You have to kiss several frogs till you find your prince(ss). The same could be said for finding your dream home. Especially if you have never done this before the process might be overwhelming. In this post, we break down the house hunt process into 4 main stages. Each stage designed to help you find the needle in the haystack – your dream home.
Stage 1: Getting to know the market
First of all, as I’m sure you’re all aware, there are various websites which you can use to find houses of particular interest to you. At first, we recommend you start asking to view most of the old houses within your budget. The idea here is that you will start learning about the property market. At this stage I wouldn’t be bothered about paying commissions, so go ahead and get viewings directly from agents. It’s quite unlikely that the first house you visit will be the one of your dreams.
After every viewing try to pin point features or criteria which you liked and ones you didn’t. This will help you create a list of requirements as suggested in stage 2. I suggest that you keep a record of the houses you visited. Keep track of the house, how it scored in your criteria and contact numbers in case you need a second viewing.
After the first viewings, the criteria will probably continue to change depending on your interests. After a few attempts you might notice that you begin to settle for some “must have features” and some “nice to have features.” Which leads us to stage 2.
Stage 2: Setting the requirements
After seeing a few properties, you should start getting a grasp for things you like and things you don’t. Even if you are doing this for the first time you have quite a lot of experience in houses in general: you probably have been living in one for most of your life. Also, while visiting friends and staying at your grandma’s house you have probably seen your fair share of old houses.
You should start to notice that your criteria will get more refined. These requirements might vary according to your liking however here are a few things to be aware of:
- Location: Don’t stick with a location or area, just because you grew up in a certain area of Malta doesn’t mean you can’t experiment with different locations. You’ll be surprised at how much certain locations have to offer, why not discover different characteristics and tradition? Don’t be too conservative, your dream home might be some place you never dreamt of before.
- Number of bedrooms: 3 bedroom is usually the magic number, obviously this always depends on your budget, but always consider that if there isn’t a room specifically for a ‘study’ you might have to sacrifice one of the bedrooms for it (which happens in a lot of cases). If on the other hand, you’ll be using all the bedrooms you will surely end up with a pile of books and stationery in the kitchen and living area, especially if you have children.
A Note for property InvestorsDuring this post, we focused on first time home owners. However, you could use a similar process for house investments. In this case the criteria will not be your own, but of your target market.
- Meters squared: This is very individual, apart from considering the number of residents sharing a space it also depends a lot on one’s lifestyle and how much time is to be spent at home. Also, do you like to entertain? If yes, make sure there’s enough room or you’ll end up disappointed in the end. Storage is also a very important factor in every household, especially considering most old houses don’t come with a garage. We have quite a spacious kitchen ourselves, but having a pantry still was the best idea ever. Believe it or not we used every single cupboard and shelve both in the kitchen and pantry.
- Price: Price is very subjective. Some people think their house costs millions while others with better houses think it costs thousands. Usually it’s best to view houses which are 10% more expensive and 10% cheaper. This will help you understand if the extra 10% is worth the value. It’s also worth looking at how many things will need to be fixed. It is very likely that you will need to change all bathrooms. If the kitchen is older than 15 years you probably also need to change that as well. As a general rule always calculate that you need 4000 per bathroom, 15,000 for the kitchen. Something to keep in mind is that people selling do not know the market as well as you, so use this to your advantage to negotiate a better price. 😉
- Layout: Remember that you can always change the layout slightly, but keep in mind not to interfere with the house’s old features, you will regret it if this happens. Sometimes it’s worth sacrificing a bit of comfort for the love of what our ancestors gifted us with. Remember to treat the house with respect.
- Garden, Pool, Courtyard: I’m sure you have a required feature in your dream home to be. Maybe some of these might not meet your budget in the end, but you can always adapt to it. For example, I’m sure most of you would love to have a property with a garden, but a courtyard could be as charming. Never underestimate the maintenance some of the features might require, in the long run it might be too expensive to maintain.
- Furnished: Also, this depends on your budget, if the house comes with good quality furniture included in your budgeted price that’s a big bonus, especially if it’s valuable old furniture. If in the long run, you’d want to change the furniture, you can always sell.
- Converted: Converting your house might be an overwhelming task in its self. The biggest challenge when it comes to doing the conversion yourself is estimating how much the conversion project will cost you. You simply do not know what’s wrong with the house till you commence the work. Most workers are aware of this so they will be hesitant to give you a quote for a large piece of work or will overestimate. This isn’t something that should discourage you its just something to be aware of.
Stage 3: Filtering
When you have a set of requirements you can start pre-filtering without the need for that many viewings. So, whenever you find a house you think you might like specifically ask questions to understand if the house satisfies your requirements. During this phase I would also try to find methods of bypassing agents and buying directly from home owners.
Also, make sure you speak to loads of people. You’ll never know, your aunt might be looking to sell her house and might give you that good deal. If you can’t find any houses which fit within your requirements you should relax your requirements. So go back to stage 2 and relax the requirements.
Stage 4: Go for it
You finally did it, you managed to find a house which matches your requirements, your architect approves, close friends and family seem to like the photos. Now what? Just go for it! As you probably realized no house on the market is perfect, you will always find a disadvantage. You have viewed quite a bit of houses and understood what the market offers. If your gut feel tells you that this is it, then just go for it.
Hope you found this interesting. Do you have any other tips for buyers out there? Let us know by posting a comment in the comment section below.
Wish you all the luck to finding your dream home. Happy hunting 🙂