So the day has come when either your parents have had enough of you at home or you've decided it's time to spread your wings. Whichever the case, you're in the market for a new home and as a first timer - this can seem like a scarily daunting decision.
A home is a big step; so first congratulate yourself on deciding to make the move. The next thing to do is breathe and realise that countless others have successfully gone before you so there really isn't that much to it! To get you started, we've pared down the white noise to give you the most important basic factors you'll need to consider when house hunting.
Whether you're renting or buying - you'll find the following tips apply either way.
Write Your Dream List and Must-Haves
The saying goes that 'Man's Reach Must Always Exceed His Grasp'... so there's no harm in dreaming and drawing up your dream home plans. You don't have to worry how many of these you will actually end up having - the point is in finding out what is most important to you in a home.
Do you prize design over location? Or perhaps you want space and are willing to pay more for it. Whatever your requirements; write them down. We can get to the realistic bits later.
Consider Your Dream List and Current Realities
After rhapsodising, it's time to get realistic. How much on the list can you afford? How many items are somewhat illogical (such as wanting an English Cottage type house in the middle of Pudu because you work around the area)? There will be time to improvise on what you can find later but for now - a little realism may be in order.
Once you've cut out the really wacky requirements (but don't throw it away! We can come back to it later) it's time to start the hunt proper.
Location, Location, Location
The next most important thing is to consider your location. A large part of this decision will depend on how much you can afford and your answers to the following questions:
1) Do you need public transport?
2) How accessible is the area to other important places you will go such as your office or homes of family?
3) Is the area safe enough for your needs?
4) Are there enough amenities, facilities and conveniences nearby?
5) Are you comfortable/happy to live in the area (this may be tricky if you are new to the city and aren't sure of the areas but you could take the time to visit malls, eateries and other such places in the area you are considering to get a feel of the place)?
Answering these questions for yourself will help you zero in on the location for you. You may not have a 100% fulfilled list but you should come pretty close - or keep looking!
Determine What Your Budget Can Buy
So you've decided on the place and know roughly how much rental/purchase prices are. However, these prices are often different depending on the house and locations within an area. For example, you could choose Petaling Jaya but find prices as varied as RM500,000 to RM2 Million depending on what and where exactly in Petaling Jaya you look.
A quick look on property sites will help you do this. Check out iProperty or PropertyGuru for an overall look at prices in the area you have decided on. Compare and contrast this with your budget and the list of requirements you made earlier. Putting all these factors together will help you find the best options and narrow down the search even further.
Get into Details
By now, you've probably got a pretty good idea on the kind of house you can afford and where it will most likely be. You may even have found a few definite prospects. Now it is time to get into the details and make sure the houses you are considering are worthy of the price being asked. It goes without saying that you should compare prices within the same housing area to get a feel of the deal you are being offered.
To get 'under the skin' of a house; it will be wise to start taking a few of the following measures.
1) Talk to the neighbours. Nothing will give you better insight into a place and the history of a house quite like asking the people who have first hand experience witnessing it's comings and goings. Ask about the housing area in general and the people who lived in the house before. The reason for this is to find out if any serious event such as a fire or other such damage has happened that the agent isn't letting you in on. It's also a good way to gauge how safe the neighbourhood is.
2) Inspect the house carefully for puttied cracks, water damage or uneven walls and floors. It's easy enough to paint over a problematic pipe or crack just to unload the house on a new unsuspecting buyer/renter. It is best to inspect in the day time when it is bright enough to see anything you need to.
3) Ask if it is possible to have a professional contractor survey the house. This is a step for when you're really narrowed down your choices. You don't want to go through this hassle with the owner when still browsing. The contractor will be able to tell you if any major work needs to be done soon and you may be able to demand it be done before you buy.
4) Talk to your service providers. Will you need to move/apply for internet service, cable TV or any other subscription service? It would be worth asking the provider of your choice if the area is covered by their services. You don't want a rude awakening should you move and find it is not!
By now you should know your prospective neighbourhood and houses well enough to make an informed decision.
Weigh the Pros and Cons
The house you've eventually chosen will not be without pros and cons. List them and ask yourself if the pros outweight the cons. Are there a few repairs to be done? Are you willing to undertake this and if so does the price of the house justify the extra work you need to undertake?
You can always renegotiate with the owner/developer if something is not to your liking.
Take Your Agreements Seriously
Whether it's a Sale & Purchase or Tenancy Agreement - remember to take the terms seriously. If there are still pending items to be done by the developer/owner, see that these conditions are clearly stated in the agreement. Be clear about your responsibilities and those of the person/company handing the home over to you.
Although contracts such as these are often standard templates - few people understand them. Take the time to understand what you are signing so you are not duped into accepting something unfair or unreasonable. Ask friends and family who are familiar with the process to help you if you need.
Similarly, take your loan agreement seriously too. If you are buying a home - you will want a mortgage that does your money justice. Find the best rate and loan for your circumstance by using our home loan calculator.
Make it Your Own
The papers have been signed and you're now on your way to full-fledged home-owner/renter status. It's a great time so do take a moment to pat yourself on the back.
Now it's time to make that house your home so the fun of decorating begins. Home deco is outside the scope of this article but do you remember the list you made at the very beginning? We did say you could come back to it! Did you want a super modern house fit for a hip-hop star? Or maybe you wanted a zen hideaway that resembles your favourite resort. Now's the time to incorporate a few accents to give your home the feel of your dream abode even if it doesn't have the 35 rooms and seaview.
Perfect homes are often not purchased - they are made from the imperfect houses we purchase!
Happy house hunting!