found a unit, two suburbs away from our house. It met most of the criteria, but after moving in, we realised there were a few more things we should have considered, and our biggest issue was space. There’s no pantry, not much hanging space and no linen cupboard. Nothing a trip to Ikea couldn’t solve, but worth considering beforehand.

In the process of our house and unit hunt, one thing became very clear to us. While it was easy to write out a list of what we wanted in a place, it was important to be flexible. The easiest way to manage this is to rate your criteria in order of importance, so when it comes to give and take, you know what areas you’re willing to budge on, and those you aren’t.

While the lists above are the things we were looking for, here are some other points you might want to consider before buying a house:

GARDEN:
*    Do you want a backyard that can fit a vegie patch?
*    Do you need outdoor space for a potential pet?
*    Do you want trees that provide shade in summer?
*    Do you want a low-maintenance backyard with little grass?
*    Do you want a backyard?

ENERGY:
*    Do you want a place with water-saving devices installed?
*    Do you want to be able to install a water tank?
*    Do you want a place that is well insulated?
*    Do you want air-conditioning/heating?

LOCATION/COMMUNITY:
*    Do you want to stay in the same area you grew up in?
*    Do you want to be near schools?
*    Do you want to be near parks?
*    Do you want to be on a quiet street?
*    Do you want a garage?
*    Do you want to be near public transport?
*    Are the neighbours friendly?

INTERIOR:
*    How many bedrooms do you want?
*    Do you want an open-plan kitchen?
*    Do you want one or two storeys?
*    Do you want to be able to add to the place?
*    How many bathrooms do you want?
*    Do you need much storage space?
*    Do you get enough light in the house?

Don’t forgo the building and pest inspection, either. The first place we looked at buying ended up being termite-ridden, so we dodged a big bullet!

Here are some things you may want to consider before buying or renting a unit:

*    Do you know of any existing problems with body corporate/strata?
*    Are the neighbours friendly/have there been any past problems?
*    Do you need outdoor space of your own, such as a balcony? Do you want this balcony to be able to fit pots, etc?
*    Do you get enough sunlight inside?
*    Do you want a bath for the kids?
*    Do you want an internal laundry?
*    Do you want air-conditioning?
*    Do you care what you look out onto, i.e. other units, parks, the road?
*    Does it need to be well insulated? Can you hear other people in other units nearby?
*    Do you need plenty of storage space?
*    Do you need your own car spot/garage storage space?
*    Does it have easy access for prams?
*    Can you smell cooking from the neighbouring apartments?
*    Are you near garbage bins or waste collection places?


Words by Brooke + Chris

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