Buying a home? 8 things people forget to look out for

By Katy Holliday

When buying a house, it’s normal to have a list a mile long filled with the features you want in your new home — your must-haves and non-negotiables! Sometimes, in our excitement, we forget to think of some of the more important aspects of a property that if overlooked have the potential to turn our beautiful new home into a living nightmare.

We’ve put together a list of eight potential deal breakers you need to add to your house inspection checklist right now...

1. Local crime rates

what to look for when buying a house

Not only can a high crime rate affect your lifestyle, it can also deeply affect the value of your home. It’s one of those things to consider when buying a house that is often overlooked, but making sure to investigate the local crime rate before you put in an offer is so important. In areas where crime rates fall, property prices increase exponentially, and vice versa.

If you’re a first home buyer trying to get a foot on the ladder, you might feel like you can’t afford the luxury of checking crime rates, but crime rates can also influence insurance premiums and mortgage prospects.

Crime statistics are available online and can be found through individual police force websites. Comparing the statistics of a few suburbs you’re interested in will give you a good indication of which area might be the best choice.

"If you're a first home buyer trying to get a foot on the ladder, you might feel like you can't afford the luxury of checking crime rates, but crime rates can also influence insurance premiums and mortgage prospects."

Related: Best family suburbs in Melbourne

2. Mobile phone coverage

This is so simple, yet so many times missed. When at an open inspection, make a phone call and try to send an email. If you’ve ever lived in a home or visited a place with low mobile phone coverage, you’ll know how incredibly frustrating it is. No coverage means no use of your flashy smartphone! You can also access network coverage maps online to compare with various providers.

3. Flight paths

Living under a noisy flight path can be a painful experience for those who are sensitive to noise and vibrations. Find out if the house is under a flight path and check how close the property is to the airport, as aircraft engines are the loudest when taking off.

Smaller airports or aerodromes are often hosts to circuit training which can make for persistent, bothersome noise, and being close to a hospital, although handy, can also mean putting up with the sound of emergency helicopters.

Chatting with locals in the neighborhood can help you gauge the extent of the problem, and there are online resources available where you can find more information.

Read: 8 unexpected things that affect the value of your property

4. Parking arrangements

tips for buying a house

When it comes to viewing real estate, many people won’t even consider a property without parking or a driveway. Off-street parking can add a lot of value, particularly in areas where street parking is limited or competitive. Who likes parking miles from home — particularly on a rainy day?

A lock-up garage can provide you with more storage room, added security (from theft, vandalism and weather damage) and, in turn, a nice discount on your car insurance premium.

When you’re in the process of buying a house, you also need to think about the logistics of moving in. This is an area where parking comes into play. Do you have a big enough driveway? Is there ample street parking and access for a large truck?

5. The property’s history

Do your due diligence and research the history of the homes for sale that you’re interested in. This includes sales history, history of repairs and crime reports. Most people don’t like the idea of living in a house where a crime was committed.

A quick online search can provide you with the stats on how many times a house was sold, when it was sold and the price. It’s a major red flag to see a house sold multiple times within the space of just a few years and would leave you wondering why. Consider finding out how long the property stayed on the market during sale campaigns.

Ask the agent or vendor for the relevant repairs history. You need to know what to look for when inspecting a house. Be sure to carefully investigate the quality of any renovations and major repairs, like plumbing or tiling in wet areas like the shower. These could become expensive costs for you in the future if they weren’t done properly initially.  

"It's a major red flag to see a house sold multiple times within the space of just a few years and would leave you wondering why."

6. Noisy/bad neighbours

One reason many people move houses is because of bad neighbours. Your home should always feel like a sanctuary away from the rest of the world, but if you happen to have noisy or bad neighbours it can negate the experience and could see you putting your property back on the market quicker than anything else!

One of the best ways around this problem is to meet the neighbours before you make an offer. A bonus to meeting the neighbours is that you can ask more questions about the area and find out if it really aligns with your lifestyle goals.

Another option is to observe the neighbourhood after dark and at other times throughout the day. Take a stroll around the streets to really get a feel of the community.

Read: Do school catchment areas affect local property prices?

7. Insulation and plumbing

things to consider when buying a house

Doing your research and knowing what to look for when buying a house is so important. There may be things vendors and real estate agents don’t have to legally disclose, so make sure you ask the right questions and know how to inspect for problematic signs.

Lack of insulation could be a deal breaker, particularly in cooler climates, as it keeps the price of heating and cooling significantly lower and can block out the noise of neighbors or traffic. Be sure to examine whether the house is insulated and find out what materials were used.

Plumbing is one of the most important aspects of a home. Some initial signs to be wary of are mould or mildew, water stains and sagging floors.

Run all the taps and showers and flush the toilets to see if the water pressure is decent and check the hot water system is in order. If you’re really serious about the home, it’s worth getting a plumber in to inspect the condition of the sewer lines and septic tanks. It could save you thousands in the long run.

8. Future developments

When inspecting a property, always query whether there are future developments in the works. A big warning sign of property development is vacant land surrounding the property. To find out if works are to be expected, call the local council. They can usually disclose any development applications that have been put forth and the zoning of the property.

Not only can developments be noisy and inconvenient, large apartment blocks or shops can bring down the value of your home.

In addition to this, zoning is of utmost importance as many areas, such as high density urban districts and heritage listed suburbs, typically have zoning building restrictions. So if, in 5 or 10 years time, you plan to expand your home or build upwards, be sure to do your research and check with your local council before purchasing a property as these zoning restrictions have the ability to stop you in your tracks.

For more tips for buying a house read: 10 step to buying a house in Australia


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