Buying your first home can be a mix of excitement and apprehension. But with solid preparation you can make the experience less stressful and more productive. Here are some of the things to think about before looking for something to buy.

Give me the main points

  • Before you start your search, decide what your ‘must haves’ and your ‘nice to haves’ are.
  • Think about how your property might suit your lifestyle over time.
  • Ask yourself how long you plan to stay in the property. Will it be a short or long term investment?
  • Start your search when you’ve decided what you need and have an idea of how much you can afford to spend.

Looking for the right kind of home

Deciding what you really need

To help you find the right home, most people advise making a list of the ‘must haves’ and ‘nice to haves’. This first will help you avoid the trap of falling in love with a house even though it doesn’t really meet your needs. Secondly it will help you choose between properties that meet your basic requirements.

Your ‘must have’ list might include the following:

  • Location: the area you’re hoping to buy in.
  • Size: the number of bedrooms, play and work areas you’ll need.
  • Features: such as, good natural light, room for the children to play, space for two cars.
  • Amenities: easy access to public transport, shops, schools, or parks.

Your ‘nice to have’ list might include some of these items:

  • low-maintenance garden
  • rainwater tank
  • quality kitchen appliances
  • air conditioning or central heating
  • second bathroom
  • separate laundry
  • brick rather than weatherboard
  • renovated rather than needing work.

Thinking about your lifestyle

Think about how the property will suit your lifestyle over time. Living in an inner-city apartment could be exciting and close to everything you want, but be expensive and small. How will that fit in with your plans if you want to raise a family, or even get a pet in the near future?

A larger property in the outer suburbs might be better value for money and give you room to grow, but it may not have good access to public transport or schools close by. Will it be worth it if you have to commute long distances or run kids around all weekend to various events?

You need a list of pros and cons for any property you find, and decide on any ‘deal-breakers’ that will help you rule out a property.

Considering your future

While you’re writing your list, you might want to ask yourself if this property is a short or long term investment. What you need now may not suit you in a few years’ time. It can be expensive to upgrade (or downgrade) with costs like stamp duty, Lenders Mortgage Insurance, moving costs and real estate commission to consider.

If you’re thinking of having a family in a few years’ time, a bigger home may be better than a small apartment you’ll soon outgrow. If your career means lots of travel and possible transfers, you might look at properties you can easily rent out.

Starting your search

Once you know what you need and have an idea of how much you can afford to spend, you’re ready to start searching.

Start with these activities:

  • Walk or drive around the areas you’re interested in, noting the streets you like or don’t like.
  • Visit real estate agents in the area. Check their current offerings, and let them know what you’re interested in.
  • Use online real estate sites such as realestate.com.au and domain.com.au. Both offer helpful search options. And they let you save searches, see inspection times or set up alerts for homes that meet your requirements, letting you know when they’re for sale.
  • Check real estate company websites. They may have extra information, like the property address, which may not be listed on other sites.

Keep looking

Buying a home can be a very emotional experience, so do some sums to work out a realistic price range for the homes you look at. It’s all very well to have a dream location in mind and establish the features you want in a home, but what can you actually afford?

Finding the right property can take time. The main thing is to keep motivated, keep looking and keep doing your research if you don’t find something right away.

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