Last year we purchased our first home, right here in Melbourne, Australia. We were actively searching for six months, which according to a Google search is also the average. This is an account of our experience which perhaps might provide some insight into the journey and ideas if you are also looking for somewhere to buy.
Start searching early
We began searching in a semi casual way probably six months before we got more intentional about it. We went to a few inspections in a few different suburbs, partly as we liked the look of the property and partly so we could see if we liked the area. We still had no reference so this itself became the starting point. We think it was worth doing this so that when we were really ready (to put an offer in or go to auction for it), we already knew which suburb and neighbourhood we wanted to concentrate on.
Know your market
We went to all the inspections we thought we might like. There wasn’t one property that was perfect in every way, as some were good for location, some for price, some for layout and so on. Some we liked more than we were expecting, and others vice versa. The more we saw, the better idea we had as to our preferences and the kind of asking price to expect .This was all very helpful because as time went on, we had a much better idea of when a particular property ticked enough of our boxes to say ‘This one could be it’, whether it was in an acceptable range or not and if so, to act on it as soon as possible.
Keep an eye on the apps
We used the apps Domain and Real Estate to keep an eye on properties that came onto the market and to schedule inspections. Being able to use filters was such a time saver and searching with the map function was also an invaluable tool. Anytime a new place looked interesting we would save it which automatically put it into an ordered Inspection timeline, and from there we would plan our Saturday house inspection intineraries.
Do the inspections
When we didn’t like a place, we knew within a couple of minutes, but when we did, we would end up spending at least 20 minutes there at minimum, which usually included five minutes asking questions to the agent. Add into that the few minutes getting into and out of the car and walking to the property, giving our details to the agent and we quickly realised that you have to be nippy if you have multiple places to see. We managed to see two houses in the same half hour slot once only, and that was literally because they were only on adjacent streets with 60 seconds travel time between them.
You’ll get hungry
We ended up a lot more fast food than we were accustomed to in our near weekly outings to do inspections. These days we only east fast food maybe once a quarter, but back then when there was so little time to get from place to place, often a burger and chips was the only thing we had time for. Don’t remember ever having taken a packed lunch but it would have been more economical.
You might not get the property on the first attempt
The place one we ended up with was number three. The first one was a private sale- ours was the second best offer amongst three interested parties. The second was a proper on-the-street auction and started off with four interested parties. It ended up bouncing around between us and another couple. I could tell it wasn’t going to end well as the price went up very quickly to near our limit, and we ended up going in increments of $2k only. In the end we stopped at our limit, and we’re both glad we did in the end because…
There are plenty more fish in the sea
It is a little sad when you miss out. When we saw a place we liked, we needed to be able to see ourselves living there (who wouldn’t?). So when the inevitable comes and we knew it wasn’t going to happen, we got a little sad. One puts so much effort and time into house searching and you feel a little deflated when it didn’t pan out. We then usually had a break from looking for a week or so until a new place perked our interest. We even moved between quite different suburbs because of this (or because we had to accept the reality that the prices were not within our budget), each time feeling that the new suburb was much more preferable than the last. When we came across another, we promptly forgot about the last place. You need to go through the bad ones to know the good ones when they come around.
Watch your emotions
After the first auction that we lost out on, we very nearly ended up going into a second auction a week later for the ‘back-up property’, which was very nearly a mistake we would have regretted. As it was the same agency too, we kind of felt ourselves being sucked into it, like a leaf slowly being drawn towards a whirlpool.
This was because there was nothing else we really liked and this other one seemed like the only other place that was acceptable for us (we were getting tired of it all). However, the very morning of the auction, we decided on the spur of the moment to finally go and view another suburb we had been considering visiting for some time but hadn’t yet.
Number three was the one.
We went there, browsed the area, and more importantly, viewed a property that happened to be having its first open day. We fell for it the moment we arrived and stepped inside, and outside. We chatted to the agents for a few minutes, went to look around a local market, and called the agents of the previous property that we wouldn’t be attending their auction later that day. We knew this property was the best fit by far, and we also liked the look and feel of the neighbourhood far more than anything we had seen up to this point. You know when it’s the one.
This is what I mean by watch your emotions, for good and for bad. We were that captivated by this property that we instantly were wide awake, realised we had been about to make a mistake for the wrong reasons, and remembered that we were looking for a place to call home, one that was right for us, and this was it. Our spirits had been rekindled.
When the auction works out
A lot more people were watching this auction as it was indoors with other properties being auctioned off. Three interested parties and we went all the way to within $10k of our limit.
It seemed like it was more an evening of entertainment with a very characterful auctioneer who kept the bidding going on as long as possible. I imagine the whole event probably went on at least until midnight. After the hammer fell, we were whisked away to the back of the room to sign contracts, then we could start to let the massive news sink in, and tell family and friends 🙂
We ended up in the north west but our journey from the start took us from Viewpoint, Pascoe Vale, Altona, Maribyrnong, Avondale Heights and finally to even farther out north-west.
Prices go down then up again
For both auctions that we participated in, plus others we were interested in, the initial sale price was one figure. After a few weeks lowered to a range $50k less, which brought more interest.
The final sold price ended up being back near the top of the original range. From what we saw as properties came and went, we only had a reasonable chance when the top of the range was at least $20-25K under our maximum budget. This gave us breathing room.
Our settlement period was 60 days (between 30 and 90 is normal). A lot goes on in those few weeks. Unless we had been through it all before, there is no way we could have gotten everything that needed doing- done, in only 30 days. I felt 60 was only just manageable.
The first few days in particular there is a lot to sort out, phone calls to make and emails to write. One thing we did which was invaluable was to keep a calendar document detailing every interaction with every party involved- with whom, what date, what time, what information was sent or requested, what tasks and errands we needed to do etc etc. I will upload that here when I can in case it helps others.
The big day itself felt as good as I always imagined it would, and really seemed like we were living the life of those couples in stock photos holding a bunch of keys at the front door of their new home. We even got a key-ring with a symbolic house on it (agent’s advertising really) but still a nice touch.
It’s probably going to cost more than you think
Even after taking into account costs and fees, the actual spending in the first six months after we bought was significant. We ended up doing countless trips to Bunnings and spending many hours there. Inspections, a few repairs, electrical checks, tools, paint, and so on. I will do a separate post on all the costs involved and a lot of the things we ended up purchasing, as it will take up too much space here.
In the end…
It was an emotional journey, and one that we are certainly glad we went through for it felt quite an achievement and goes a long way to putting down psychological roots. It is becoming more than just a building, and we are enjoying life here in this little part of Australia.
Start searching well before you think you will be ready to buy.
Make use of apps such as Domain and Real Estate and their property alerts.
- Be careful not to get drawn into making an offer on a property if you are still feeling disappointed from a previous miss. Each and every one should feel right.
Have a document handy with with all the important names and numbers- bank, broker (if applicable), conveyancer, agents etc.
Make a timeline outlining the things you need to do once you are in the settlement period, and get started on them asap. Time will go very quickly as the date draws near.