Ah, the hunt for a new home.
With interest rates at historic lows and property prices soaring, the national housing market is as competitive as ever. Clearance rates are high. There have been record numbers of auctions some weekends.
It should be an exciting time, but let’s be honest. Is there anything more dispiriting than spending your Saturdays at back-to-back open for inspections as you attempt to decipher other buyers’ purchasing power while quietly fretting about your own lack of it?
The search for the dream home always begins with high hopes, but after you miss out on a few properties the sheen quickly wears off, and soon Saturday nights are spent in a rage about “how much that property went over the reserve”.
It’s a negative cycle many home hunters get stuck in, but what if there was a way to break it? It is time to start thinking like the buyers’ agents.
Don’t get desperate
Sydney buyers’ agent Simon Cohen, of Cohen Handler, has seen numerous buyers make big mistakes with hundreds of thousands of dollars because they got desperate.
“I believe strongly in not getting emotional and not getting caught up in the moment,” he says.
“But the number one mistake people make is they believe what they are told about the property and they overpay.”
While no home is perfect, that does not mean buyers should accept substandard properties.
The best way, according to Mr Cohen, to determine what can be compromised on is to work out what your budget can buy by comparing recent sales.
“This means seeing what the homes or apartments are actually selling for in the area that you are interested in,” he says.
Pay attention to red flags
Melbourne buyers’ agent Paul Osborne, of Secret Agent, receives countless emails every day about “must-see” properties.
Most of them can be ruled out straight away with the help of Google maps and a bit of nosing around.
“About five to 10 per cent of what we see would be high-quality stock and that is the stock we try and get our hands on,” Mr Osborne says.
“We estimate about one-third of all properties are being sold because there is something wrong with them, so we weed those out.
“For example, there may be some kind of illegal building work that has taken place, which will become the new owner’s problem or the property could be overlooked by a large block of units.”
Once Mr Osborne has eliminated the obvious problem properties, one of the first things he will look for is the street appeal.
“A quiet, leafy street that has good access to the CBD is what we look for,” he says.
“Then, of course, we look at a map of the floor plan and check to see if it flows correctly.”
Mr Cohen added that any home on a highway is usually deleted from his inbox, as are apartments that, on inspection of the owners’ corporation documents, have huge levies or are riven by internal disputes.
Go for what is rare
Just as some properties wave red flags straight away, occasionally rare gems come along that sing with promise.
“Any decent period home, especially a Victorian or Federation-style home, is always going to be in huge demand,” Mr Osborne says.
“These are properties that cannot be built again so they are unique.”
This is in stark contrast to apartments in large blocks that are identical to one another, which is why a lot of the newer apartments don’t make the checklists of many buyers’ agents.
“If you have a one-bedder in a block of 150 apartments then there is nothing unique in that,” Mr Osborne says.
Sometimes a place will just have a certain “feel” to it that makes it a good buy (once the requisite checks and balances have been carried out).
“This is where it gets quite abstract and it comes down to the ecology of the entire home,” he says.
“Sometimes a house will just sit very nicely on a block.”