House hunting

Why is location so important when looking for your home? How can you know whether the property you purchase will be a good investment? And what are the implications of buying, say, an old house versus a newer one?

We cover some of the things to take note of while you’re house hunting. 

Where to start

Where to start

The key to house hunting is being methodical and organised with your approach, so here are some tips for starting your property search:

 

Location and your finances

Why buy the worst house in the best street?

Being in a good area rubs off on the value of your house. Then, you may make a further gain by improving your property to match others in the area. Before you go ahead though, have a good think about whether you’ll have the time or money to renovate.

Tips for finding a good area

While you're house hunting:

  • talk to family and friends about the areas they live in
  • ask a real estate agent (or valuer) about recent sales and price trends – look for areas where houses are selling well and prices are rising
  • look for an area with good facilities, such as transport, shops, schools, cafes, sporting venues and entertainment
  • also look for areas that are attractive – with views, established gardens, lots of trees, or attractive homes for instance
  • in older areas, look for locations where you can see places are being renovated and facilities look cared for
  • in newer areas, look for locations where there’s a variety of home designs – and effort going into planting and landscaping
  • remember, most people like sun, shelter, privacy, views and flat land – areas that offer all this usually sell well
  • check the zoning of the area with your local authority, and if there are any changes planned – if the area is zoned commercial you could find your home surrounded by businesses in the future.

 

Do your due diligence before you buy

Some checks are really important to do before you purchase the home you’re looking at – and if they're not done, can even affect your ability to get a home loan. Here are some essential things to do:

1.  Contact the council

Ask your local and regional councils for information about the area and any future plans, including zoning and other development rules.

2. Apply for a LIM report

A Land Information Memorandum (LIM) from the local authority gives you all sorts of valuable information about drainage, roads, flooding, erosion, consents etc.

3. Get a builder’s report

Get a report on the property from a licensed building practitioner. Ask them what their report will and won’t cover, and also ask them for an idea of what it might cost to fix any problems they find. If there could be any problems with the land or large structures you should also get a report from an engineer.

You may also want to check with the Weathertightness service to see if there’s been a leaky home claim for the property.

4. Check the title to the property

This will tell you if there are any restrictions that could affect your ownership or use of the property. The agent should have a copy of the title. Also talk to your lawyer about the title and any other checks they think you should do.

You might also want to ask your lawyer about title insurance. It could help protect you if you find later on that the boundaries are wrong or there’s been illegal work done on the property.

 

Costs to watch out for

Older homes

  • older homes can be hard to heat as they often have no insulation – that can mean higher power bills
  • it can be hard to know what’s behind the walls, so alterations can be expensive
  • sometimes even if you only want to make small changes, you’ll end up having to do other work to get building consent
  • some older homes may have asbestos products or paints containing lead, which require a specialist contractor to remove.

New homes

  • don’t forget to consider potential extra costs of landscaping or buying curtains and carpets.
  • check the quality of the building materials and finish – building jobs that have been rushed or had shortcuts when it comes to the materials can end up costing you money in the future.

Apartments

Most apartment complexes have a body corporate that all the owners belong to, and you’ll pay a levy to cover building running costs and maintenance. Every body corporate is different, so make sure you ask about your levy, the rules of the complex and what you can do with your apartment – as this could affect the value of your investment.

Older apartment buildings:

  • may need expensive maintenance
  • because many earlier conversions were poorly done, this could make finance and insurance harder to get.

Newer apartments:

  • check the building quality and soundproofing, because again, maintenance could end up being expensive.

Download the ‘What to look out for’ checklist