02 September 2016 What to look for in your first home I remember buying my first property. Married with one child and another just around the corner and all of a sudden… life was suddenly becoming pretty serious! Well buying property is serious as it involves a substantial amount of money, potentially the biggest financial investment you may ever make. Inevitably, emotions will play a role in the purchase - it's going to be your first home after all and it's entirely likely you'll 'fall in love' with one or more properties on your journey to a final purchase. So it is important to ask plenty of questions and get the right advice so that you make an informed decision to balance out the emotion! Understanding what you are ‘actually’ buying might sound obvious, but for many first home buyers, there can be some hard and sometimes costly lessons to learn. Remember that property agents are just that, ‘agents’, and whilst the majority are ethical and professional, it is not their obligation or position to provide you with information beyond what is contained in the Contract of Sale. It is their job to encourage you to buy the property. Given most first home buyers are typically purchasing in the lower–mid points of the property market, I have geared this advice around properties which might need some work, however the general advice can be true for all buyers. So, what to ask or look for? Location, Location, Location The first key thing to look at is the location of the house. Is it well positioned to the things you value such as parks, transport, shops, schools, beach, your parents and family etc.. Make a checklist of all the things you want nearby to help in the search. Orientation Once you've found a property, take a moment to review the orientation of the house in relation to the travel of the sun, local prevailing breezes and other geographic elements, perhaps views if you are lucky, or the aspect in relation to the neighbours. Use a compass to establish North then you'll know where the sun rises (East), sets (West) and where it will travel throughout the day. Remember the sun is higher in the sky in summer. Now apply that to the way the house is positioned on the block. It is a good idea to sketch this out onto the Agent's plan of the house. Make a note of which rooms get the morning sun and which get the afternoon sun. Does the backyard get good sunlight? Ideally you want the bedrooms, bathrooms and laundry on the South or East side of the house so that the living areas get more light during the day. Size matters You would be surprised how many people don’t check the land measurements and find out later through a dispute with their neighbour! Check the land size for yourself and ask the agent if a recent survey has been done to confirm this – don’t just believe the brochure. Check the condition of the building This is essential to inform you of the state of the structural and building elements of the property. Have a pre-purchase inspection done by a qualified, registered, insured inspector such as Archicentre or one of many other providers. This inspection should cover a wide range of aspects of the state of the property including: What is the true condition of the building including the sub-floor and roof space? Are there any major or serious defects that might require significant expense to repair? Is asbestos present and if so, what does this mean in terms of future renovations or removal? What is the condition of the plumbing, heating and electrical systems? What is the roof construction and condition i.e. does it leak? Is there any rising damp or salt damage? This can be costly to repair. Is there any termite and pest damage or is the property conducive to this? Renovator’s delight As well all know, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. However, the ‘sound of opportunity knocking’ could be there if you are informed about the state of the house and what its long term potential is. Checking with an architect can help you establish a great deal about the potential of the property including: Orientation to sunlight from a light/shade and passive solar energy perspective Load bearing walls Potential re-orientation options of the floor plan Consideration of renovating out, up or both i.e. second floor extensions and proximity to neighbours. Can you subdivide and if so, is there a minimum subdivision size? Is the property subject to Planning Controls or overlays such as Heritage or Environmental? Are there any easements (land reservations for sewer, stormwater and other utility services) and can you build over or near them? What are the immediate Zone Planning intentions, such as re-classifications or major changes proposed in the area? Getting ready to make an offer Be an informed buyer! Acknowledge that your emotions are there and will influence you; but also that information is power and this will help balance your decision making. Getting an inspection is a key part of this process. It will give you valuable information about the property and importantly, give you piece of mind if you decide to buy. If you are buying, use the information you've gained from the inspection to understand what repairs or work might be needed immediately. You can factor into your budget these costs as a part of the purchase process. Do your homework and you'll make the process much easier to manage for yourselves.