Buying a new home is incredibly exciting, albeit a little daunting. It's likely going to be your biggest purchase, though, so it makes sense to give serious thought to exactly what you want.
Thereafter, we want to know exactly what we're getting into by peeling back the façade of beautifully dressed homes and digging a little deeper.
We've highlighted some of the key areas that every home buyer should be considered, coupled with a comprehensive house hunting checklist that you can print out and take with you on your travels.
Why a House Hunting Checklist is Essential
We, humans, are emotional beings, and all too often we let our feelings get in the way of making smart decisions. (Our 80s fashion choices are a perfect example.)
Therefore, a checklist should form the touchstone of sensible decision-making and wise financial choices. The trick is to draw up a comprehensive list of exactly what we need, what we want, and where we are negotiable before we start house hunting. That way we aren’t being swayed by a persuasive realtor or the details of a specific property.
We are then off to a great start on the road to the perfect home.
Once we've narrowed down what we want, we can focus on the more granular aspects of the homes we are going to view.
Have you ever gone house hunting and found that you can't remember which property had the mould problem and which one had that great spa bath? Without a good house hunting checklist to refer to, they tend to merge into a blur of rooms and spaces.
A checklist is the only way to compare homes without bias and ensure that you take careful note of everything that matters.
What's Included in a Good House Hunting Checklist?
Let’s get our heads in the right place and start at the very beginning. These essentials should feature on your list to set you down the right path.
What can you afford? No, honestly? And have you given yourself a little wiggle room? Have you factored in everything such as:
The purchase price of the property
The down payment
Potential renovation costs
Additional furniture items
Do school or work locations affect your options? If so, then stick to these areas and don't look at anything outside of them unless, of course, you have to.
Remember that your location is something that you can never change, and the additional cost of commuting from a remote area will add to your monthly outgoings. Further to this, be sure to check out the local amenities such as the gym, library, church, parks, and public transport routes.
How well do you know the area that you are considering? If there are potential problems such as neglected curbs, poorly maintained roads, or unkempt homes, accept that this is not going to go away.
Remember, the tone of the neighbourhood has a direct impact on your resale value.
Do you want a free-standing home in the suburbs, or are you looking for a secure apartment? Do you want a garden for the kids to play in? Do you prefer something private, or are you okay with making use of communal spaces?
Newer properties may be pretty and convenient, but they also tend to be smaller than older properties with bigger rooms and a sensibly sized kitchen.
These factors depend on your unique lifestyle and personal needs and must go into your checklist.
Our printable house hunting checklist will have more on the interior and exterior of the building, but this serves as an overview so you know what you're looking for and why.
We all want to be proud of our homes, so the first check in the box should be curb appeal. Does the home represent who we are, or can it do so with a little effort? What overall impression do I get from this property?
Landscaping and Garden
Is the garden big enough for your needs, and is it private and secure? Do any of those mature trees need attention, perhaps overhanging the house or swimming pool. Is the irrigation system working, and are the fences and gates in good repair?
Siding and Paint
What condition are the exterior walls in? Are there cracks in the brickwork or plaster? Are the wooden sections damp or rotting? Can you see the condition of the foundations? Wall cracks are not always a major problem, but they can be. Cracks around windows and doors, those that run diagonally or are wider than 2.5 cm, indicate a bigger project than you may want to take on.
Peeling or discoloured paintwork may indicate neglect or dampness, neither of which is ideal.
Windows and Doors
Unless the property benefits from uPVC or aluminium windows and doors, there will be ongoing maintenance required here. Wood or steel windows need regular care and will start to degrade if they are neglected. Take a close look at the state of the windows, sills, and surrounds, noting cracks, rot, or rust.
You may want to add certain features to your printable checklist to personalize it, including elements such as the floor type, whether it can accommodate your furniture comfortably, or if it’s likely to be a cold room. The following questions will guide you further.
While flooring is replaceable, it isn’t cheap to do so. Do the carpets need a good clean, or are they well past that and need replacing? Are there cracked tiles, and if so, are replacements readily available?
Do you prefer light, bright and airy? Do the windows in the living areas offer this feel? Are the windows secure? Do you have enough window coverings, or will this be an additional expense?
Are there sufficient bathrooms for the number of people in your household? Do you prefer to shower or bath? If the bathrooms are dated or need some work, do you have the budget (and time) to make this happen?
This is a big deal, and most estate agents will tell you that it’s the kitchen and bathrooms that generally make or break a sale on a property. If the kitchen is not to your standard but can be rectified with a few new cupboard doors and a fresh coat of paint, then you’re golden. However, most new homeowners underestimate the cost of a new kitchen.
A thorough check of the appliances, electrics, plumbing and internal cupboards will tell you what you need to know.
Important Questions to Get Answers To
Yes, we can change the colour of the living room and clean up an overgrown garden. However, the most important questions very often centre around things we can't see.
Heating and Cooling
Is there air conditioning, and if so, when was it last serviced? Are there service records available? Does the property use solar power, gas, or electricity to heat or cool? Is there a compliance certificate available for these appliances?
Depending on the area, you may want a recent clearance certificate from a professional entomologist. Insect infestations, especially in older homes, can be an expensive problem to manage, making this an important question to ask.
Plumbing and Electrical
It’s critical to know the health of these hidden services. For the most part, you can get a feel by flushing toilets and running taps or by checking light switches and electrical outlets. However, nothing replaces a professional inspection if you have concerns.
Roofing and Guttering
Chances are you won't see the roof of the house or even notice its condition. Yet, a leaky roof and poorly maintained guttering will cause mould, mildew, and internal and external damage. Ask the estate agent for details on any roof repairs or potential issues.
Why is it on the Market?
Your estate agent can answer this interesting question for you. Why are the owners selling in the first place? People’s circumstances change through death, divorce, and debt which are the biggest reasons for selling.
This question should uncover vital issues like security problems, unpleasant neighbours, or looming latent defects that they don’t have the money to fix.
What is the Local Market Doing?
Knowing what else is happening with local real estate will tell you whether you’re buying into a booming community or you’re going to struggle to resell when the time comes.
If there has been a mass exodus in this location, perhaps explore the reasons why. Is there a plan for a high-rise building that is going to impact your privacy or view? Are there plans afoot for a new High-Security Prison round the corner from you?
Happy House Hunting
Remember, there is no perfect house. Unless you are building the exact property that you want, there will always be a compromise. This makes your very first step — determining wants versus needs — one of the most important.
Make good use of our house hunting checklist when you start your search for the perfect property, and good luck.