Buying a House Checklist

This is a comprehensive property checklist to help you buy the right house or apartment.

Essential Property Details you Need to Know

1. Who is the Current Owner of the Property? 
2. Property Purchase Date – is the Property being sold within 3 years?
3. Who is living in the property now? Owner or Tenant?
4. Has the Floorplan Changed? Any New Bedrooms or an Extension?
5. Check the sales history of surrounding properties
6. It will be annoying living next to a bad rental property!
7. Check the owner occupied to renters ratio
8. Check the council and planning regulations

Check the Real Estate listing

9. Check property attributes
10. Check the listing suburb
11. Check old property listings
12. Compare previous and current floor plans
13. Check how many days the property has been listed for sale (Days on Market)

Survey the property

14. Check the Shape of the Land
15. Check the Dimensions of the Land
16. Check the property sewerage diagram
17. Check development applications
18. Have you checked for nearby electrical substations, telecommunication towers or green electrical boxes?
19. Check the condition of the roof
20. Check the location of any large trees
21. Check the external walls of the house

Property Valuation

22. Check the Property Valuation


1. Who is the Current Owner of the Property?

The details of the current owner can be found in the property sales contract. You can get a sales contract from the Real Estate Agent who is selling the property.

You can do a Property Search using Pricefinder to give you the owner’s name.

Pricefinder property search function
Pricefinder Property Search Function

Otherwise, a Title Search can be done by your Solicitor, Conveyancer or online via the NSW Land Registry Services.

In the majority of cases, when you are buying a house or apartment, you will buy from another individual.

You may come across the owner being a company, a trust structure or a government organisation. In which case, the property is likely to be a rental property.

When a company owns a residential property it implies some form of business is being carried out. It may be the owner is using the property as a home to live as well as a home based business. Or, the company intends to make a profit by renovating and  selling or developing the land.

When the government is the owner, the property is likely to be part of an assisted housing program. The program assists people in need by subsidising part or all the rental cost.

In NSW the “Housing Department” is name of the government provider. Quite often you can find these properties clustered together in a particular area.

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2. Property Sale Date – has the Property Sold in the last 3 years?

Red flag, sold in the last 3 years?Take note of the date of purchase and how long the current owner has owned the property. If the property has had the same owner for less than 3 years then it’s a ‘red flag’.

It’s a red flag because the cost of purchasing a property is significant. An owner would not sell unless they had good reason to.

Look at the numbers. To buy a property, you need an extra 4% to 6% for the major items like stamp duty, legal costs and finance costs.

On a $500,000 property, you need $20,000 to $30,000 in transaction costs. Imagine doing this twice within the space of a couple of years.

So take note of the purchase date. If the current owner has occupied the property for a decent period, that’s usually a good sign.

Instructions on what to do for this task

  • In Pricefinder go to “Property Search” and enter in the property address

In Pricefinder, enter in the address in Property Search

  • Then scroll down to “Sales History”

Results for Pricefinder Sales History search

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3. Who is Living in the Property Now? Owner or Tenant?

An Owner Occupied property is likely to be in better condition than one lived in by tenants. Owner’s tend to look after their place better especially if they want to maximise the sale price.

Tenants are less likely to care how much the owner sells the property for. The biggest concern for a tenant is whether the new owner will move into property.

If the property has been tenanted for a while, it’s likely it will need maintenance or renovation work. Set aside a reasonable renovation budget for this to bring it up to your standard.

Most of the time you can pick whether a property is a rental or owner occupied. Ask the Real Estate Agent to be sure.

Instructions on what to do for this task

You can use Pricefinder to find whether a property is Owner Occupied or a rental.

  1. Enter in the address of the property using “Property Search”
  2. In “Owner Information” it will show the “Owner Type” as Rental or Owner

Pricefinder results showing the property as owner occupied ore rental

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4. Has the Floorplan Changed? Any New Bedrooms or an Extension?

A property can go through many alterations as the owner’s requirements change. Bedrooms get added, kitchens relocated, living space created at the back of the house.

Any alterations from the original structure is fine as long as it built and designed well. This is not always the case. I have often found building issues where the original and new structure join. Or where rooms have changed their use – like a bedroom becoming a bathroom.

One way to identify changes to the property is by comparing old and new floorplans.

These days most properties listed for sale will have a floor plan. If not, ask the Real Estate Agent or the Owner to measure up the house or apartment.

The best place to get a floor plan to compare is to look up old property listings through Pricefinder. When the property was last sold, the Agent may have included a floor plan along with the photos.

Instructions on what to do for this task
  • In Pricefinder
  • Do a “Property Search” of the address
  • Scroll down to “For Sale History”
  • Click “View Complete For Sale History”
  • Click on the “Listing ID’s” which are in date order of previous listings

Look through each room.

Look for extensions, particularly at the back of houses. Look for walls that have been removed to create space. Often you will see a kitchen and living space combined to create open plan living.

Sometimes an external (outside) toilet or laundry at the back of the original house is built under the same roofline with an extension. A building inspection can confirm this.

Check the original position of the kitchen. These days kitchens are relocated to the back of the house to create an indoor/outdoor living space.

You should be aware if the purpose of a room has changed over the years. For example, a bedrooom changed into a bathroom. It’s good to know where the original plumbing and electricals are located if you plan to renovate.

Check out the Property Review for 9 Pioneer Street, Wentworthville NSW. In the review I point out some odd issues with the floorplan and comment on the house extension.

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5. Check the Sales History of Surrounding Properties

Properties bought and sold more often, called ‘turnover’, might show there is a problem with the property.

Should these properties be close to your target property, it may have some influence over your buying decision.

Properties located on or near a main or arterial road for example might have higher ‘turnover’. These properties will be affected by traffic noise and car pollution. But, a prospective buyer might not be fully aware of this….until they move in.

Another example are properties located near a water easement like a creek. During heavy rains creeks can flood and cause ongoing drainage and yard dampness. Again, a prospective buyer might not know this…until they move in.

Here is my tip:

  • look for properties sold twice in the last 3 years. (or sold once and listed for sale again in the last 3 years)

After identifying these properties, then it’s time to delver further. Note down the address and make a point of walking past the property next time you are in the area.

If you can’t identify an obvious issue (like a main road, a creek etc) then ask the Real Estate Agent or a helpful neighbour.

More often than not there is nothing to concern. But, on the off chance there is, you’ll be glad you asked.

Take a look at the sales history of 217 Clyde Street, South Granville NSW or 20 Ferrabetta Avenue, Eastwood NSW.

Then come back and following the instructions below.

Instructions on what to do for this task

Use Pricefinder for a quicker way to search surrounding properties.

Alternatively, there is a manual way which is explained below.

Using Pricefinder to Search Surrounding Properties

  • In Pricefinder go to “Property Search” and enter in the property address
  • In Pricefinder, enter in the address in Property Search
  • Scroll down to “Research Tools” and select “Sales Radial Search”

  • Enter “150” which is 150 meters into the Radius box.
  • In a residential area, I use 150 meters to capture enough sales in the surrounding area. You may need to increase the radius search to 150 meters or more depending on your locality.

  • In the Search Results, click on each of the properties listed
  • This lists all the properties sold in the last 3 years that are within 150 meters of your target property (your search will vary according to your search criteria).

  • Scroll down to “Sales History”
  • Note down properties sold twice in the last 3 years. (or sold once and listed for sale again in the last 3 years)

Pricefinder Sales History results

Manual Way to Search Sales of Surrounding Properties

  • Otherwise, on a spreadsheet or paper, note down the addresses of 10 – 15 properties on the left and right of your target property, 10 – 15 properties on other side of the street, the property directly behind and say 3 houses either side of the back property.
  • Go to realestate.com.au and in the ‘Property Value’ tab put in your target property address.Enter in the full address of the property to get the property sales history
  • The results will show the property history and scroll down to “Explore this Street”.

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6. It will be annoying living next to a bad rental property!

Rental properties with a high ‘turnover’ of tenants can indicate the property is poorly maintained.

The issues that cause tenants most concern (and then to leave) are mould issues, poor heating & cooling, repairs not getting done, water leaks, insect infestation etc.

These are not issues that directly impact the property you intend to buy. However, if a neighbouring property has high tenant ‘turnover’, new tenants will be moving in and out all the time. That’s annoying!

If you don’t know who your neighbours are then it can reduce the security of the neighbourhood

By ‘turnover’, I mean 2-3 new tenants in 5 years.

Take note of the address for those properties advertised frequently for rent. Next do a drive-by or walk-by to see if there are any obvious issues or speak with the tenant if they are willing to talk to you.

The Real Estate Agent may also have some information about the rental property.

Example of a Rental Property with a Bad Rental History

This rental property is in East Lindfield, NSW. It’s a regular 3 bedroom, 1 bath, 1 garage house.

However, did a little deeper and you’ll find it has been listed for rent 4 times in the past 4 years.

First in 2012, then 2014, 2015 and 2016.

What’s going on? Worth investigating?

Rental history of a rental property indicating the property has been advertised for rent frequently

Instructions on what to do for this task

  • Click on domain.com.au and go to ‘Home Price Guide’
  • For a house, select “Street” and enter in the Street name
  • For an apartment, select “Building” and enter in the Building AddressDomain Home Price Guide, select building for an apartment and street for a house
  • Scroll down to “Properties in this street” or “Properties in this Building” and select “Rented”. This will bring up the rental properties in the street

Domain search for rental properties in this building

  • Click into each property and under “Property History” select “Rented”
  • Take note of the address for those properties that have been advertised for rent say 3 out of the past 5 years. It’s worthwhile doing a driveby or walkby to see if there are any obvious issues.

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7. Check the Owner Occupied to Rental Ratio

The Owner Occupier to rental property ratio indicates the % of owners to renters living in a suburb, a street or an area.

Generally, the ‘better areas’ will have a higher percentage of owners compared to tenants.

It’s important to know who is living around you as this improves your awareness and safety of the area.

Differences between rental properties and owner occupied properties

You can check the Owner Occupied to Rentals ratio by

1. Suburb

2. Street

3. Individual house or apartment and

4. Apartment block

Search the Owner Occupier to Rentals ratio by Suburb

50% owner occupied and 50% rentals for properties in South Granville NSW

Using the property at 217 Clyde Street, South Granville NSW 2142 as an example.

According to the Domain.com.au website, the suburb of South Granville NSW has 50% owner occupied and 50% renters

 

Search the Owner Occupier to Rentals ratio by Street

Street Profile for Clyde Street, South Granville - Owner Occupied to Rented percentage

According to a the realestate.com.au website, 60% of the properties on Clyde Street, Granville are owner occupied, 40% are rental properties

 

Let’s also check the neighbouring streets to compare
This image shows the % of owner occupied to rental properties for Clyde Street, South Granville versus neighbouring streetsCompared to the surrounding streets, Clyde Street has a lower percentage of Owner Occupied properties.

Search the Owner Occupied to Renters Ratio by Individual House or Apartment

We can take our analysis one step further by looking into each of the houses nearby. I would be looking at the houses adjacent, back and opposite to your target house to see who owns or rents nearby.

Which houses are tenanted? Which houses may cause concern?

The spreadsheet below lists the address of the adjacent, back and opposite houses for 217 Clyde Street, South Granville.

Owner occupied to rental properties for houses adjacent, opposite and behind 217 Clyde Street Granville(Data provided by Pricefinder)

From the research, there are multiple rental properties on either side of 217 Clyde Street owned by the Housing Department. These are 211, 213, 219 and 221 Clyde Street.

On the other side of the street there are a number of newer homes that are owner occupied. These are 218, 220 and 222 Clyde Street.

Search the Owner Occupied to Renters Ratio House by Apartment Block

If you are looking to purchase an apartment, keep in mind that rentals will often exceed owners in the apartment block.

Apartment block, 2 King Street, Parramatta NSW, owner occupied 42% to renters 58%
Apartment Block at 2 King Street, Parramatta NSW. The Owner Occupied to Tenant ratio is 42% Owners to 58% Renters

There are a number of reasons for this:

1. Property investors prefer units over houses because there are less maintenance issues

2. It’s easier for a Landlord to find a tenant for an apartment

3. Apartments tend to be located close to amenities making them attractive for tenants (which is attractive for the Landlord)

It’s worth mentioning a couple of points about older apartment blocks. Older apartment blocks, verses newer blocks in the same suburb, tend to have a higher % of renters.

That’s because the rents in older apartments are cheaper and more affordable for tenants.

With more tenants living in an apartment block, there will be a greater ‘turnover’ of people living in the apartment block.

This leads to greater wear and tear in the common areas of the block such as carpets, entrance doors, security gates, electricity & water use in the common areas. Normally this lead to higher strata costs which the owner has to pay (usually quarterly).

Also, be mindful of security issues with a greater ‘turnover’ of renters in the apartment block.

Instructions on what to do for this task

  • Search the Owner Occupier to Rentals ratio by Suburb, Street and Apartment Block

Go to domain.com.au > Home Price Guide > Property Profile

For an apartment you can search based on ‘Building’, ‘Street’ and ‘Suburb’

For a house you can search based on ‘Street’ and ‘Suburb’

  • Search the Owner Occupied to Renters Ratio by Individual House

List on a spreadsheet the neighbouring houses – 3 houses to the left, 3 houses to the right, 5 houses opposite and 3 houses at the back.

In Pricefinder go to “Property Search” and enter in the address of each house or apartment on your list

In Pricefinder, enter in the address in Property Search Scroll down to “Owner Information” > “Owner Type”

In your spreadsheet, note down whether the property is owner occupied or rental

  • Search the Owner Occupied to Renters Ratio for an Apartment Block

In Pricefinder go to “Property Search” and enter in the address of the apartment block.

The results will show All the apartments in the block. 

Click into each apartment and scroll down to “Owner Information” > “Owner Type”

In your spreadsheet, note down whether the property is owner occupied or rental

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8. Check the Council and Planning Regulations

Knowing what your neighbours can build and what activities they can operate on their property is just as important as what you can do on own. Even if you are not intending to build anything, there is vital information in the Council planning reports which you should be informed of before you purchase your property.

The planning rules will tell you what you can build on your land, what the neighbouring properties can build (e.g. a house or high rise), whether you are in a flood/fire zone, the location of your sewer mains, whether you can build a granny flat in your backyard.

There are building planning rules set out by local Council (along with State/Territory). Each Council has a broad set of common planning rules that are adapted to accommodate the local environment.

Council Planning Report

To become familiar with the building regulations, you will first need a Council planning report for your target property.

In NSW, the planning report is called a Section 149 Planning Certificate and is usually combined with the contract of sale. Ask the Real Estate Agent if it isn’t. You can also ask your Solicitor or Conveyance to order a planning report, but you shouldn’t have to purchase it because it’s up to the Owner to provide it.

State Specific Planning Rules and Regulations
NSW Council Planning Regulations 

Secondly, you will need access to planning information for the neighbouring properties and the surrounding area. Most of the time you can get this information via State and Council websites and is available online for free. Let me just prepare you though that some Councils make planning information easy to find, search and understanding while some do not.

If you come across any planning issues in your research, then you should get in contact with the local Council . Ask to speak to the Planning Department. I have found that some Council planners don’t provide enough detail (because my query is property specific) and they refer me to online planning documents.

If the information you get from Council is not satisfactory and you need answers, then you can engage a local Town Planner to address your specific planning questions.

If you need help finding a local Town Planner get in contact with me . Let me see if I can assist you.

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9. Check the Property Attributes

The ‘property attributes’ in a listing will show the number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, car spots etc.

Number of bedrooms – Cross check the number of bedrooms in the property attributes, the floor plan and Real Estate Agent’s description for the number of bedrooms.

Sometimes there is a discrepancy in the attributes of the property which results from physical changes in the property (like adding an extra bedroom of bathroom) without updating council records or the state land titles office of the change. Sometimes if an extension or addition was built illegally (without Council permission), there could be a discrepancy. It’s a red flag and worth cross checking council records, floor plans etc. Also ask the Real Estate Agent if he or she knows anything.

Looking at the attributes of this property again. Does the property actually have 6 car spaces? It must be a mansion! Probably not though. It’s likely the Agent has combined the total number of indoor car spaces (like lock up garage spaces) with outdoor parking spots out front of the property – usually the driveway.

It’s a bit of a misrepresentation.

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10. Check the Listing Suburb

The address of the above property is at 217 Clyde Street ‘Granville’.

The actual address is 217 Clyde Street, ‘South Granville’ which is the neighbouring suburb.

Real Estate Agents will change the suburb on a listing to attract more buyers to view the property. Perhaps Granville is a better known suburb to buyers, or as is the case Granville has more shops and a train station.

The other reason might be that Granville has a higher median house price than South Granville. So in comparison to houses in Granville, 217 Clyde Street in South Granville might look ‘cheap’ and attract more buyers to the property.

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11. Check Old Property Listings

By reviewing the old property listings (by Real Estate Agents), this will increase your understanding of how the property has been renovated or altered over the years.

This is done by comparing the sales descriptions and old photos taken when the property was previous sold.

Inside the property

If we start on the inside of the house or apartment, you should be looking for changes to the kitchen and bathrooms.

These are the two areas of the house where owners will spend the most money. It’s also the areas of the house that either get ‘outdated’ quickest and because they are used a lot, they need to be maintained or renovated the most.

Kitchen

If the kitchen is original or needing to be modernised then there are two options for the owner.

The less expensive option is for the owner to use the existing kitchen space and either replace or redesign in the same area. The more expensive option is to relocated the kitchen to another part of the house or included the kitchen as part of an extension (usually at the back of the house).

Bathrooms

Bathrooms are generally added to an extension of the property rather than relocated. As many older style houses were built as 3 bed & 1 bath, then over time owners usually add an extra bathroom for convenience.

When you are looking at an old photo of the bathroom(s), check to see if any of the bathroom hardware (toilets, bath, shower screens, vanities, mirrors, cabinets etc.) and accessories (towel rack, toilet roll holder etc.) have changed.

What happens over time is the toilet gets blocked, the waterproofing in the shower recess fails, the taps leak so the vanity gets water damaged. These all have to be replaced.

Sometimes they are replaced as an individual item (which can look out of place with the rest of the bathroom) or the entire bathroom gets renovated.

Floors, walls and lighting

Again using old the photos, compare the flooring material, the condition of the paint on the walls and ceiling and see whether the lighting accessories has changed. These are generally the next biggest renovation cost so it’s good to know where the owner has spent or not spend money on the property.

In a lot of older houses, you may notice a change from carpet to timber or floating timber floors.  When old carpet is removed in older homes, there will be a timber floor of some sort made of some type of timber.

If you were lucky, when you pulled up the carpet you found a beautiful unpolished timber floor made of Tallowood, Blackbutt or Jarrah.

If you were not so fortunate, you may find a timber floor that was previously polished and sanded down. It made have used and then carpet put over the top to save having to maintain the floorboards. It may even have some type of vinyl stuck over the top but not glued down to the floorboards.

So when looking at the flooring, just be weary of what might be lurking underneath carpet.

 

Outside the property (for a house)

For the outside walls of a house, check in the old photos to see if the material used for the walls and roof has changed.

Quite often if the walls were constructed of asbestos fibro material then over time the owner may have chosen to remove the asbestos sheeting (a very expensive exercise) or to cover it over usually with a cladding type material.

When an older house has been cladded over, it’s worthwhile asking the building inspector to check whether the walls were originally made from asbestos fibro materials. It’s important to be aware of this when purchasing an older style house.

The next item to check in the old photos to see whether the roof material has changed, however, only an inspection by a building inspector can advise the condition.

Instructions on what to do for this task

  • View an aerial view of the roof by using Google Maps (Aerial View).
  • Near Map have detailed aerial photographs so you can zoom in and a timeline of current and past photographs so you can see changes over time.

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12. Compare previous and current floorplans

These days more and more Real Estate Agents are including floor plans with their advertisements.

Take note that many older property listings may not include a floor plan.

Check to see if there have been any changes to the floorplan of the property. Look for extensions, particularly at the back of houses. Look for walls that have been removed to create space. Often you will see a kitchen and living space combined to create open plan living.

Sometimes an external (outside) toilet and or laundry located at the back of the original property is brought under the same roofline when an extension is built. A building inspection can confirm this.

Check the original position of the kitchen which may have changed or relocated from a different part of the house.

Originally the kitchen was a single room designed to be functional so it was in the middle of the house. Nowadays, kitchens (combined with the living room) are not just kitchens but the central hub where you hang out, kids do their homework, have your meaningful conversations.

You should be aware of what each room is currently used for or previous use for. In future you may want to renovate and need to know where the plumbing and electrical wiring is or you need to know which part of the house is the extension or original.

Also check the original position of bathrooms and laundry room. Sometimes large laundry rooms are converted into bedrooms or bathrooms/laundry rooms are relocated. It’s just a good idea to know what the room was used for before.

Instructions on what to do for this task

  • Print off a current and old floor plan and compare room by room

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13. Check how many Days the Property has been Listed for Sale (Days on Market)

The Days on market indicates the number of days the property has been listed for sale with the particular Real Estate Agent.

Days on market for 2 bed unit in Burwood NSW
It takes 74 days, on average, to sell a 2 bed unit in Burwood NSW

When a property takes longer to sell than average then you must do some further investigation as to why?

The longer a property stays on the market, the more suspicious buyers become. Buyers will often suspect there are building or other related issues.

If the property stays on the market too long (versus say the suburb average), then the property becomes “stale”.

A “stale” property is one that has been on the market for an extended period of time. Usually this is after the Real Estate Agent’s 4-8 week sale campaign has finished.

Sometimes the owner will get frustrated at the lack of buyer interest and replace the Real Estate Agent. This is a good time to check the “For Sale History” in Pricefinder to see how many times the owner has tried to list the property for sale.  

Property for sale history for 2 bedroom unit in Burwood NSW
This 2 bed unit in Burwood NSW has been listed with 2 Agents. Raine & Horne Burwood first tried to auction the property and then listed it For Sale. They tried for 2 months before the owner changed Agents. Begetis Estate Agents was the 2nd Agent to list the property. They have tried to sell the property since October 2018.

 

Instructions on what to do for this task

In Pricefinder go to “Property Search” and enter in the address of each house or apartment on your list

In Pricefinder, enter in the address in Property Search

 

Scroll down to “For Sale History”

Look for the most recent “Listing Date” and “Days Listed”

Pricefinder For Sale History search

 

Go to Domain to find the average Days on Market for your property type

Select and enter in the “Suburb”

Domain Home Price Guide search box

In “Market Data” select the type of property you are looking to purchase

Take note of the “Days on Market”

 

Search results showing average Days on Market

 

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14. Check the shape of the land

 Look at the aerial photos of your property and observe the shape of the land to make sure it’s what you expected. It can be hard to get a proper perspective when you walk around the property.

One reason the shape of the land is important is if you have future plans for an addition to the home, a knock down & rebuild, a swimming pool etc.

To design a rectangular shaped house on a rectangular shaped block of land is quite straightforward. However, with an irregular shaped piece of land, it may make it more challenging to design a house to suit the dimensions of the land.

There will be restrictions on the location of the house, the height of the house, where a pool can be located etc.

Should you have concerns about what you can build on the property, speak to Council or a local Town Planner before purchasing the property.

Aerial photo of a property with irregular shaped land
Getting an aerial photo of the property gives you a better perspective of the shape of the land.
Aerial photo of a property with irregular shaped land
In this aerial photo, you can see that the property was part of a larger piece of land that has been sub-divided (or split) into 2 seperate pieces of land – and a house built on each piece of land.
Aerial photo of a property with irregular shaped land
Even though this is an irregular shaped piece of land, being a corner block it does allow more building design options. For this piece of land, you can see the driveway and garage is positioned towards the narrow end of the land. This has allowed for better outdoor space usage at the wide end of the land.

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15. Check the dimension of the land

The land dimensions are estimated to be 28.07m x 53.76m/54.20m

The total land area is estimated to be 1,519.17m2.

Check the total land area against the Real Estate Agent advertising and in the contract of sale.

Aerial photo showing the dimensions of the land and the total area
Using an aerial mapping service like Nearmap to measure the dimensions and the area of the land.

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16. Check the Property Sewerage Diagram

The Sewerage Service diagram is usually found in the contract of sale. It shows where the private house sewer lines connect to the authorities wastewater system.

Property sewer diagram showing the sewer running down the right side of the property
Property sewer diagram

It’s important to check the location of the sewerage pipes on the land as well as the location compared to the property, swimming pool, garage etc.

Water authorities have strict guidelines for building over or next to pipes and structures.

This ensures that damage does not occur to the pipes. They also need to have ongoing access to maintain them.

If you plan to knock down and rebuild the house, then it’s worthwhile having a town planner review the location of the sewerage pipes.

Property sewerage diagram for a block of townhouses
Property sewerage diagram for a block of townhouses

A badly positioned sewerage pipe may require the house to be repositioned or designed so that the pipe is not underneath or located near the house. In some cases, the water authority will approve a non-dwelling building or structure (such as a garage or driveway) to be built over the top, however there will be strict guidelines for the placement and protection of the pipes. This will be costly.

It is preferrable for any new development to not be built over the top of any pipe work as there is the chance that the pipes leak and the local water authority will have to dig through the house or driveway etc to get to the pipe.

 

Instructions on what to do for this task

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17. Check Development Applications

This sections is to help you find out whether the building works going on nearby are going to impact the value and enjoyment you have in your home.

Start off by doing a search for pending and approval Development Applications (otherwise known in the building industry as D.A’s).

Instructions on what to do for this task

  • Go to Planning Alerts
  • Enter the address of your target property
  • Sort the results based on “Most Recent First” or “Closest First”
  • If you have a subscription to Pricefinder (subscription service), search the property address in Pricefinder and go to ‘Nearby Planning & Development Applications’.

Search for D.A’s that have been approved but not yet built or D.A’s that have been submitted but not approved

Look for D.A’s related to

  • Neighbouring properties
  • Blocks of apartments being built near your house or apartment block

What to do if your Neighbour has a Development Application

Take note of any of the neighbouring properties that have plans to build a new house, build an extension/major renovation.

If you are considering purchasing a property where the neighbour has a pending or approved Development Application (D.A) in Council, you need to understanding what their plans are and the impact it will have on the property you might purchase.

You will need to find out:

1. The design of the new or renovated building

Find out if the house is going to be double storey, which of the windows are going to face your property, has the location of the driveway changed, are they building a new pool etc

2. Height of the new building

In the plans, do the Owners intend to increase the height of the current building? Say from a single storey to double storey house?

3. Whether it will impact views

Will the new house in any way block your enjoyment of any views

4. Will the new house impact my access to and from my driveway

In some new houses, the Owner/Architect may choose to change the location of the driveway to suit the design of the house and location of the garage. Check that the new location doesn’t impact your ability to get into and out of your driveway.

5. Will the new building overshadow my property?

If the new building is taller/wider than the old one, it’s likely to impact the amount of daylight you get in your home. Overshadowing of another persons property is one of the common reasons for neighbours to object to building plans. Also bear in mind that the designer of the new house may try to push the boundaries of what’s allowed. If there are no objections from the neighbouring properties then the design may be approved as it is and possibly to your detriment.

6. How long will the construction go for?

For example, allow 12 months for a new double storey house. Can you put up with a very noisy construction site for around 12 months, Builders and Tradespeople coming and going at all hours, workers on Saturday, cars parked in front of your house etc.

7. Privacy issues

Are there any of the windows on the new house/house addition that face your house or your backyard directly which may cause privacy issues?

8. Access to your property

Will the builder require access to your property to get machinery or supplies in?

9. Sewerage or stormwater access

When a new house is built, often the old underground sewer and stormwater pipes will need to be upgraded and connected to council infrastructure. Sometimes in order for the pipes to be connected, the pipes have to be channelled through a neighbours property. That means part of the neighbour’s land is dug up.

10. Excavation works

If the plans indicate land excavation for say an underground garage level, will this impact the structural soundness of your house?

11. Land erosion during construction?

If the land is sloped, and your property is on the lower side of the house being built/renovated, will there be any land erosion onto your property during the construction phase?

12. Why is the owner selling?

Is the Owner selling because they are concerned about the impact of the building next door? (Usually this is a concern for new unit developments but I’d thought I’d add it in anyway)

The first thing you need is a full set of house plans. You can get a set of plans online via the local council’s website or you may need to visit Council / Local Authority directly to ask for a copy. Also try asking the Owner via the Real Estate Agent selling the home.

Property floor plan showing the ground floor of a 2 storey duplex house
Property floor plan

Review the house plans starting with the points I listed above.

Should you have any concerns with the neighbours proposed development, you can make an appointment to speak to Council / Local Authority. This is often done at no charge.

I also suggest making a time to speak directly with the Owner of the property who submitted the development application.

Whether or not a new or pending development application is going to impact on the value and use of your property depends a lot upon the design and the finished product itself. Generally, if the house is built to Australian Standards by a reputable builder and compliments the other houses on the street, then the development will increase the value of the surrounding properties.

 

Application to build Blocks of apartments near your house or apartment block

How to Search for Development Applications

Instructions on what to do for this task

  • Follow instructions (at top of the page) on how to search for development applications in your area using Pricefinder (subscription service) or Planning Alerts
  • To identify a unit or apartment block development application in the search results, look in the description field for something like:

“2 x residential flat building and associated works”

“Demolition of existing and construction of 9 townhouses and 9 apartments with basement parking”

“Demolition of existing 3 structures and construction of Residential Flat Building including 69 residential apartments and two levels of basement carparking”

“Multi-Unit Dwelling, Multi-Unit Dwelling”

“Construction of two (2) x residential flat buildings, containing 10 dwellings”

If you find applications for unit blocks nearby, you need to do some further digging to see if there is any impact on the unit you intend to purchase.

Start by speaking to the Real Estate Agent and then directly to Council / Local Authority.

You will need to find out:

1. How many units are being built?

The more units being built, the more congested it will get on the street as well as driving into and out of your unit block

2. What is the expected height of the unit block?

Will this impact on any views

3. What are the Developer’s plans?

Are the Developers planning to sell, keep or rent out the units when it’s completed?

Ideally, you want most of the new units to be bought by Owners intending to live in the units See Owner Occupier to Renters Ratio as Owners tend to look after their own property better than a Tenant.

4. When is the construction expected to start and finish?

If the block of units is being built next door, can you put up with the noise, vibration and inconvenience of a building site nearby?

5. Is there going to be underground parking, demolition and excavation?

Whenever heavy machinery is used for demolishing or excavating a site, there is always the potential for damage to be incurred by surrounding structures.

6. Vacant blocks of land and house amalgamation

Look around your street and the nearby neighbouring streets. Is it full of unit blocks already? If it is, it’s quite likely that over time, any vacant blocks of land or groups of houses will be amalgamated for development. Further development means more units, more cars and more people coming into the area.

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18. Have you checked for nearby electrical substations, telecommunication towers or green electrical boxes?

In the surrounding area of your target property, find out where the local utilities are located. Look for mobile phone towers, electrical substations and green electricity boxes, which are sometimes called kiosk substations.

Whether you believe there is a health issue living near these utilities, they can be unsightly and may affect the resale value of your property.

Check for Green Electrical Boxes (or Kiosk Substations)

This is an example of a green electrical box located near houses.

This is a green electricity box located near a residential house. These are also called kiosk substations.
Green electricity box or kiosk substations

Everyone will have their own view on the heath issue of green electrical boxes. For some, living close to one is a genuine concern and will turn buyers away….regardless of the price.

Check for Telecommunication Towers

I chose a property in N.S.W at random for this example. The address is 217 Clyde Street, South Granville NSW 2147

As you can see in the graph below, there are 5 telecommunication towers near the property. The closest tower to the house at 217 Clyde Street, South Granville NSW is at Oriole Stadium which is about 550 metres away.

Google Maps legend showing house icon at 217 Clyde Street, South Granville and icon for telecommunications tower

 

How are Property Prices Impacted by Nearby Infrastructure?

Don’t be surprised when these properties stay on the market for longer, (Days on Market, D.O.M). They are often sold for a price lower than comparable properties in the surrounding area.

With any property, there are some issues that can be fixed, like having to renovate an older style kitchen or fixing a leaking roof. While there are some issues, like green electrical boxes and mobile phone towers that are permanent and there to stay.

In my opinion, if a property is located near a local utility then it will sell for a discount to the median price.

Instructions on what to do for this task

  • To find the location of mobile/telecommunication towers (NSW) visit OzTowers
  • To find the location of electrical substations visit National Map
  • To check for green electrical boxes walk up and down the street, around the side and back of the property. The other way is to use google street view to search the area around the property

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19. Check the condition of the roof

Do a check of the roof as part of your initial checks on a target property. Should you get your offer accepted to purchase the property, then engage a building inspection to conduct a thorough inspection.

If there are clearly different sections of the roof or a combination of roofing material used, this could indicate the property has been extended at some point.

Aerial photo of a house with a roof extension at the back of the property
This aerial photo shows the original and the extension of the roof. Before you buy the property, you should be aware the roof structure has changed in case there are any current maintenance issues that cost $$$ to fix.

There are 2 reasons why roof extensions and repairs are important to know.

Firstly, I have often seen houses with a tiled/concrete roof, which is the original part of house, with the extension or newer part of the roof made from colorbond (steel) roof.

Another thing with tiled roofs is to check for any obvious signs of previous damage. You can tell this where sections or areas of the roof tiles are slightly different in colour. They are different colour because the old tiles, which were probably removed due to damage, were replaced with new tiles.

Example of a house with an extension: 135 Bay Road, Blue Bay NSW

Aerial photo of a house and garage. The garage has an extension built on the back.
The original garage has had an extension done. From the aerial view you can identify the two different coloured roof tiles. This aerial photo was taken on 2 October 2018.
House garage showing an extension
This aerial photo was taken on the 2 May 2010 meaning the garage extension was have been built before that.

From the aerial photos above, the original garage has been extended as you can see two different coloured tiles. It must have built prior to 2010 because the aerial photos only go back that far.

Looking up the local council records (Central Coast Council), there is no record of the garage extension which probably means the garage was built some time ago. With any extension or additional to the property it’s wise to confirm it has Council approval.

Either speak to the Real Estate Agent who can ask the Owner directly or contact the Central Coast Council and to speak to someone in the Planning Department.

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20. Check the location of the any large trees

Look for any large and mature trees on your property, or the neighbour’s property, that are close to the any structure on your property (such as the house, carport, swimming pool etc).

When trees grow close to the house, it is possible for the roots to spread from the base of the tree, travel under paved and concrete footpaths and disturb the foundations of the house.

If you have concerns about particular trees on the property, contact a local arborist.

Large mature tree overhanging a house and pool area
Check for large trees on or located near your target property. These trees may cause damage to a house, pool or structure. Aerial photo taken using Nearmap.

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21. Check the External Walls of the house

Using current and older street photos of the property, you can compare what renovation works the owner has done to the external walls of the house.

For instance, if the target property has a cement rendered finish, the original external wall was most likely either single or double brick. Use the current and older photos to confirm this.

For an older house where the newer external walls are made of cladding or weatherboards, there is a chance the original walls were constructed out of an asbestos fibro material. Most experts say that if the fibro sheeting remains in one piece and not disturbed there isn’t an issue. However, when an owner decides to update/upgrade the walls of the house it does become an safety hazard.

To have asbestos sheeting removed from a house, in most cases, it needs to be done by a licensed asbestos removal company. However, given the high cost of asbestos removal, there are some owners who choose not to remove the asbestos sheeting prior to installing the new cladding. Rather, they choose to cover it up by cladding directly over the top.

If you suspect this might be the case with your target property, ask your building inspector to check this.

House with external wall sheeting made of asbestos sheeting
House with external wall sheeting likely to be asbestos. Photo taken from Google maps – January 2010
House with external cladding material
The external walls of this house has changed to cladding. Photo taken from Google maps – May 2015
Instructions on what to do for this task

  • Click on the link to go to Google Maps
  • Type in the address of your target property: I’ll use 102 Bay Road, Blue Bay for example
  • Click anywhere on the image below the address

  • Click on “Street View”

Google maps street view of 102 Bay Road Blue Bay

  • In the timeline, select the different dates available (Please note: I have found some addresses have multiple dates available while others have one).

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22. Check the Property Valuation

There are many free and paid resources that will help you estimate the value of the property you intend to purchase. On top of what’s available online to value a property, my advice is to become a Suburb Expert.

Free and paid online valuations and estimates

Use the online valuations tools available for free at websites like Realestate.com.au or Domain. The websites give a quick and free price guide estimate of the value of your target property.

What is useful is the listing of comparable property sales in the area for the past 12 months. You will need to spend the time clicking through each of the sold properties to start building your knowledge of the suburb.

On the ANZ Bank website, they provide a detailed free Property Profile Report along with some suburb stats.

Instructions on what to do for this task

Each of the following websites will provide you with an estimated price range for your target property

Pricefinder property valuations (subscription based)

Pricefinder has a very useful price estimation function which allows you to use the specific knowledge and insight you have about an area to get a more accurate valuation of your target property.

To make the most of this valuation tool, you will need to be familiar with what has sold in the area and the condition of your target property.

An arrow indicating how to access the Pricefinder Estimate tool in Pricefinder
To get to the Estimate tool, click on Pricefinder Estimate Tool

After clicking on Pricefinder Estimate in the Appraisal Tools box, the system will come up with a Market Estimate and a list of 6 comparable properties. (Based on number of bedrooms, baths and car spaces)

 Follow these instructions to fine-tune the Market Estimate.

Look at the location of each comparable property and decide whether the property is comparable. I’d be looking to see if the property has similar access to schools/shops/public transport, not separated by a busy road, preferably in the same suburb.

The system will adjust for the different land sizes (if it’s a house) so you don’t have to consider that.

Property market estimate using Pricefinder's Market Estimate tool
Comparable property results from using the Pricefinder Estimate Tool.

Click “Remove and replace” for properties that are not comparable, and it will be replaced by another property.

You will notice each time you “Remove and replace” a property, the “Sale Estimate” will recalculate based on the 6 properties.

Next, fine tune the Sales Estimate by comparing the internal and external property condition (renovated or original), the age and the size.

Compare the condition of the property

Click on the photo of the first property which will bring up a timeline of Real Estate Agent photos. (As the property was recently sold, the photos will be current).

With your target property in mind, compare the location, the size of the property, the condition of the property etc.

If the comparable property is worse, slide the dial 1 or 2 intervals to the left.

If the comparable property is better, slide the dial 1 or 2 intervals to the right.

Comparable sales

Start by going back 3 months and look for properties that have been sold and comparable to the target property. You can use either Realestate.com.au or Domain.com.au for comparable sales.

Sometimes, there are not a lot of comparable sales in your particular area, so you’ll need to widen the search to 6 or even 12 months. Ideally, there will be at least 1-2 properties sold each month to get an indication of what’s happening in the market.

Print off the properties that match your target property the closest and keep them in your property folder. Make sure the print off includes the sold price and date.

Take your folder of properties and (if you can) physically view each property. Spend an afternoon walking around the neighbourhood and take notes of anything you like or don’t like about the property. The property might be too close to a main road, or is on the low side of the road or whatever.

Comparable sales (using Pricefinder)

If you are using Pricefinder (monthly subscription), you can search for comparable sales using the ‘Market Activity’ function. This is quicker and easier than doing the searches manually using Realestate or Domain. There are also some good tools that let you delve a bit deeper into the comparable sales.

This is an example of the search results

Pricefinder search results showing comparable properties for a suburb
This is an example of the results page after running a search for comparable properties for a suburb

To get an in-depth understanding of the trend in prices in an area, I like to use the ‘Growth Chart’ function.

If you use a broader date range (say 5 years), the chart will show how the median price and the number of sales has trended.

While each suburb has its own price cycle, each type of property (house/unit) and attributes (number of bedrooms, bathrooms etc) will also have it’s own price cycle. Using ‘Growth Chart’ allows you to identify where specifically the type of property is in the price cycle.

Example: What is the median price trend in 1 bedroom units in Burwood NSW 2134?

Growth chart from Pricefinder showing the growth of 1 bedroom units in Burwood NSW
The historical price growth of 1 bedroom units in Burwood NSW

In any given 3-month period, there will be sales for 1-bedroom units in Burwood that are much higher in price (like in December 2016) and much lower in price (like in December 2015). This is to be expected. The better indicator of price over the period is to use the month average which ‘smooths’ out the price action. It gives a clearer indication of where prices are in the property cycle.

For about 2 years, the price of 1-bedroom units in Burwood were flat between September 2013 and June 2016 at around $520,000 to $570,000.

Then within the space of 12 months or so (from June 2016 to June 2017), the median price rose 30% + to peak at around $800,000.

The median price has since fallen to around $658,850.

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