You could be searching for your first home, upgrading from a bachelor pad to a family home or downsizing after the kids have moved out – whatever your circumstances, visiting countless open houses can leave you suffering sensory overload and feeling confused.
Was it the first property you inspected that featured a separate laundry or the third? And which home had the unrenovated bathroom again?
The physical inspection of your next home is possibly the most important aspect of the entire home buying process, so being prepared can save you a lot of time and minimise the stress.
Before you turn up at an open house, you should have a clear idea of what you are looking for. “Narrow your focus,” advises buyer’s agent Rich Harvey, CEO of propertybuyer.com.au. “Work out with your partner what is important and what’s not important. What can you live with and what can’t you live without?”
Take your checklist of must-haves and nice-to-haves along to the inspection and tick off items as you view the home. Either take a copy of the listing and the floorplan, or pick them up at the inspection to help keep track of the properties you have viewed. A measuring tape is also a good idea where a floorplan is not provided.
“Keeping simple notes is very important as it’s easy to forget what you looked at four weeks earlier,” Harvey says.
An old-fashioned notebook or your smartphone can be the perfect note-taking tools. There are many inspection templates freely available online, which you can print and use for your notes. They generally have space to record a home’s size, location, age, condition of the exterior and internal rooms, outside space, heating, cooling and other features.
Make notes on every room of the house, looking at things such as the amount of light, the condition of the flooring, walls and windows, noise levels and anything else that is relevant.
Look at the big picture
Don’t be dazzled by the décor and cosmetic touches – these won’t be coming with the property. The same applies to untidy homes. The building itself is what matters.
“Look at bones of the building and the structure,” Harvey recommends. “Does it have structural integrity? I would also look for a functional floorplan that works or can be amended easily and inexpensively. And look at the property’s aspect – are you going to get good light? What is the outlook?”
In some cases, fresh paint may disguise mould so looking at the moisture levels of the property is also important. A pest and building inspection can look for rising damp and other issues, and can save you money down the track by uncovering any major problems.
Inspect more than once
For properties you like, Harvey advises returning at different times of the day to check the amount of light, traffic noise, whether the neighbours are noisy and to look for overhead wires.
He also suggests talking to the neighbours. “Having good neighbours is critical. Knock on their door and ask them about the area. They can provide a lot of helpful information.”
If you are not familiar with the area, drive around at different times of the day to check traffic conditions and get a feel for the local community.