Looking for a property can be stressful but can also be so much fun. When my husband and I were renting we used to go to open houses if we were bored on a Saturday.
However, we always had one rule: to clean our place before we left. Otherwise it would feel depressing coming home after seeing other people’s homes looking so beautiful and unattainable.
The thing is, when you go to an open house, the property is always looking the best it possibly can, with everything decorated perfectly as if it came straight out of Vogue Living.
Real estate agents are fantastic at presenting not just the home, but the lifestyle potential buyers are dreaming of.
But, if you’re actually in the market to buy your own home, you need to learn to look past these things to see the property as it is.
So, Yahoo Finance asked the experts about all the tricks of the trade as well as practical tips to help you find the perfect property.
Decorating can be deceptive
A very important thing to remember is that real estate agents are meant to make the property look its best, Scott Aggett, from Hello Haus - expert property negotiator, told Yahoo Finance.
“On the whole, it's less about agents trying to be deceptive in terms of hiding damage to the property, but more about them trying to create a lifestyle that's possibly unattainable for the future owner,” he said.
“It can be things like using furniture that fits the space perfectly, and minimal amounts of things in the home - to make it look larger.”
And sometimes, the greatest trick of all could be the simplest, Agget said, with a fresh coat of paint going a long way.
“One of the big ones that happens all the time is the property will be freshly painted. A fresh coat of paint can hide a multitude of problems,” Aggett said.
“I think paint is probably the cheapest solution for an owner or an agent to present the property in a different light than it may currently be in.”
Time of day is important
Another thing to look out for is the time of day an inspection is held. It may be no coincidence that an open inspection was set at 11:00am midweek, Aggett said.
“Agents will go to great lengths to control not only the presentation, but also the time of day a property is shown,” he said.
“Agents will pick the time of the day to avoid times of heavy traffic like school runs, peak hour, Saturday sport, whatever it might be.
“They will show the property at the right time for traffic flow, natural light and noise control.”
Aggett suggests that if you’re interested in a property, make sure you organise another inspection at a time of your choosing.
If that’s not possible, drive around the area at peak times to get an idea of the traffic you could be facing on a day-to-day basis.
Pay attention to the small details
Some people find the sound of cars comforting while going to sleep, while others prefer dead silence.
So, if you identify with the latter, make sure to pay attention to the sounds around the property at an open inspection - even if they are being masked.
Adam Flynn, state director of Coronis Group Victoria, told Yahoo Finance some agents had found ways to minimise the noise from a main road.
“Sometimes you'll find when you go to the open for inspection that the agent will have music on and all the windows closed because they don't want the buyers to hear the traffic from the main road. So they want to be mindful of that,” Flynn said.
Flynn said there were also simple things you could check, like under rugs and behind picture frames to look for damage.
“It’s good to check things like natural light - if all the lights are on during the inspection, try turning them off to see how much natural light is coming in,” Flynn said.
It should be noted that not everything will be a deal breaker - but it’s good to be diligent so you know whether there will need to be some work done to the home before you move in.
Flynn said that once you purchased a property it was even more important to check all the small details at the final inspection.
“A week before settlement, you should do a final inspection and make sure that there's no holes in the wall or that the carpet hasn't been ripped up or whatever the case might be,” he said.
“If there are issues, you can speak to your solicitor or conveyancer and they can work with the other side to rectify the situation or get an amendment in regards to price before it settles.
“Once it settles it is near impossible to get those situations rectified and they can become a real issue.”
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get help
Just because the real estate agent is working for the seller, that doesn't mean they can’t answer a lot of your questions.
Ray Ellis, CEO of First National Real Estate told Yahoo Finance the agent should know almost everything about the property and the area it was in.
“If the agent is doing their job properly, which the vast majority of real estate agents do, they have all the information, and they're more than willing to help answer your questions,” Ellis said.
“The local real estate agent is an expert on the area. They know where the new roads are being constructed, they know where the schools are, they know that there is going to be a new train station and shopping centre built.
“And they actually can’t wait to tell you. That’s what makes them good at their job.”
Try to keep a calm mind
Andy Reid, head of training at Century 21, told Yahoo Finance that while we all wanted to find the perfect property, it was good to remember there would be compromises.
“People can discount a property because the presentation is not that good and miss out on a massive opportunity - especially for first timers because it's so hard to get into the market,” Reid said.
“But I’ve seen it so many times when first-home buyers turn their nose up at something because it hasn't been as well maintained or presented and they miss out on something that was totally within budget.”
Reid said sometimes it would just take a bit of elbow grease to get a property looking fantastic again - so it was important to understand how it would be for you - not how it may initially look.
“Don't get too excited or frustrated - don’t get too high either way on the first impression,” he said.
“Don’t let your head rule your heart. I think a lot of people are overcomplicating everything before the market has gone so hot so fast.
“Everybody is working with their brains so much it’s preventing them from moving forward with their lives.”