The House Hunt

This is the fun part! You are going to see some interesting things, some will make you laugh, some will make your eyes water, some will make you want to give up!! But it is worth sticking to it. We know you are busy so here is information and tips to streamline your house hunting.

Where do I look for houses for sale?
Viewing a house
House viewing tips
10 quick visual checks when looking at a house
Questions to ask the agent

Where do I look for houses for sale?

There are plenty of places you can find houses advertised for sale. These ones have houses from all the real estate agencies as well as private sales.

The and websites are the best places to start on the internet; on these sites all the real estate agencies are represented. On Trademe the listings include private sales.

The majority of real estate companies advertise in the property press and have their own websites. Some even choose to put out their own magazines i.e. Tommy's.

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Viewing a house

Now you have a list of houses you would like to view. It depends on how hot the real estate market is as to whether you need to see a house the minute it comes on the market - if the market is busy - you may want to get in fast! Real Estate Agents will seldom take an offer to the vendor before the first open home.

Open homes, which are usually run on Sundays, are a good opportunity to view a house for the first time. Alternatively you can ring the agent and arrange to view the house early or at a time suitable to you.

Our recommendation here at Propertytoolbox is to take advantage of open homes for first viewings and then make an appointment for an arranged viewing if you are interested and want to have a more thorough look. If you think that the house sounds perfect before even viewing, then skip the open home, contact the agent, and make an appointment for a viewing. This will give you a chance to have a really good look around, and if all goes to plan, be first in with an offer.

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House viewing tips

Walk around independently of the agent and check that the characteristics you want are there, making sure you go into each room twice. If you are want some rough measurements work out the length of your heel to toe step. A good guide is about 25cm per heel to toe step. Walk right around the outside of the house if you can.

Try to ignore the house contents - sometimes it is the contents of the house and its presentation that appeals/or doesn't and not the house itself - stay rational. If you are interested in the house work through the Quick Checklist and Ask The Agent some questions.

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10 quick visual checks when looking at a house

It is surprising how quickly your thoughts can change about a house when you find your neighbours have two car wrecks in the backyard and the house gets no afternoon sun.

If you can feel your interest in a house stirring as you look around, calm down and make an effort to go through our quick checklist below. This checklist is ten things to look at that may give you a better idea of what is going on with the house:

Check it out!

Working it out

1 Is there any smell? A damp smell indicates a poorly ventilated home or worse.

Pet smells can sometimes only be removed by fairly serious work beginning with total removal of carpet.

2 Are the floors uneven? The more obvious the up and down of the floor is, the more likely a total re-pile is necessary.

Bad piles are usually a good indication that a lot needs doing with the house...

3 Are all the lights on?

Is there natural light coming in?

Where is the sun?

Most houses are viewed at the best time of day for sun, take this into consideration.

Lights on usually means a room is always dark and gets very little natural light.

4 Are the rooms a decent size and shape? If may have a door and a window, but can it fit a bed of any size?

Does the shape of the room prevent it from being useful?

5 Are there wardrobes in all the bedrooms?

Is there any additional storage?

The lack of a wardrobe in a room impacts on its usability, especially if it is already small.

Additional storage is always a plus!

6 Can you fit your car in the garage? Garages in older homes can just be too small to be practical, and fitting your car down the drive may be another issue altogether.
7 Where is the laundry?

Where do you hang out the washing?

Often laundries are now in cupboards; think about the usability and noise impact of the location of the laundry.

If a washing line exists, does it get any sun? If there is no washing line - is there space for a drier?

8 Has anywhere inside been 'knocked through', 'extended' or 'filled in'? Any of this kind of work that was done since 1991 will have needed a building permit.
9 Peek over the fences at the neighbours.Is the section maintained?

Is the dog friendly?

These are people that you will potentially be living in close confines with.

A quick peek over the fence can give you a good insight into your neighbours.

10 It is the best/worst house in the street? Check out the state of the house compared to others on the street.

Does this change your perception of the house or area?

Working it out:

  • A single bedroom needs to be at least 2.5m by 2.5m and a small double is at least 3.0m by 3.0m
  • The very smallest dimensions of a usable single garage are 3.0m by 6.0m internally, while a usable double is 6.0 by 6.0. You will have just enough room to squeeze out of medium sized cars with these dimensions.

This quick checklist is not a substitute for a building inspection, but is a good way to make yourself have a good look around.

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Questions to ask the agent

If you are interested, it is time to start asking questions. Get as much information as you can from the agent. These questions are a good place to start:

  1. The big 6 - Piles, Wiring, Interior Lining, Roof, Exterior and Plumbing. Ask the agent about the condition of all these things.
  2. Has there been any work done? Is it all permitted?
  3. Why are they selling?
  4. How long has it been on the market? Why isn't it selling?
  5. Have there been any offers? What where they?
  6. How much will they take?
  7. What things (chattels) are included or not included?
  8. Where are the boundaries? Are the fences on the boundaries?
  9. How much are the rates?
  10. Is there anything I should know? Anything that may affect value?

If you ask no other question, make sure to ask the last one! An agent is obliged to tell you anything about a house that they are aware of that could affect its value, whether this be building issues (leaky building!) or local development (childcare centre is opening next door).

Remember to always independently check the claims of the real estate agent. An agent is not a building inspector, valuer or an expert on the building act or local council regulations. So get the experts in, get a LIM, and check at the local council to make sure any plans being suggested for the property are feasible.

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