Do Your Homework Before Making Offers on Homes

Do your homework before making offers on homes

It's taken almost four years, but Isaac and Sue Walker have finally got on to the property ladder in their home town of Dunedin.

And five months after moving in, they couldn't be happier.

"It still feels new to us, we love it, we really love Dunedin and we feel so lucky to be homeowners."

While home ownership is an exciting prospect, with so many factors to take into consideration it's not something to rush.

As real estate agent Amelia Hermens says, first home buyers must consider their financial position, how much of a deposit they have available and affordability.

"They must also have realistic expectations of the properties in their price range and work out what features they can compromise on."

Not being organised or having finances in place is a common mistake, while buyers with all their ducks in a row find themselves in a stronger, more competitive position, says Amelia.

Isaac and Sue are a perfect example of that.

After living in Melbourne for 11 years – and owning a home there – they began saving for a house as soon as they returned home in 2017.

"We knuckled down and really got into saving mode, making plenty of sacrifices along the way."

Armed with a 20 per cent deposit from savings, KiwiSaver funds and a loan from Sue's Dad, the pair enlisted the help of a mortgage broker and finally started searching seriously for a home last December.

"We were in a good spot to enter the market so we started the open home circuit - at some open homes there would be 30-plus people at one time and it was very intimidating listening to others and their comments."

After nearly four years of saving and six months of intensive open homing later, they successfully bid on their current home.

They've got five top tips to help other first home buyers realise their dreams:

Keep your eye on the prize - when saving, believe that the end goal is going to be worth it and all the sacrifices you make are worthwhile

Use a mortgage broker - a mortgage broker is critical to providing in-depth knowledge about the housing market, the loan options available and/or how to reach your deposit goals. They also have access to multiple lenders and can provide offers that may not be available to direct customers

Create a checklist of "must-haves", "nice-to-haves" and "bonus points" – the Walkers then attached a score of 3, 2 and 1 respectively to each category and marked each house like this. That way you can be realistic about every house and they are all on an even playfield to score. Things like the weather, the agent's personality and how you feel on the day won't affect your actual score of the house

Be open - in today's market we all know how difficult it is to get your foot in the door of a home, especially your first home. Your first home doesn't have to be absolutely perfect. Chances are it will not be your "forever home", so be flexible and perhaps sacrifice that large bathroom you wanted, or the distance to the local school may not be as close as you would like

Due diligence - do your homework. The simple stuff everyone should do before buying a home. Before putting in an offer make sure you look at the home's history, such as the sales history and property inspection report (using a qualified property inspector ), including a LIM and building report. Talk to the agent and find out as much as possible about the property. Research the suburb. Be nosey and check out the neighbours. Invite a friend or family member to the open home or to a private inspection for another opinion.

From a real estate agent's point of view, Amelia's top five tips are:

  • To meet with the bank and mortgage broker early, before starting the property hunt
  • Engage the services of a lawyer/solicitor
  • Undertake market research – look at what is for available for sale, what is an affordable location, research recent sale prices in the preferred area
  • Try and get to the properties you like, preferably before the first open home
  • Minimise conditions – your bank/broker and lawyer will be able to help guide you on this as everyone's situation is different.


It's also good to think about current circumstances and long-term goals to decipher whether the time is right before embarking on the home buying journey.

Research finances, consider mortgage repayments, the costs involved with buying a house like legal fees and moving costs, as well as living expenses and costs of owning a home too. It's also worth looking into eligibility for financial help being a first home buyer.

For agents like Amelia, helping first home buyers into their first home is both exciting and satisfying.

And as Isaac and Sue have shown, finding a home doesn't happen overnight but by doing their homework and being patient it has made the property buying process that much easier.

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