When we first decided to purchase a house, we really didn’t know what we were looking for. While we agreed that we wanted to live in Dublin, that was about the extent of it!
We started our search by going to view any houses we liked the look of. This included new builds and second-hand homes too. This gave us an idea of layouts, what we liked, what we didn’t like and things to look out for. If I’m honest, it wasn’t until after we had viewed quite a few different houses that we figured out what was important to us. This stage is crucial in my opinion.
After a while, we decided to focus on second-hand homes. While new builds are attractive for many reasons (notably their high spec), they don’t offer some of the things we liked about older houses. The most important thing for us was the potential to extend. While we weren’t sure if we were buying our forever home or a stepping stone, we were conscious that we may not have the opportunity to buy again. So, although we couldn’t afford a large family-home right now, it was important to find somewhere with the potential to extend in the future.
At this point, we had enough knowledge about what we liked and didn’t like. So, we started to compile a list of non-negotiables; our house checklist of must-have characteristics to narrow down our search. These developed and changed over time, but the final checklist looked a little something like this:
- Minimum 3 bedrooms
- Minimum 1-2 bathrooms
- Potential to extend
- South or West facing garden
- Good schools nearby
- Not overlooked
- 2 or more modes of public transport nearby
Location, location, location
One of the hardest things that we found as a couple was agreeing on where to buy. While I am a north-sider through and through, Andrew grew up on the south side. So we found it really hard to settle on a specific location to focus our search. We never actually did come to an agreement on location specifically and ended up looking all over Dublin in specific neighbourhoods that we both liked.
That’s when our checklist became most important. Rather than fixating on a location, we used our checklist of non-negotiables to guide us and I would highly recommend doing this if you are undecided about a specific location.
After viewing countless houses over a three month period, we realised the need to adjust our price range. Due to the supply and demand issues currently in Ireland, houses seem to be selling for way over their asking price. Perhaps this is a real-estate tactic – who knows! Either way, this meant we needed to look at houses 30-50k lower than our max price so that we had some wriggle room for the inevitable bidding process.
Aesthetics & Long-Term Decisions
Another lesson we learned was to look past aesthetics and make smart long-term decisions. For us, this meant we took a step back to assess whether it made more sense to purchase a house that had been done up recently or a house that still had work to do. We dissected every part of the house and weighed up whether it made sense to pay more to have it already done, or whether we would be willing to do the work ourselves.
For example, let’s say you find a house that recently had a new kitchen put in. The price of this house will be much higher compared to a neighbouring house without this ‘selling point’. However, if that kitchen doesn’t match your taste, you are going to want to change it eventually regardless. That’s where the decision point comes in. In our case, we felt it made more sense for us to look at the lower priced neighbouring house with the older kitchen, as we would ultimately end up changing it either way.
One thing that was always important to me is light. While you can change most parts of a house, one thing that you will never be able to change is the way the sun moves around it. My advice would be to view any potential property in the morning and the evening. This way you can get a feel for the distribution of light throughout the house. Another important consideration is the time of year you are looking to buy. The sun is much lower in the sky throughout the winter months, which can have an impact on the amount of light coming into your home.
Stick to your check-list
If I have one piece of advice, it is to create your checklist of non-negotiables and to really stick to it. Of course you need to be realistic when creating it, but when you do, be ruthless! While it can be so frustrating going to so many viewings and absolutely heartbreaking missing out on a house in a bidding war, there is no point in investing in something you’re not happy with. If you make a compromise on something on your checklist, that’s ok, just make sure that you are 100% confident in your decision.
In my next home-related post I’ll go through the most important things to look out for when viewing a house. As always, if you have any questions feel free to reach out.