House hunting where to start

by - November 30, 2020

Boyfriend Pham and I started house hunting with 5 months left on our rental lease because all but one friend we know has had a horrible time finding a house. We thought we’d be looking for over a year like everyone else. Instead, it took us 2.5 months.

We didn’t know where to start at first. I had resigned to single life, and my single income could afford an apartment at best (or at worst, Dad’s granny flat once he passed). Boyfriend Pham had never even considered home ownership because he used to be part of Australia’s growing casual workforce and the income insecurities that come with some casual roles. Neither of us had considered buying a house. To make it trickier, we worked on opposite sides of Brisbane so any suburb would leave at least one of us with a bad commute. Neither of us grew up in Brisbane so didn't have a sentimental home suburb/area/region either.

So where did we start? With our budget to see what we could comfortably yet uncomfortably afford (we’re risk averse people who steer clear of any sort of debt). With our powers combined, we could (uncomfortably) afford:
  • A house with some land very far north or south, and a horrible commute for one or both of us (this was before he changed jobs to a place near my work).
  • A really old, run down house inner-city(ish) that would eat all our money in renovations.
  • A decent sized townhouse with modest garage ‘cause most affordable townhouses near the city have a garage to house a city car, not a car and workshop.
  • A large apartment with no garage space ‘cause modern apartments have car spaces, not lock-up garages. price filters are handy, though their algorithm does sneak in options that are listed as ‘For sale’ without a price but will be $50K-$150K above your price range so watch out for that. If it looks too good to be true, then it is.

We tried to write a list of must-haves but we’re both very relaxed people so were flexible on nearly everything. Our mandatory items were quickly whittled down to:
  1. Double garage Large single lock up garage ‘cause Boyfriend Pham is a car guy with lots of garage-filling crap that I call hoarding but he says 'will be useful one day.'
  2. Three bedrooms so I could have a study that wasn’t the guest room.
  3. Open plan kitchen/living with enough room for Boyfriend Pham’s desk so we could ‘hang out’ while doing our own thing. Very important.
  4. Quiet(er) street - we lived on main roads the past 3 years and we wanted to be able to open our windows/doors.
  5. No shared walls - added once we realised we didn’t want a house in the ‘burbs and started looking at townhouses.
Fortunately, picking a suburb became easier when Boyfriend Pham changed roles, and his new office is 7 whole minutes from my office. Eventually, we realised we didn’t want a house with land if it meant living in the ‘burbs. We opted for an inner-city townhouse instead.

My advice if you’re starting the house hunting journey is go to look at as many options and suburbs as possible. You’ll quickly find what you like and don’t like, and also decide what you’re willing or not willing to pay extra for. If you are buying in an area you've never been before then rent if you can. 6 month lease is plenty of time to get to know the area. 

I knew the suburb we bought in well because I've been working here for 5 years, so was already familiar with the pros, cons and quirks of the area. While I knew the mozzies where bad I didn't know they were this bad. There is a window between 11:30am to 1:30pm where I can safely get laundry off the line 'cause it's bright and sunny. The rest of the shady, cool time it's the mosquitoes that own the washing line.

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