Nell Matzen - 24 Aug, 2021

Home buying checklist – everything you need to consider

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Buying a new home brings with it a roller coaster of thoughts of feelings. The process can be exciting, overwhelming, exhilarating and nerve-racking all at the same time. To help alleviate some of the worries, we’ve put together a comprehensive home buying checklist of everything you need to consider before choosing a property. With our complete checklist, you’ll be so organised all you’ll be left to feel is excitement.

What’s your motivation for buying? Should you buy or rent?

First and foremost in the home buying checklist, you need to consider if buying a house is right for your personal and financial situation. Consider your long-term goals for homeownership and think about what the property will be for. Will you be raising a family in it? Will it be strictly an investment property whilst you continue to rent elsewhere? Understanding your goals will help you decide if it will be a sound investment or not.

Unfortunately, in most locations around Australia, renting is increasingly becoming the cheaper option. After mapping out your goals and weighing the pros and cons, you might find that continuing to rent and investing your savings into equities, etc., might be the better financial move.

A couple receives the keys to their new home.

Long-term investment

If you are purchasing a house for a long-term investment, you need to have a thorough understanding of the market and the costs involved.

Smart investors should consider:

  • Buying in a desirable or upcoming area
  • Maintenance and repair costs
  • Property management fees
  • Potential tax savings
  • Insurance to cover damage caused by tenants
What's my borrowing power if I earn $ per year?

Finance checks – what can you afford?

Consider your budget and borrowing power to figure out what you can realistically afford. To avoid paying Lender’s Mortgage Insurance, you need to save a 20% deposit, which is a substantial sum when considering the average house price in Australia. However, saving up a 20% deposit on your dream house is not always a guarantee a lender will approve you for the remaining sum.

Your lender will take a thorough look at your financial and personal situation and offer you a maximum sum you can borrow. Of course, it’s not always the best move to borrow the highest possible amount, as it could leave you financially stressed. The general rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t spend more than 30% of your disposable income on your mortgage repayments.

Remember that the deposit and subsequent repayments are only some of the costs involved with buying a house, and there are a plethora of other fees and payments to factor in. There are other things to consider in the home buying checklist.

Decide on a location

The location of your land or property can make or break an investment – and determine how fast your equity will grow.

Conduct some research into the average price of the properties in the area and determine whether it’s within your budget and whether it will see any growth in the coming years. Also check the surrounding amenities like hospitals, public transport or schools. It’s also a good idea to scope out the area for pubs, clubs and other noisy venues.

Schools for kids

Buying in an area with sort after schools will potentially future proof your investment, generally indicating a family-friendly neighbourhood people will pay more money to settle in.

Consider these questions if living near schools on the top of your list:

  • Distance to the school and how will children travel there?
  • Is public transport readily available, and are there stops nearby?
  • Is the school within walking distance, and is the route safe?

Public transport

An area may be less attractive to future buyers (and less pleasant for you to live in) if it lacks sufficient public transport. If you frequently take advantage of public transport, ideally you would like a stop within walking distance, but not close enough to create noise pollution. Before settling on a location, do some research to determine the following:

  • Types of public transport available
  • Public transport frequency and timetables
  • Distance to bus stops and train stations
  • Safe walking routes to and from stops and stations

During your home buying checklist, you may also like to consider the burglary rate in the area and whether or not there are any major road works or big developments planned for the near future.

If you’re buying a detached dwelling or block of land, consider flooding risks and poor drainage, or whether or not electricity and plumbing are connected to the block.

Title search

Conducting a title search before you pull the trigger on your new home will ensure everything is above board, and you won’t run into any nasty surprises down the track. A title search will tell you if there is anything that would get in the way of owning the property and includes:

Who currently owns the land

Easements

If anybody else, besides the owners, has the right to access or use the property, e.g., council workers can cross your land to access infrastructure.

Covenants

Any guidelines or restrictions on what can be built on the land, including the location and building materials.

Caveat

A legal notice lodged with the state land registry when a person can claim partial or even full ownership of the land. Caveats can occur in several circumstances, e.g., family law disputes over the ownership of the house.

Mortgages

Who has the mortgage on the house and therefore holds the Certificate of Title.

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Home and Contents Insurance

Home and contents insurance can potentially save you thousands in repair costs if something goes awry in your new home.

This specialised insurance usually covers storm and bushfire damage, burglary and vandalism, flooding from pipes or weather, or any other unforeseen disaster. Always check the fine print to see when you are covered and for how much.

Protect your family with home and contents insurance.

Appliances

Replacing all the appliances in your new home can be a costly task, one that can be avoided by a simple appliance check.

Check if the following are running smoothly:

  • Airconditioning
  • Heating
  • Oven
  • Stovetop
  • Hot water system

Don’t assume high-end appliances will be in working order.

FAQs

What questions should I ask my real estate agent?

  • What do they think of the location and area?
  • What was the property’s original price?
  • Is there any flexibility on price?
  • Can you see a list of recent sales in the area?
  • How long has the property been on the market?
  • Why are the current owners selling?
  • Do they have any similar listings?

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Should I buy a display house?

Display homes offer a unique way to buy a home and come with a few hurdles and some benefits.

They are often sleek and well designed and include all the top features and fixtures to show off the developer’s skills. They are usually situated in outer suburbs close to amenities.

However, it is quite difficult to get a loan approved for a display home, and they usually involve a 24- month leaseback period where you must continue to lease the property to the developers to be used as a display home.

How much do I need to earn to buy a house?

When considering the 2021 housing market, the average individual would have to earn at least $88,000- $94,000 annually to buy a house in smaller cities like Hobart, Perth, Darwin and Adelaide. For a single person to buy in Brisbane, they would need to earn $98,000 a year. Melbourne and Canberra come in second place with $134,000 and $127,000, respectively. And no surprise, Sydney is way out in the lead with a yearly income of $173,000 needed to purchase an average priced home.

Should I buy a house before selling my own?

Whether you buy your new house before selling your current property is a personal choice and depending on several factors.

Pros of selling before buying

  • Having a clear idea of your borrowing power
  • Being able to rent and try out the area you want to buy in
  • Enjoy a simpler selling process as it might take a while for a buyer to come along, leaving you to manage two mortgages
  • The option to extend your settlement date to take your time to find your dream home

Cons of selling before buying

Should I buy a house that needs a lot of renovating?

Whether you buy a house that needs a lot of renovating depends on your budget, savings and borrowing power. If it fits into your budget and you have the savings to fund the project, then renovating your own home can be an exciting and rewarding experience. However, if you need to borrow on top of your new mortgage to carry out the renovations, make sure you will be approved for the extra amount – otherwise, live in the unrenovated house until your funds are approved.

Words by Nell Matzen

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