Pressure is on: Open houses can add to the stress of property buying.
In common with what seems to be most of Australia, I'm attempting to buy property. With this in my mind, my partner and I spent last Saturday driving around the city to some open houses.
First, let me acknowledge that when you combine map reading, scheduling, finance and the potential emotion that often comes with spending a large amount of money, it does not necessarily make for a fun day. Sometimes you simply need to grit your teeth and get on with it.
What I did notice was the look of desperation and sometimes despair on potential buyers' faces as they looked through properties with the many, many others who were making their way around the open houses with them.
So to those who, like me, are currently looking for property, whether to live in or as an investment, let me share my tips for safely navigating the property market:
1. Talk to your bank. Before you go looking for a property to buy, speak to the bank or a broker to determine how much you are able to borrow, as well as what you can realistically afford. That is because there is often a large gap between what you can borrow and what you should. If you are not sure, do a budget, seek a second opinion and, my favourite, start paying what would be your loan repayment into a savings account so you can determine whether you really can afford your potential mortgage.
2. Factor in a rate rise. You may be able to afford the repayments now, but will you be able to afford them if interest rates rise to 8 per cent? Make sure your borrowing calculations are done using a higher interest rate and factor your repayments at the higher rates.
3. Make friends with real estate agents. Don't just look at websites, but introduce yourself to real estate agents, explain exactly what you're looking for and make sure they send newly listed properties to you.
4. Search with your head, not with your heart. Don't fall in love with a property you can't afford and, most importantly, don't get carried away at an auction. If you suspect you will, ask someone else to attend or negotiate for you.
5. Make a list. Make a needs list and a wish list for the property you are interested in and make sure you are not confusing the two. This helps you make factual choices when you're looking at properties and not emotional choices.
6. Look outside your preferred suburb. You might be in love with a particular suburb, but if that postcode is outside your price range, why not consider the suburb next door or a short drive away? That way you gain some of the benefits of your preferred suburb, but at a lower price.
7. Consider a buyer's agent. This adds to the cost of the property, but it may save you money and stress in the long run. By giving a buyer's agent a detailed list of what you are looking for and a budget, you have someone else doing the hard work for you and it saves you time looking at a lot of expensive duds. Other benefits include the relationships buyers' agents have with real estate agents, because they are constantly in contact with them, and the fact that they are looking at properties with a factual mind, rather than an emotional one.
8. Be patient. Yes, you might wish the first property you look at to be in your price range, with everything on your list, and your offer to be accepted. This isn't grocery shopping at the property store, though, so it's probably not going to happen. Be prepared to be patient and potentially flexible with your must-haves.
As for me, I'll be talking to a buyer's agent because I simply don't have the time or the inclination to slog it out on a Saturday. To those of you who are also looking to buy property this year, happy hunting.
Melissa Browne is an accountant, adviser, author and shoe addict.