|Finally, after months we found our Dear Little House|
1. Discuss what is really important to you in terms of what you want in a home. Even if you are a single person, have this discussion with yourself. For Michael and I this process was really important, as we prioritised some things differently. For instance off-street parking was an absolutely non-negotiable 'must have' for him as he would never be happy if he had to park his car on the street, and I really wanted an older home with at least 3 bedrooms so I could finally set up a proper studio. A home is a big, long-term investment, you don't want to be unhappy with it!
2. Make a checklist. I suggest the following categories; must have, would prefer and added bonus. We did this and it was a very valuable tool to evaluate the properties you view, especially when you've seen eight houses in one day! We formatted a chart listing what we wanted in a home and based it on these categories. There was one column with the criteria, a little one to tick whether it applied, and a third, larger column for making notes on each criterion. Also there was space to write the address, agent and their contact details, an estimated price and a space for added information. We then stapled the brochures from each property to its checklist to review later.
For more information on how to start that discussion and how to make that checklist see What is really important in your dream home?
3. Be prepared to compromise. This seems to be at odds with my prior points about making sure that it has what you want, but if you don't go in to the process with some 'wiggle room' you will be looking forever. The home we ended up buying didn't fit all of our criteria perfectly, but there was nothing that we were inherently unhappy with and some of the ways in which it didn't fit could be changed with a bit of time and effort.
4. Look for potential. This is critical, because it is an area in which you could save yourself some money. Lots of people are turned off a property if it is poorly presented or, for example, has awful 70s shagpile carpet. Carpet can be changed, the decor will be different, you can re-tile a bathroom, knock down walls, or as in our case, add extensions and completely change the existing floorplan!
5. Search outside your comfort zone. We widened our search quite considerably after a few weeks as we discovered that we were not finding anything to fit our criteria in the suburb that we wanted. We looked at several other suburbs in the general area and found that there were a few places that we wouldn't mind living. In doing this we also looked at factors such as travel time to work, and proximity to places that we often go. We also went for brunch and did some weekend shopping in each different area to get a feel for each locale, and where possible talked to friends that live there. See this post for more tips on how to tell if a suburb is right for you.
6. The 11 second rule. This is the principle that you know whether a property is something you'd be interested in within the first 11 seconds. I generally found that this rang true. We were doing mad dashes from open home to open home on a Saturday morning, so this idea came in handy. I would say that it applies easily to places that are a definite 'no'.
7. Use the power of technology. Most popular real estate websites have automated systems that can email you listings for properties that fit your search criteria. This saves you lots of time and energy and can be updated daily if you so choose. You can also view several images of the property and usually a floorplan, this helped us to avoid wasting time going to open homes that wouldn't suit us.
8.Get in touch with local agents. If you call around real estate agents in the areas that you are interested in you can let them know what you are looking for. They can call you as soon as new properties are listed, meaning that you can often get the jump on something before it has been listed online or in the papers.
9. Know the market. Follow the property trends in your preferred area for a while before you really start looking. Read the real estate section in the paper and do a little research in to the price and availability of homes that fit your criteria. The more informed you are the more prepared you will be.
10. Loose lips sink ships. Don't let the selling agent have too much information and keep details vague, remember that ultimately a higher sale price means more commission for them. If you tell them what your absolute highest price is, they might up their expectations. They may also quote you a price lower than they expect in the hope that an emotional attachment will drive you to spend more (this is illegal in some places). Never overstretch yourself and try to keep emotion out of it.
11. Something will turn up. As long as you have realistic expectations, you will find your dream home. It might take longer than expected and you may feel like you'll never get your Saturdays back, but you will find something that suits you. If worst comes to worst rent somewhere in the area you like and keep hunting, or take out a 'home wanted' ad- you never know it might prompt someone who was thinking about selling to contact you. Be patient, don't buy something you don't love just because you're sick of house hunting!
For us, following these simple tips made the house hunting process easier. I never said it made it easy, but certainly easier that it would have been! If you have any tips you'd like to share, please feel free to leave a comment below.