Your home is likely to be the biggest purchase you make, so it’s something you want to get right. Mistakes can be stressful and costly. Here are the biggest ones buyers make and some tips to help you avoid them.
Letting your heart rule your head.
It’s often easy to be dispassionate about investment properties but when it comes to your own home, emotions can run high.
Buyers often make the mistake of falling for features in a home or loving a certain location, only to find, once they move in, they have compromised on what they really need.
Arm yourself with a list of non-negotiables – the features you simply must have now or soon down the track, such as extra bedrooms for a growing family, office space for a home business or proximity to public transport. If a property doesn’t tick all of your must-haves, keep hunting.
You should also decide whether or not you want to renovate or have a lot of time for maintenance. Heritage properties can win over hearts but often require deep pockets and lots of upkeep. Similarly, a fixer-upper in your price range and preferred location may end up being a money pit you can’t really afford.
Look beyond fancy fit-outs and styling – the furnishings will go with the vendors.
Stick to the buying basics – location, price, layout and condition – to decide if the property is right for you.
Believing the selling agent is working for you.
Real estate agents are paid by the vendor with commission from the sale. The higher the sale price, the more they put in their pocket.
Don’t fall for sales spiels that tempt you to spend more than you can afford or settle for a property that doesn’t meet your needs.
Some buyers are levelling the playing field by hiring their own agents to find a property and negotiate the sale. Fees for buying agents vary, but generally they charge for their time, plus take a commission from the sale. If you have no time to house hunt, it may be worth the extra cost.
There is no such thing as too much research when it comes to property. You should set aside several weeks to get around to as many properties as possible, narrowing your search to three target suburbs when you are ready to buy.
Check out recent sales of comparable properties in the area and build on this research as you go, keeping in mind property prices can move fast in a boom. You should also find out if there are any amenities and infrastructure planned for the area, such as new roads, public transport, hospitals or schools, which can boost real estate prices.
Another key question is how long the property has been on the market.
If looking for an investment, research rents and what the area has to offer tenants, such as a lively restaurant or cafe scene and reliable public transport.
Starting the hunt without loan approval.
Knowing how much you can afford will take a lot of stress out of your search. A pre-approved loan sets a boundary so you can focus on properties in your price range and gives you peace of mind that you will be able to move fast when you find the right one. Your broker is the person to speak with to make sure you have this all in place.
Buying beyond your means.
It can be tempting to stretch your budget for what seems like the right property, especially if interest rates are as low as they are now. But rates are cyclical and what goes down, eventually goes up. If you are extending to afford a property while interest rates are low, you are going to struggle to make your mortgage payments when they start to climb. It’s wise to calculate your repayments should rates rise by two to three per cent and build that reserve into your budget. That way, you have some comfort when the cycle eventually turns.
Not getting the property inspected.
According to NSW building advisory service Archicentre, only one in 10 buyers gets a professional building and pest report on a property before they buy it. Most inspections cost a few hundred dollars, a small price to pay for peace of mind on a purchase as significant as a home.
A licensed inspector can check for pests, such as termites, and building flaws or issues, such as wood rot or rising damp, all of which have the potential to cause costly dramas if unchecked.
Always ensure the sale contract is subject to getting the all-clear on the building inspection. If something surfaces, you can either back out of the purchase or negotiate a lower price to compensate for the required repairs.
Not getting the sale contract checked.
The contract you sign when you hand over a deposit is legally binding, so have it scrutinised by a lawyer or conveyancer. They will check it for any sale or zoning conditions that could disadvantage you, such as restrictions, or covenants that may be imposed. A lawyer or conveyancer can also check property documentation, such as sewer diagrams, to make sure there are no issues with any renovation or extension plans.
Your legal expert can also help adjust the contract terms for your benefit, such as negotiating a longer settlement period if required.