Choosing your first home is one of the most important investments you will ever make and for that reason alone it is something that needs a lot of thought and planning beforehand. This is the place where you are going to be bringing up your family, where you will be seeking refuge at the end of a busy work day, where you will be entertaining friends and family, and last but not least this is your own little corner of the world where you can relax and do whatever you like.
It’s very easy when you start house hunting to make the assumption that you will just “know” when you find the right house, and that might be true. But a more sensible approach would be to have a first home checklist that you can use to make sure the homes you view meet your essential criteria.
Key points for a good checklist
Size: Nothing could be worse than underestimating the amount of space that you need for yourself and family. Even though your budget might not stretch to the palatial mansion that you might like, it is still important to estimate exactly how much space you need. Don’t overlook that wasted space is a bad investment too; if there’s more room than you want or need, maybe this isn’t the right one.
Planning rates and taxes: Are you buying in the latest upmarket suburb or somewhere more family orientated and residential? The area you select can have a big impact on your future budget in terms of rates or taxes. The more expensive the suburb or land, the more you pay. Find out what the current rates on the property are and the predictions for the area generally. Is the area likely to become more expensive over time as it develops? How will this affect you? Are there any developments planned that could impact on your rates or taxes? Have a survey done so you know exactly what is planned for your new neighbourhood.
Travelling to work: How far is the house from your place of work? Given that you will be travelling each day it’s important to take this into account. Two factors to consider here are cost and distance. How long are you prepared to spend travelling back and forward each day? Is it going to be costly for public transport or parking every day, is there any public transport close by?
Location: Your choice of location can make a big difference to the cost of your home. For some, it’s important to be seen to be living in the “right” area whilst others are more concerned that the house is just right and the area doesn’t matter too much to them. If you want to live in a prestigious suburb this means you will pay for the privilege. However, if you choose to sell you will probably make a profit from your investment. For those who are not fussy about the suburb, keep in mind that if it’s run down or abuts a “bad” area, your house value might not improve too much over time.
Local area facilities: You need to know what is in your area in terms of facilities. What type of entertainment is available? Are there any clubs, theatres, cinemas or community centres where you can go to socialise and relax, where are the nearest medical facilities in case you need a doctor, hospital or dentist?
Parks and play areas: When you have children or pets it’s nice to know there is somewhere you can take them for a walk or to play, when the back garden just isn’t quite big enough and you need a change. Parks and public gardens are nice to visit when you want to experience a bit of nature and fresh air.
Shopping: A necessary part of our everyday lives is doing grocery shopping or filling the car with petrol. So make sure the nearest supermarket or service station isn’t too far away.
Meet the neighbours: Now you might be anti-social and not really care who you live next too. But meeting the neighbours is the best way to get a feel for the neighbourhood and learn about the area generally. Having a good neighbour can be very helpful when you move into a new area, till you find your way round. They might even give you ideas for more things to add to your first home checklist.
Whilst there are many things to take into account when choosing your home the first home checklist above covers the basics and will give you some guidance before making your final choice.