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The 5 Golden Lessons I Learned On My First Day Looking For A Home

Home ownership has always seemed like a bit of a fable to me. It seems so out of reach, so damn expensive and frankly a little scary. But it is possible! I don’t yet own property, but I hopefully will soon. Even if at this point just thinking about it strikes me with an equal amount of excitement and paralysing fear.

After a long period of saving for a deposit and working towards our goals, my partner and I have finally started looking for our a house to buy. We have conditional approval on a home loan so we know a ballpark figure for what we can afford. We’ve been gathering properties in a shortlist on our real estate apps.

We recently had our first day searching for a home, and here’s what we learned:

#1 Preparation pays off

We had shortlisted 27 properties in the real estate app we used – far too many. Before we went out looking we created a shortlist, ruthlessly cutting out any properties that didn’t match our needs, and focused on one area, making it quicker to get between each house. We ended up with a list of 12 houses.

This shortlist is super handy to have quickly accessible. Real estate apps usually have a mechanism to organise your viewings by time order but pen and paper works just as well. Having this information to hand is vital – not least because sometimes two properties you really want to see have inspections the same time, so you’ll have to move quickly.

#2 Know what you’re looking for in advance

You don’t want to wander around pointlessly thinking, “This is nice”, but nothing else. Go into inspections focused and prepared. Put together a list of what you must have in a property, features that would be nice to have, and deal breakers. Knowing that you must have two bedrooms and a car park will prevent you looking at irrelevant places. If you know that traffic noise is a big, fat no, you’ll know to listen while inside the house to see if that will be a problem.

One property we inspected looked brilliant in every way – except that we’d have nowhere to park our car, and the street parking was ticketed. It just wouldn’t work. Even though we could see ourselves living in the house, we struck that one from the list.

house hunting

#3 Ask all the questions

You’ll be greeted at every property by the estate agent. They’ll note your details and let you explore the property. Sometimes they’ll hover annoyingly, or ask you questions when you’re trying to imagine where you’re going to put your hypothetical wine cellar, but they can be helpful if you ask the right questions.

You’ll want to get information out of them: Where are the vendors at with moving out? Will they take offers before a potential auction? How long has the property been on the market? Have there been building and pest inspections completed?

All this information will come in useful if you want to make an offer. A vendor who has already bought something else will be keen for your cash to make their own repayments. And if they’ll take offers before an auction, you may be able to negotiate a lower price. All things to keep in mind.

#4 Look at more than just the house

Think about how you’ll get to work from the house – is it close to public transport? What’s the neighbourhood like? Are there parks, supermarkets, cafes close by? These are all easy to check on Google Maps, but this only gives you so much info.

Also do your research while you’re at the property. What’s the rest of the street like? Across the road from one property we inspected, we saw a junkyard with a bunch of weird statues stuck on top. Charming neighbourhood quirk? Or terrifying when walking home from the station at night? Up to you – but it’s something you should decide you’re OK with before you buy the house.

#5 Try not to fall in love immediately

You’ll definitely feel some attachment to these properties – you’re not just looking for a house to buy, you’re looking for your home. It’s an exciting time that comes after a long time of saving, sacrificing, dreaming and hoping. But try not to fall in love with every property that matches your list of must-haves. Sometimes another bidder will get in before you, or the price is just that little bit too high. Maybe it’ll fail the pest or building inspection.

If you fall in love with a property while looking for a house to buy, you’ll be crushed every time you don’t get the home of your dreams. Try to keep a rational head about the whole process – when emotions come into play, you make mistakes, like bidding beyond your means at an auction.

As it turns out, we found a property we’re keen on (I promise we’re not breaking rule #5 though!). We know it might be a long shot to secure it so soon after we started looking, but we’re going through the stages of putting in an offer now. I guess my next step would be to read these 13 hacks for first-home ownership.


Mitch is the Editor of The Cusp. You can find him on Twitter @MitchBrook and Instagram @Mitch_Brook. 

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