What to Look For When Buying a House

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When buying a property there are generally 4 types available: off-the-plans where the apartment is not yet built, new build where construction is finished or almost finished and you will be the first owner, vacant land you’ll build on, and established where the property has been around for some time. Each of these have their own upsides and downsides, but here we will focus on what to look for when buying an established property.

Location

Before digging into the detail of the property itself, I like to look at the location around it. As a believer in the old saying “location, location, location”, if something about the location is a dealbreaker I usually won’t go any further. Location features fall into either positive or negative, meaning things that are desirable and you want to be close to and those that you don’t. Which, if any, features are dealbreakers and how important you consider each feature is a matter of personal preference but there are some that are common.

Positive Features

As mentioned, positive features are things you want to live near to. At Proppy we look at and let you organise properties by:

  • Public Transportation – is there a train station near the property? Is the property near to one or more tram routes? When looking at inner city properties, having access to multiple types of transport is great for livability as many of us know Melbourne’s transport can be unreliable but usually only one mode will be affected
  • Supermarkets – are there supermarkets nearby to the property? Are they walking distance or driving distance, and if drivable is the parking easy and abundant? Being near Chadstone shopping center may seem great for supermarkets but if it takes 10 minutes to find parking that quick grocery grip suddenly got a lot longer
  • Retail – is there good retail access near the property? For the shopaholics reading this, having easy access to shopping may be a high priority while for others not so much, but being near a local shopping strip often means you’ll also be near things like the local post office to easily receive your online deliveries
  • Cafes and Restaurants - what restaurants and café options are available within walking distance or a short drive of the property? How do reviewers score them? Do they serve the kind of cuisines you like to eat? With more Aussies working from home being able to quickly duck out to your local café for some sunshine and a coffee hit is more important than ever
  • Education – what public school zones does the property fall in? How close are they? How do students in those schools score? What extra-curricular activities do they provide for your children?
  • Parks – are there any parks nearby to the property? How large are those parks? Do they have extra amenities like children’s playgrounds? Proppy’s analysis found most properties are nearby to some kind of green space, but these vary from a small block of grass to Albert Park and the Botanical Gardens

Negative Features

Negative features are those things you don’t want to live so close to as they can be troublesome or even dangerous, things like:

  • Noise - the level of noise around a property is influenced by many factors, but some key ones to look for are being near to infrastructure like main roads and train tracks, and noisy businesses like nightclubs and industrial areas. At Proppy we’ve calculated the noise level at each location to give you an insight into what to expect when viewing the property
  • Safety - although Victoria is generally a very safe place to live, some areas are safer than others so it’s important to do some research and look at what’s happening in the area, and how it’s changing over time. Proppy provides scoring and insights into the details of safety in each suburb
  • Negative Landmarks – like positive features, negative landmarks can be in the eye of the beholder but some are generally viewed as detractors. Look for things like airports that will generate a lot of noise overheard even if several kilometers away, and prisons and power stations that can generate noise and pollution in the area
  • New Developments – have new developments been approved nearby? Will they impact the property either temporarily (through construction noise and inconvenience) or permanently (by removing views or access to sunlight in the property)?

The Property

Hopefully you’ve now got a good idea of the location, through Proppy’s automated scoring and taking a walk around the area, and you like what you see. Let’s take a look at what’s important in the property itself!

Body Corporate / Strata

One of the most talked about factors for apartments and townhouses, body corporate can be a make or break in some cases and deserves its own heading here. Perhaps one of the best pieces of due diligence you can do on an established apartment is to read through all the body corporate notes, minutes, and other documents as these will highlight things like:

  • Issues with the construction – are there expensive safety or repair works that need to be undertaken, such as removal of cladding? These documents should mention these and provide associated costs if already known
  • Complaints within the building – if any complaints around noise or activity of other occupiers have been raised these should be noted
  • Ongoing upkeep and sink funds – what are the ongoing fees, usually charged quarterly, that pay for maintenance of common areas, facilities like lifts and gyms, and building insurance? These can range from a few hundred dollars for a townhouse to thousands or even of tens of thousands for luxury apartments with full time concierges
  • By-laws – only one thing comes to mind when I hear the word “by-laws”; Louis Litt and his love of them. Like in Suits, property by-laws can be a blessing or a curse but it’s worth understanding what occupiers are allowed and not allowed to do with their properties. Things that are covered range from safety (e.g. ensuring flooring used is waterproof) to aesthetic (e.g. banning hanging of clothing on balconies or enforcing certain types of curtains are installed). Do you prefer a body corporate group that is more relaxed or strictly enforces rules?

Building Inspection and Pest Report

Though valuable for apartments, these are more important for houses and townhouses that sit lower to the ground (and are more likely to have pest infestations) and where there’s no body corporate documentation to highlight issues. Spending a few hundred dollars may seem like a lot, but it pays for itself many times over if it saves you from buying a lemon that needs tens of thousands or more in repairs.

Summary

By now you should have a solid foundation to work off in deciding whether a property is right for you, but you may have realised these can be very time consuming. We feel the same, so we built Proppy to take the hard work out of assessing properties. Get started now for insights on suburbs and properties, tailored to your needs.