Lesser-told tips for buying a house

Buying a house is often the biggest transaction we will make in our lifetime. It’s usually not a straightforward decision, with lots of factors to consider from the property itself to mortgages. For those who are not conveyancing experts, much of the process is completely alien to them, and there are many small mistakes that could have been avoided with a little warning.

Below we will talk you through some of these common mistakes, hearing from the experience of several recent buyers.

  1. Make as many visits as you can

    Most people do not visit the house they intend to buy more than two or three times – if it has even been built. It seems ridiculous that when choosing the house that buyers expect to spend the rest of their lives in they do not spend more than ten hours there before deciding. The most basic advice we can give is to make as many visits as you can.

    In fact, we recommend making visits with as many different people as you can. Visit with some professionals, such as an electrician and a plumber, who will save you some unpleasant surprises after buying. They are much more likely to spot issues relating to their areas of expertise than you. One recent buyer found some water damage after buying the house that was disguised by a coat of paint – a plumber likely would have spotted that on an earlier visit!

    Visit with different friends and family to get their perspective. This is particularly useful if you are a first-time buyer, so you have people on your side helping you with advice.

    A last recommendation would be to make sure you visit the house and area at different times during the week. This way you’ll get a better idea of the neighbourhood. 

  2. Make a list of desired qualities other than just a budget

    Money is undoubtedly a significant part of finding a property to buy, but it often pushes other important factors into the background. Many buyers aren’t looking for much other than a home in their price range. After a recent purchase, however, one buyer says they would “give priority to more things”.

    On the other hand, a different buyer went into their house search with a list of priorities. Top of that list was the location: “We chose a neighbourhood and did the math [with our budget]. We realised that our house couldn’t have more than two rooms, but we didn’t want to give up the area we had chosen.”

  3. Prioritise location, area and house orientation

    There is a reason “location, location, location” is an old real estate adage. It is one of the most vital things to consider when buying a house, as there is no point buying your dream house if its location does not work for the practicalities of your life. 

    Yet, often overlooked when choosing a property, though closely linked to location, is home orientation. The otherwise perfect flat being on the wrong side of the road can stop it from being your dream home. Buyers have warned to consider how hot the property might get in summer or whether it is in a noisy area.

  4. Get everything in writing

    It is especially important for buyers without the support of a real estate agency or similar intermediary to get all conditions of the sale in writing. While the majority of conditions will be in any contract, it is common for some verbal agreements to be made. It is strongly recommended that these are recorded in writing.

    One buyer explains how “[they] made a deposit contract, but there are things that always remain loose and you don’t write them down. In my case [the seller] took some imitation wooden beams that were placed on the ceiling, as well as some drawers”. The beams that were taken left damage that they had to fix on their own.

    Other common discrepancies can be furniture that was supposed to be left or dates for entering the new property. Another buyer explains how “the seller rushed the maximum term after signing the deposit contract to close the sale, delaying our plans”.

  5. Negotiate with the bank

    Reaching a mortgage agreement with the bank can often be one of the most difficult parts of buying a property. Many buyers have horror stories of receiving a much lower than expected loan and having to rethink their financing.

    Banks can often be opaque and present buyers with lots of hoops to jump through. A buyer recounts how “they made us take out two home insurances, one complete and one fire insurance. Eventually we realized that the fire coverage was included in the home insurance and we cancelled it. In both, the beneficiary was the bank.”

    The key thing to do is to do your research before entering discussions with a bank. Furthermore, don’t feel obliged to take the first deal the bank presents to you. They won’t always offer you your best option from the outset and you should take time to think it over. As long as you’re well informed, trust yourself to negotiate the best deal for yourself.

Buying a home is complex – full of nuance and often more than a few hiccups. Keep this advice in mind and hopefully it will help stop you having regrets about the purchasing process.

View our advice in picture form here.

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