There’s a lot to think about when you’re buying a house, so here’s a here’s a list of things to keep in mind when you’re on the open home circuit.

Know what you're looking for

When you’re on the house hunt, make lists of what you need and what you want – keeping in mind that you can’t always get everything you want, so be prepared to compromise. But if the property gods are smiling you might just get what you need.

Having a nosey around open homes is quite fun the first few times you do it, but it can become a drag if it’s how you’re spending your weekends for months on end. Make life easier on yourself by being really clear about what you’re looking for and what’s realistic for your budget. Nail down your price range, the suburbs or areas you’d be happy to live, the minimum number of bedrooms you want and if things like a garage or flat section are important to you.

Location, location, location

One of the biggest things you need to decide on is location. Where the house is plays a big part in what it’s worth. Things like school zones, access to public transport, shops and other amenities will also affect how popular a suburb is.

Think about how long you’re likely to be in the property, things like schools might not be important to you right now, but it could be a different story in a few years’ time.

Online vs in-person research

You can get an idea of a property’s value online – so if it’s wildly out of your price range you can scratch if off your list before setting foot in it. Websites like homes.co.nz, realestate.co.nz, Trade Me property insights and QV.co.nz can give indications of house values and potential price ranges.

If the price is right, don’t rule out a house just because of how it looks in online photos. If it fits your criteria in terms of size, price and location go and take a look – houses often look really different in person than online.

Make multiple visits

If you’ve found a house you like, visit it at various times of the day and on different days of the week, so you get a complete picture of what you’re getting into in terms of sunlight, traffic and the general noise and vibe of the surrounding streets and suburb.

Make a list and ask questions

If you don’t ask, they won’t necessarily tell. If a real estate agent has information about any issues or problems with a house, they have to tell you, but only if you ask. So, don’t be shy – speak up and ask lots of questions.

Make a list of pros and cons for every house you're considering (you might go to so many open homes you find it hard to remember what was what at the end of a busy day of house hunting).

Things to look for:

  • Signs of damp, mould or dry rot
  • Cracks in wall, doors or windows that don’t sit square and floors that aren’t level
  • Draughty or jammed windows, or windows that don’t close property
  • Electrical issues – scorching around plugs, rubber-coated wiring, how old is the fuse board?
  • Number of power points, lights and light switches
  • Water pressure of taps, showers and toilets
  • Working appliances
  • Whether any chattels are included, and if they are in good condition
  • Whether the is house insulated and has sufficient ventilation
  • If there is enough storage
  • Hidden problems behind and under furniture and under rugs
  • Cracks and gaps in gutters and spouting
  • Whether there are there storm water drains
  • If there are any water sources nearby that could flood
  • If there is easy access to the house - are stairs and paths in good condition?
  • If the piles are level

It might also be a good idea to get an expert in to carry out a proper building inspection – they should cover all of this and more.

Cover your legal bases

You need to find out if there are any restrictions on how you can use the property and that any renovations or extensions have all the necessary permits and consents.

Get a lawyer involved to help you navigate this. Make sure these kinds of things are covered:

  • Could you sub-divide the property if you wanted to?
  • Are there any covenants on the property?
  • Do sheds, garages and decks have consents or permits if they need them?
  • Is access shared with any other houses? If so, who pays for upkeep? Who owns the driveway or the fringe of lawn by the road?
  • If you’re looking at an apartment, get a copy of the minutes of recent body corporate meetings and request their financial information.

Checks and reports

Get professionals in to check the condition of the property before you make an offer. If there’s work that needs doing, make sure you understand the extent of it.

Find out more on the checks and reports you should get done