One of the privileges of my job is I get to see inside a lot of houses (usually around 200 – 250 per year). Some are beautiful, and some have ‘lots of potential’.

When you see that many properties you really start to get a feel for what makes a home attractive. You start to become aware of what makes the difference between somewhere to sleep and a home that makes you truly happy.

It’s not just about money either, there are certain intangible qualities in the most attractive homes (across all price ranges) that after years of education I now personally look for when I buy. This is what I tell my friends and family to look for when they buy too. If you want to secure a home that will sell well in any future market and avoid buying a lemon, these are the features I would suggest holding out for:

1. Good Sun

A sunny home is a happy home. We all need Vitamin D every day. It’s something we can’t store in our bodies so we need constant daylight to get our daily dose. Since this is so imperative – why not start with a Sunny home since you spend most of your time there anyway!

I personally focus on looking for a property with afternoon sun in the living areas and bedrooms if possible (I like to come home to warm rooms) but everyone has their own preference. Some people prefer to wake up to the sun streaming into their kitchen (ugh, those ‘morning’ people! That is certainly not me), others like to wake up to sun in their bedrooms.

In an ideal world you would have both morning and afternoon sun, but unfortunately if you are living in Wellington that usually means you are on top of a hill somewhere and unless you want to take up para-gliding, or build your own wind-farm you may find the exposure becomes a bit too much to handle. So it’s a fine balance here but properties with good sun and a bit of shelter do exist.

2. Decent Access

The first flat I lived in was an extremely old home on Mairangi Rd in Wadestown up a 150m vertical zig zag path. At the time it seemed like a great adventure but after a few months of carrying the shopping up in the dark your patience really starts wearing thin. I can’t imagine living somewhere like this with kids!

Some Wellingtonian’s will put up with losing the sun in April and walking up a stairway to heaven every night just so they can buy in a slightly posher suburb. This I just cannot understand. Give me a drive-on home in Newlands or Johnsonville over a walk-up in Ngaio any day of the week.

Being able to park somewhere close to your front door is critical for your ongoing enjoyment of the property, especially in the deep dark depths of a Wellington Winter. Bonus points apply for extra off street parking and internal access garaging.

3. Indoor / outdoor flow (or the ability to create it)

The houses that sell for huge prices generally offer a combination of sun, good access and indoor / outdoor flow. You can have the nicest home in the world but if it lacks an outdoor living area you may find yourselves getting frustrated when friends come around in summer, or more importantly – when there isn’t a safe area for kids to play outside.

If you have done the right thing and bought a home with sun, you are going to want to get outside and enjoy it during those 3 weeks a year when it’s actually warm enough to do so in Wellington. If the home you buy doesn’t already have a deck or patio area, the trick is to buy one where you can add said deck without it being more than about a metre off the ground. That way you may not need to apply for a building consent.

It will also be a heck of lot cheaper to build. I have met quite a few families who have splashed out $30k+ to build a great big deck on poles coming off their living area, only to find they can’t re-coup their investment when it comes time to sell.

4. A bit of Potential

Completing cosmetic changes to a property is a fantastic way to quickly build your equity and insure yourselves against any future property price dips. It can also help get you closer to buying that investment property. That feeling of making a home yours and putting your own stamp on it can easily be achieved by completing small jobs like putting up new curtains, changing light-shades, sprucing up your section, maybe painting a room or getting rid of a poorly placed feature wall. It doesn’t have to involve massive renovations.

I wouldn’t recommend taking on massive work unless the thought of spending every spare weekend having hot dates at Bunnings is your idea of a good time (it got old for us pretty fast and as a result, our entire house is still painted a lovely ‘avocado green’ ).

When you are searching for a property it is easy to over-estimate your own DIY ability and your future enthusiasm. The idea of buying a total doer upper seems romantic but do you really want to walk around on drop sheets for the next 6 months? Or find yourself constantly cleaning dust off everything you own?

I suggest buying a home that you can at least move into and live in for a few months without having to do anything (unless you want to), and always bank on something crapping out as soon as you move in (like that old hot water cylinder) so keep some money in reserve just in case.

5. Age / Cladding

No one wants to buy a leaky home, and every building period has it’s possible pitfalls. So what should you look for? 60’s weatherboard homes are usually a pretty sure-bet although they can be cold, sometimes lacking insulation and often will need a new roof in the near future (those old iron ones sure did last pretty well!).

70’s / 80’s homes are usually solid in general although the old aluminium windows often need maintenance and it’s critical to watch out for dux-quest plumbing and asbestos ceilings which were often used during this time. Bear in mind that anything can be fixed / removed and sometimes it won’t be as expensive as you would think. What’s critical is that you know what you are buying so please don’t commit without getting a builders report/ opinion.

Check out: How to read a builders report, and Speak to these 5 people before you buy

For me there is something comforting about a home that has stood for 50, 60 years plus. If it has last that long then chances are it will be there in another 50 years time too.

Always look for:
– An over-hanging roof with eaves (the roof goes past the exterior walls of the house). Stay away from internal guttering unless you are sure it is an exceptionally well built home.
– Ground clearance. You don’t want dirt and plants in contact with the exterior cladding if at all possible (you want the concrete base wall to be visible at all times).

Bonus points if you are also close to….

6. Schools / transport

For a large number of buyers these 2 features aren’t critical, with the majority of people driving to work, and many couples leaving it till much later to start having kids. However a home close to schools, shops and transport should always sell quickly and for a good price, so call it an insurance policy (even if you don’t need the schools just yet).

In Conclusion 

It may sound like I am stating the obvious here but you would be surprised how many people forgo these important features because they are desperate to buy a home and can’t handle missing out again.

Check out: The biggest mistake first home buyers make

The other big mistake I see buyers make is ruling out a house because it has a negative quality which can actually be fixed. If a home fits all the above criteria but needs re-wiring or has dux quest plumbing (or maybe an asbestos ceiling), you really should still consider that home. These things can be fixed, usually for less than what you might think. Plus the extra hassle will put off other buyers, meaning less competition for you. Use it to your advantage to secure an otherwise ideal home.

Always remember – you can change anything about a house, except where it is.

Best wishes,

Andrew Duncan 

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THOUGHT OF THE WEEK:
“You’re going to come across people in your life who will say all the right words at all the right times. But in the end, it’s always their actions you should judge them by. It’s actions, not words, that matter” ~ Nicholas Sparks
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