There are many situations where it makes more sense to rent than to commit to purchasing a house, especially when you're just starting out.
However, there are situations in which you might have saved carefully, or received a large sum of money, and buying property becomes a real option.
If you've decided to go ahead with buying, or even if you're just thinking ahead, you want to make sure that you are getting a property that is worth the money and time you'll be investing.
Preparing your game plan
You can start to prepare for buying property well in advance. While you plan your finances, you can seek out advice on housing loans, government assistance and the typical costs of owning a property.
The most important and exciting research will be the information that helps you to narrow down the neighbourhood, property type and price of your new home.
Make a shortlist of suburbs where you'd enjoy living and that have properties within your budget. Build a profile for each of your suburbs by collecting information about average property prices, transport, schools, shopping, parks and other facilities.
You may hear the advice buy the worst house in the best street. Although you may not be prepared to move into a 'renovator's delight', there is some wisdom is paying close attention to the streets in your chosen neighbourhood that are popular.
Spend some time getting to know the neighbourhood, and even consider renting a house in the area before committing to a mortgage.
Contact the real estate agencies in your shortlist of suburbs and make yourself known as a potential buyer. Properties for sale are usually advertised in several ways:
- Websites - many agents submit their listings to a central online directory, however it is also worth searching an agency's own website
- Agency offices - the front windows of local agents often display photos of available properties, or provide a weekly brochure
- For sale signs on the property - walking or driving around an area is a quick way to gain an overview of what is up for sale or auction. Write down the address and agency contact details and contact the office for an inspection time
Often, you'll be walking through a large number of properties over time, and it is easy to forget details or to pass too quickly through the rooms. Carry an inspection checklist and make notes that will help you to remember the pros and cons of each property.
Many home lenders have checklists to print on their web sites with tips for first homebuyers. For example:
- Look beyond the surface - try to imagine the rooms when they are empty
- Leaks, cracks and damp walls can all point to more serious problems
- Check services by switching on lights, turning taps and flushing toilets
- What's included in the sale price or the property title?
- Consider the noise and light levels at different times of day and night
- How will the temperature change in summer and winter? Is there cooling, heating, shade, insulation and adequate ventilation?
- Is the property being sold by auction or private sale?
Remember that unless you are buying a new home, it is unlikely that any property will be problem-free. When you are serious about a particular property, it is often a good idea to arrange for a specialist inspection by a builder or from a service such as the Archicentre.
Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning - Buying or selling property
Contains a useful and diverse set of links to interactive location maps, buyer's guides, inspection checklists and instructions for finding the title of a property.
Consumer Affairs Victoria - Buying and Selling Property
Tips for both buyers and sellers will guide you through the process of locating a property, and arranging a visit. Explore other links on the page to access other parts of the buyer's guide, covering real estate agents, legal obligations, private sales and auctions.