Why are you looking to buy a house? Is it an investment for the future? Are you getting married? Are you planning to have children or perhaps already have some? Are you really clear on what you want? Whether you are or aren’t clear, there will be some important factors and if you can’t explain them to a Real Estate Agent, you will get what you asked for.
At the very least you should have a list of the things that are show stoppers and what you like in a house. Get a house viewing app that allows you to include pictures or put them on a spreadsheet and when you are looking at houses, rate them out of 10. Before the Agent even gets you in their car, or you go to Open Homes, see if you can match the advertisement information against your list.
If you must have 2 bathrooms, don’t look at any houses with just one. If, like me, you are not a handyman’s rear end, don’t go to the house that says “So much potential!”
I was in an Uber going to the pool on Sunday to do my hydrotherapy exercises for my back (I can’t drive at the moment) and the driver started asking me all sorts of questions about my neighborhood. He was quite specific.
He asked about price and mentioned how nice it was to have a beach close by. He wanted to know if there was a supermarket close by and other shops. He asked about crime. Where there many burglaries in the area or things stolen from cars. What were the schools like? What are the school zones? What was the ethnic mix in the area?
Notice that these are location based questions. He told me he was interested in the area and had just started renting a house locally because he heard it was a nice place to live and was asking all of his passengers to find out more about it before he decided to look at houses.
What a great opportunity he had to research, and he was getting paid for it! It was clear by his questions that it was as much about what he didn’t want as what he was looking for.
Ads for houses, whether they are online or in your junk mail, have to make every single property look attractive. If the house is amazing, it will have a picture showing why, if not, it is likely to talk about the potential “Bring paint brush, roll up your sleeves and finish the project”. It might talk about the location, but not the house. “In the school zone”, or “Seller’s motivation is high”.
Having said that, most realtors these days have websites and mobile apps where you can select the features you are looking for. If you’re not really sure what you want and only know what you can afford, maybe start with looking at the features you can choose from on one of those apps and start making a list of things you want and things you don’t want.
I was interviewed yesterday by a person from the Department of Statistics as part of a 3 year survey. He asked me questions like:
- How easy is it to get to public transport? For me right now (injury notwithstanding) it was a 20 minute walk to the bus stop through a park. At the moment they have closed the park as they are concreting a new walkway through it, so it would be about a 30 minute walk to the nearest suitable bus stop.
- He asked how safe I felt in the neighborhood. Then he embellished on that and said “Would you feel safe walking on the streets at night when it’s dark? He said “What about waiting at a bus stop in the dark?
- He asked whether I was concerned about crime in the area. He asked if neighborhood crime was better or worse than it was when I bought the house. There is a public meeting at the end of this month arranged by our local Member of Parliament and the Police, together with Neighborhood Watch, Community Patrol ‘and other groups’. You would only know about that if you did some research.
- He asked me whether I was happy with the distance I had to travel to the nearest convenience store and supermarket.
- He also asked a lot of questions about community, social questions and how I would rate my happiness. Subjective yes, but when you have a critical mass, you can start painting a picture of a neighborhood and this information anonymized of course, is available to anyone with access to the Internet. That’s you.
When you put together your list, think about the soft things as much as the hard things. So you need at least 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. You can get those in any neighborhood. You are going to spend about 2/3 of your time there.
Once you have that list, you can start narrowing down what you are looking at and instead of going out looking at properties, streets or suburbs that you have no interest in, you can start being smart. If you are a first home buyer, some of these things may not have occurred to you because you are focused more on the money. If you have some experience, this will be logical and if you think back to last time, you know you should have done more research right?
How do you do that research? If you can be specific to a Real Estate Agent, you can also be specific in researching the questions online. School Zones, Crime Statistics, Floodplains (don’t forget global warming and the risk of sea level rising from global warm or climate change). Don’t know where to start? Read a few more of my blogs. They might give you answers. Here’s a good place to start.
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