Buying a home is one of the biggest decisions you will ever make so how can you be sure everything will go to plan?
Here are 10 things to check before you sign the deal.
1. Research the local area
2. Find out why the property is on the market
3. Make sure your finance is in place
4. Check out the neighbours
5. Visit the property at different times
6. Get legal advice
7. Get a building report, strata report and pest inspection
8. Check the surrounding zoning
9. Check for proposed arterial roads
10. Check for environmental hazards
“Purchasing a house should never be an impulse buy,” says Bessie Hassan, a money expert at financial comparison website Finder.com.au. According to recent data from the website, 33 per cent of first home buyers wish they had looked around more before they purchased their property and 22 per cent regret the area in which they bought.
“You should thoroughly research the suburb you’re contemplating. Is there considerable crime in the area? Has the local council employed restrictions that prohibit you from building extensions in the future? What amenities are available that will cater to your requirements?”
Ask the agent why they are selling, says Anna Porter, principal and senior property adviser at property investment specialists, Suburbanite. “Try to dig into the story a little but do it in a chatty friendly way, not a confrontational way. This might reveal more than you think.”
“One of the pieces of advice I give most often when people tell me they are going to buy a house is to get their finance sorted before they even go on Domain.com.au,” says Ben Munro Smith, licensed real estate agent at McGrath Estate Agents, in Balmain, Sydney.
“I was once at an auction where the property sold to a young couple who had only seen the home for the first time that week. They had the deposit so could exchange at auction, but they later realised their borrowing capacity couldn’t get them the loan for the full amount. In the end, thanks to the bank of mum and dad, the property sale went through, but save yourself the hassle and call a mortgage broker first.”
“There is no reason why you can’t knock on the neighbour’s door to have a chat and get their feedback on the area,” recommends Porter. “Remember that you could be living next door to these people for a long time. If they are lunatics, it would be better to know before you move in. A bad neighbour can really impact your quality of life.”
“Neighbours doing extensions can be a reason for people to move” says Munro Smith. “Sometimes there is a falling out, sometimes it’s a gentle push that it might be time to look elsewhere, sometimes they may just hate the finished product.”
“I once sold for a client who was selling after only a short amount of time in the property,” says Munro Smith. “When I asked what the reason was for the sale, she confided that she had only seen the property once before the sale, on a Wednesday. She fell in love with it being across the road from a park and had big dreams of walking her dog there on weekends and enjoying the peace and quiet. What she didn’t realise was that there was children’s sport in the park at the weekends and so the street was bedlam during those times. She never had the chance to enjoy the serenity she had hoped for when she bought it.”
“This is simply a must when signing a contract in NSW,” says Porter. “Always get a conveyancer or solicitor to review the contract.”
Have a building and pest inspection even if the property is new as not all properties are built to the same quality, says Michelle Amarant, director of Amalain Buyer and Vendor Advocates in Melbourne.
“We always recommend a building report for all purchases, even units,” agrees Porter. “This is because the builder can find issues that owners and tenants may not know exist. Like failing waterproofing or leaks in the roof. If the property occupants don’t know the problem exists, they will not report it to strata and it therefore will not be in a strata report. A building inspector can also lend commentary to issues that could arise in the future from poor design, problems starting to present that could become costly if not fixed or bad workmanship that will deteriorate.”
“This will help you know if a property behind you or next to you is zoned for high-rise units or something else that you may not like to live near,” says Porter. “If you are buying a house in a nice quiet street and next year a seven-storey unit block goes up over the back fence, will that be a deal breaker? The surrounding zoning can give you some indication if this is at all possible in the near future.”
Finding out if there are any major road proposals for next to or near you is very important, says Porter. “Imagine buying your dream home, only to find out that a four-lane freeway is being built over the back fence in 12 months. There are a few ways you can find this out. You can check the RTA website, the local council website, call your local council, check the zoning (arterial roads will be zoned differently and you may see a corridor of rezoned homes – this can be an indication of future planning intentions), and in some instances you can see it on online maps like Google maps or Whereis.com.”
Always, always, always check for environmental hazards that could impact the property, says Porter. “Known hazards can impact insurances as well as values. If your property is in a known flood zone, land subsidence area or bushfire zone to name a few, this could mean that your insurance may not cover you for these disasters. Or they could significantly premium load your policy to get full cover and that could cost you thousands of dollars extra per year.”