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Five things to keep in mind when house hunting in Canberra

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Finding your dream home might sound exciting in theory, but it can also be one of the most stressful and overwhelming experiences.

The average property search alone takes over six months before an offer is even made. So, how can you make the search easier from the beginning?

To save you cash—and heartache—we talked to real estate agent Craig Chapman from McGrath about five things you should keep front of mind when starting the search for your dream home.

Seek mortgage pre-approval

The biggest mistake anyone can make when starting a property search is to ignore their finances, explains Craig. It’s the equivalent of going clothes shopping without a wallet: you’ll probably find the perfect outfit, but you’ll walk out empty handed.

“Once you know how much you can borrow and comfortably pay back, then you’re ready to start searching,” says Craig.

“Check with friends and family and get a recommendation for a broker—they can quickly and easily assess your buying readiness and position.”

Really—really—think about location

Although your place of residence is about to change, that doesn’t mean your lifestyle has to. Think carefully about all the things you love doing now and weigh up if this new location will offer all that, and more.

“Take a good look at your lifestyle: where you work, play, hang out, what side of town you’re familiar with, where your friends and family live,” says Craig.

“Once you have defined an area you like then you can consider what product or category of housing you would like to live in, whether it’s an apartment, townhouse, small house or big house.”

“Think ahead about whether you may need garaging or a big yard in the near future, or if you would like to be near restaurants and shopping, schools, ovals and walking trails.”

Explore every property website fully

Navigating property listings can be an overwhelming and time-consuming process. But that doesn’t mean you should narrow your focus.

Local property website Zango has made the search easier with specialised filters and layers that help narrow down your perfect property by delivering the most relevant search results in the shortest time—there’s also the handy option of viewing properties via virtual tours and video walk-throughs in this era of COVID-19.

Make sure you cross-check property websites to make sure the listings are the same—and allow the website’s resources to do your research for you through features like Zango’s Research section, which has individual region and suburb profiles.

“You can search property on Zango in so many ways—it’s accessible on your desktop, mobile device and with our app,” says Craig.

“You can save searches, further refine your search, use handy resources, tools and calculators, or sign up for early alerts with your MyZango account and create your own preferred user experience.”

Don’t pay too much attention to how many hits a listing gets, Craig adds: “Traffic belongs on a road, rather than on the web. A home seller or landlord is more interested in enquiry being directed directly to their property listing and representing agent; of course, with the intent of a sale or lease to follow.”

Widen your search beyond your comfort zone

If you’re not saying “wow” when you first see a property online, that’s okay—it still might be your dream home.

The key is to look past any minor roadblocks such as the wrong paint colour or creaky floors and focus on the “bones” of the house—think floorplan, block size, layout. What can you change, and what might be too difficult to live with? Remember, most homeowners have to compromise on something, however small.

“The key is to then overlay this with your budget and you should be able to start narrowing down some potential properties,” says Craig. “And yes, sometimes you won’t find the perfect house and sometimes you will; usually an 8/10 will do nicely.”

Know that your time will come

As nice as it is to think you’ll immediately find your dream home, it’s rarely the reality, with many searches taking up to a year. Patience is key to avoiding a costly mistake in the long run.

“Honestly, you will eventually find the perfect property in the right area for the right budget to suit your needs; you just have to keep browsing,” says Craig.

“It’s also a good idea to touch base with your local real estate agent to help keep you informed and connect you with the right property.”

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