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The Buyers’ Agent’s guide to buying property: 67 things property experts look for when buying a house.

Buying a new property and navigating the real estate market is a complex, and often stressful, undertaking for buyers.

To assist potential home buyers in this process, we’ve gathered advice from qualified buyers’ agents – experienced property professionals who help buyers find and secure their dream homes on a daily basis.

Below are over 60 expert tips for potential buyers, straight from the property experts themselves.

We’ve categorised them in the following sections

  1. Warning signs
  2. Signs of a potential goldmine
  3. Investor considerations
  4. Area considerations
  5. Things that can be overlooked
  6. Things that should never be overlooked
  7. Important questions to ask


1. Warning Signs


David Hayter

When looking for a property, always be on the lookout for the following potential warning signs:


– High rental vacancies in the area

Rental vacancy rates is often a good indication of an area’s desirability. If the area has a high vacancy rate you need to ask why is the demand so low.

Purchasing property in an area like this will also restrict the pool of potential renters and buyers in future. Proceed with caution.


– High supply of comparable properties

This indicates the possibility of a very competitive sellers market should you decide to sell or rent out your property.

Keep an eye out for areas where many of the surrounding properties are of a similar size and value.


– Surrounding DA’s and associated developments

Always look at pending Development Applications (DAs) in the surrounding area before buying a property.

Undesirable developments can reduce the value of surrounding properties significantly, making it important to review all pending DAs before making a decision.


– Rejected DA’s for the subject property

These restrictions may limit your ability to build, develop or add value and should be assessed thoroughly.


Matt Corbett


“Has the property you’re considering had any DA’s rejected?”

Matt Corbett, Senior Buyers’ Advocate


– Restrictions on the use of land

Although you might only want the property for one purpose, restrictions on the use of land narrow the field of prospective buyers should you decide to sell.

Consider the implications of these restrictions before you decide to buy.


– Settlement date

If the vendor is pushing for an early settlement date it may indicate that they have committed to another property.

This gives you less time to organise financing and paperwork and can make the process more complicated.


– Multiple houses for sale in the street or area

A high property turnover rate, or a sudden upswing in properties for sale may be indicative of an unpleasant area or developments.

Make sure you find out why this is before you buy in the neighbourhood.


– Renovation needed / structural problems.

Always bear in mind that the cost of the renovations often outstrip the value they add. Minor changes are okay, but if any significant work needs to be done you should be wary.


Jason Low


“Without having a well planned and executed property strategy, your results will be substandard at best. Strategy is the vital first step before deciding on area and property type.Failing to plan or to have a property strategy in place from the very outset is in fact a plan to fail.”

– Jason Low, Manager, Client Relations & Strategy


It also goes without saying that any evidence of severe issues or structural problems (especially multiple roof repairs) should ring major warning bells.


– Disclosure requirements in the contract

Issues involving events such as flood, fire or future road widening should not be overlooked.

Vendors are required by law to provide this information, and buyers should consider it thoroughly.


– Zoning changes whith dramatic increase in density

Watch of for areas where zoning changes allow significant increase in density which could mean having a big apartment block next door overshadowing you


– Build a balanced portfolio

Build a balanced portfolio with a good mix of high capital growth properties and positive cashflow properties, so that you don’t run into a situation of cashflow crisis having to support a highly negatively geared portfolio.


Nick Taylor-Fick


“Be careful that you don’t buy next door to a development site.”

– Nick Taylor-Fick, Buyers’ Advocate


2. Potential goldmine


Rich Harvey

The following items indicate potential for excellent future return on investment:

– Potential to easily add extra rooms or parking

Extra parking and bedrooms are additions that add a lot of value to a property. If there is an opportunity to add them with relatively little cost to you this might offer a great return when the time comes to sell.


– Quality of surrounding homes

Good neighbourhoods increase appeal. Buying a home that’s surrounded by other beautiful properties (or if neighbouring properties are renovating) often guarantees a good re-sale price.


– Changes in local demographics

Certain propitious changes in the area’s demographics can increase value and widen the range of prospective buyers.

Speaking to a local area expert will help you get a better idea of how good the investment will be.


– Scarcity suburbs

Established suburbs in high demand from buyers and with high amenity value are hotly contested when they come up for sale. These suburbs have low turnover of properties and are tightly held by owners as they are so attractive.


– Recent or planned changes to local streetscape

Future infrastructure improvements (for example, public transport, major road networks or installation of new internet/broadband networks) can add value to properties in the area.

If you note any of these changes on the horizon it might be a good time to purchase.


Matt Senior Buyers' Advocate


“Suburbs such as Point Piper, Mosman, Balmoral, Manly, Bellevue Hill, Balmain, Bondi or Coogee are brilliant for long term growth.”

– Matt Corbett, Senior Buyers’ Advocate


– Potential to add value

Re-developments and additions such as subdivisions, duplexes and granny-flats can add value.

If you see the potential for these developments you may be able to increase the selling price nicely.


Investment Buyers Advocate


“Granny flats can dramatically boost the rental yield to create a positive cashflow investment property.”

– Investment Buyers Advocate


– Apartments with parking on separate title

In high-density areas parking is sometimes allowed to be sold separately.

In many cases, parking is in high demand in these areas and can be sold or rented out to others at a premium.


– Space to install a parking stacker

Parking spaces that have enough room to add a parking stacker create an opportunity to add additional parking space.

In high-density areas where parking is in high demand, this can add value to your property.


– Ripple effect growth

Look for areas that are not well known but are adjacent to the “hot” areas. Price growth is likely to ripple through to the neighbouring suburbs.


Nick Taylor-Fick Buyers' Advocate


“Consider the up and coming surrounding suburbs to areas that are already performing.”

– Nick Taylor-Fick, Buyers’ Advocate


– Flat backyard

A flat backyard makes it easier and cheaper to add valuable additions such as a granny flat or a deck.


– Council re-zoning opportunities

Areas proposed to be re-zoned can create very significant increases to the value of your property. Make sure you get advice and don’t just buy on speculation.


President of REBAA


“Areas proposed to be re-zoned that allow increased density can create a goldmine for your property and double its value!”

Rich Harvey
President of REBAA (Real Estate Buyers’ Agent Association) and founder of Property Buyer


3. Investment Considerations


Investment Buyers' Advocate

Investors should always consider the following before buying a property with the intention of renting it out:


– Do not buy solely on rental expectation

Periods of extended vacancy are always a possibility. Rental demand fluctuates no matter where you live or buy. Check historical vacancy rates and make sure there is not going to be an abundance of new units flooding the market.


– Economic diversification

Select areas where there are plentiful job opportunities and a diverse economy. Avoid mining towns that are solely reliant on one industry type. Always consider the underlying asset over and above anything else. You don’t want to end up with an illiquid asset.


– Target demographic

Look for properties that have wide appeal to all demographics – eg, 1 bed plus sunroom would appeal to professionals, couples with one baby, or students or retirees etc.


– Have a tailored and customised strategy in place

Property investing is a long term venture with many twists and turns before you reach your end goal. By having a tailored and customised strategy in place it’s like having a GPS to guide you seamlessly and effortlessly to your final destination. Consider your exit strategy, not just your entry strategy.


Nick Buyers' Advocate


“Seek properties with wider appeal to all age groups.”

– Nick Taylor-Fick, Buyers’ Advocate


– Buy an investment property with proximity to good amenities

Tenants desire to live close to transport, shops and good schools and access to lifestyle opportunities. They often rent in areas where they can’t afford to buy.


– The ability to add value with a cosmetic renovation

Some simple renovations can add value without being too expensive. Cosmetic renovations can increase rent return and improve chances of finding a tenant.


– Number of potential occupants

Always consider the number of potential occupants in a rental property, which is determined by the number of bedrooms and bathrooms.


Dean Galnanos


“Get expert advice when completing your feasibility and factor in realistic market prices for the completion date.”

– Dean Galanos, Commercial and Development Buyers Advocate


– Always obtain landlord insurance if you’re renting out

Landlord insurance protects you and your asset and, if you are unlucky enough to have something badly damaged, you can look at it as an opportunity for a ‘free’ upgrade.


– Engage a good property manager

A good property manager can prove invaluable to landlords. Try to find one that will manage your asset properly, including the suggestion of rental increases at appropriate times.


– Look for low-maintenance homes if you are looking for a long term rental

Try to find something that will be easy to maintain and inexpensive to spruce up for sale.


Anna Rorke Advocate


– Allow pets (with their own references)

Allowing pets in your home makes it easier to attract tenants – especially long-term tenants.

Ask for a pet reference from a previous landlord.


– Market conditions

When buying a development site, consider the time frames required to obtain a DA (Development Approval) consent and complete the building project and factor in delays and contingencies. They typically always take longer than expected.


– Type of property demanded

Look at the current demand in an area (for example, 1-bed units or most popular size of suite/warehouse/shop) and buy accordingly.

Looking at the current demand will give you a better idea of what will do better in that particular area.


David Hayter - Agent and Research Analyst


“Look at the vacancy rates and the type of property demanded in a particular area.”

– David Hayter, Assistant Buyers’ Agent and Research Analyst


4. Area considerations:


Nick Adovcate

When considering an area in which to buy property, keep these features in mind:


– Diversification

Plan to select a range of locations that have the right fundamentals for capital growth and strong yield. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket (location). Diversifying into other states also helps take advantage of different property cycles and spreads your land tax liability.


– Good access to amenities

Purchase in areas that include amenities such as schools, parks, restaurants, beaches, shops and that are well serviced by public transport.


– Well-established areas

Well-established areas will have fewer new residential developments, reducing the chances of an undesirable development springing up and decreasing the value of your property.


– Community and Family Friendly Areas

Buy in areas that have a great community spirit – suburbs which are family friendly and with low crime rates, plenty of parks and outdoor space and sporting facilities. Often there is a local community shopping centre with cafes and specialty shops that are hidden gems.


– Good schools

Buying in an area with a good school catchment is a proven strategy for increasing your investment return. Owner occupiers often pay 10% more to buy in these areas which helps drive capital growth.


– Find the vibe

Investors and home buyers are often attracted to an area with plenty of “vibe” and activity. There’s always some suburbs considered more trendy and hip than neighbouring areas.

Understand the vibe from a local expert before you commit to buying there.


Nick Advocate


“Quality schools are strong investment drivers for some suburbs.”

– Nick Taylor-Fick, Buyers’ Advocate


5. Things that can be overlooked:


Matt Corbett, Senior Advocate

Certain features that can be off-putting at first may not actually be a major issue. These include:


– External facades

The street appeal of a home can usually be easily and relatively inexpensively improved.


– Internal finishes

Small finishes such as wallpaper, paint and colour can be easily fixed. It’s best to focus on size, light, floor plan, outlook, direction and overall aspect instead.


– Closed in spaces

There may be an opportunity to easily remove a wall and open up rooms to create more space. Assess the building’s structure to see if this might be possible.


– No car space

Even if there is no car space on title, if the property is located very close to transport links, then tenants can dispense with having a car.


Nick Buyers' Advocate


“In certain areas a car space is less important, if light rail or buses are nearby.”

– Nick Taylor-Fick, Buyers’ Advocate


– Poorly kept gardens

Gardens can be easily improved to significantly increase the overall appeal and value.


– Construction type

The quality of the property construction will determine the level of maintenance that will be required later. Brick homes generally have less long term maintenance compared to weatherboard properties


Kevin Mason - Buyers' Advocate


“If you are considering doing a new build be sure to pick a reputable builder and get references. New build also delivers the highest depreciation.”

– Kevin Mason, Buyers’ Advocate -Investment Specialist


6. Things that should never be overlooked:


Kevin Advocate

These are issues you should never overlook, no matter how enticing the property might otherwise be:


– Massive ongoing water-proofing issues

Any water-proofing issues should be carefully considered. Get a strata report and building inspection to ensure water issues have been fixed adequately.


– Significant termite infestation and damage

Like water-proofing, this is an issue that should never be overlooked. Minor termite damage can be fixed, but ensure long term termite prevention is installed.


Kevin Buyers' Advocate


“Building inspections are an absolute must for any buyer. Our guys can turn them around in 24 hours.”

– Kevin Mason, Buyers’ Advocate -Investment Specialist


– Illegal non-council approved work

This is potentially unsafe and, once this is your house it will be your problem.


– Location, Location, Location

No matter how beautiful the house itself may be, if it’s in the wrong location it’s not going to be a sure investment.


Anna Rorke - Senior Buyers' Advocate


” You can change a home but not where it is – buy cheap sell cheap.”

– Anna Rorke, Senior Buyers Advocate


– No sunshine

Often an agent will only show a property in summer and in the one hour period it gets a glimpse of sun.

Make sure you assess the surrounding buildings/sun blockers, or visit the property at different times of day before you buy.


Jason Low - Manager


“Select the “right” property manager that works for you and aims to really look after your property and achieve a top rental return, rather than just accepting any tenant and suggesting to lower to rent each year!”

– Jason Low, Manager, Client Relations & Strategy


– Expired commercial leases

When buying commercial property, it is vital that you check the quality of the leases as this helps support the underlying value of the commercial asset. Make sure the business leasing the property is viable and intends to stay in the premises long term.


– Crunch your numbers

consider all the costs associated with the purchase PLUS the ongoing costs of holding a property BEFORE you commit to a purchase – i.e. consider, insurance, rates, levies, water, maintenance and repairs, interest, management fees, land tax, etc.


Dean Galanos Buyers' Advocate


“Complete adequate due diligence on the leases to check expiry dates and your net return.

– Dean Galanos, Buyers’ Advocate, Development & Commercial


7. Questions to ask:


Founder of PropertyBuyer

And finally, below are a list of questions one should always ask the vendor and agent:

Is the owner or agent aware of any neighbouring developments or issues with the property?

Is the owner flexible with settlement terms (in other words, has the owner already purchased another property)?

How did you arrive at your quoted price/rental estimate?

Why is the vendor selling this property?

Ask the agent how many building reports or strata reports have been completed?

How many people do think will seriously be attending the auction?

Is there anything else about the property I should know about?


Rich Harvey - President of REBAA


“Does the vendor have any preferences regarding contract terms/settlement date?”

– Rich Harvey
President of REBAA (Real Estate Buyers’ Agent Association) and founder of Property Buyer


Bonus Tip: If there is a tenant currently staying in the property, ask them if there have been any issues and ask the rental agent about any outstanding maintenance. You’re more likely to get a straight answer out of them than the seller or agent.


The next step is to complete your Property Brief. This will help us not only start researching listings which cater to your specific needs, but also match you with the buyers agent most experienced in your category. Once you've filled in the form and hit send we'll contact you to arrange a meeting where we can discuss your choices in more detail and talk about the next steps.