Property Advice

How to spot real potential in a home when you’re house hunting

Article by Property Press

Finding potential in a property can require some imagination. Here’s how to evaluate a house so you can spot a true diamond in the rough

Searching for a home can be incredibly confusing as it’s usually a case of juggling priorities and deciding what you’re prepared to compromise on. It is often easy to overlook a home’s potential because of cosmetic flaws that you find annoying, or you may fail to see how minor tweaks could make it work for your lifestyle.

Houses requiring major renovation, or that have structural problems, are another matter but often a little adjustment to your mindset can reveal assets in a property that aren’t immediately obvious. Here are our tips to help you to evaluate a house and recognise its true potential.

Location, location, location

There’s one thing no amount of makeover magic can change and that is the golden rule of location. If you see a property with a good aspect that’s in your preferred area it may be worthwhile stacking the odds in its favour and taking a considered look at what minuses could easily be converted to pluses.

Proximity to good schools, work, friends, family and amenities are factors that are a vital part of day-to-day life so it’s important not to get distracted by minor niggles. Make a checklist of what can easily be done to address negative factors before you discount a property that’s in your suburb of choice.

Forget the furniture

Too often buyers will check out a home and are put off by the furniture, wall colours or drapes. You aren’t buying the contents or the owner’s taste and cosmetic changes like new floor coverings, light fittings and colour schemes are relatively inexpensive quick fixes that can make a huge difference to ambience. Look past any clutter or style faux pas and imagine the home with your own furniture in place and a fresh colour palette.

Similarly have a good look at bathrooms and kitchens – these are big ticket items and if they are in good condition small tweaks like a new bench top, cupboard handles, taps or a slick vanity may be all that’s needed to update the look.

There’s not much that can be done to address cramped, dark rooms, but if a house has airy, light-filled living areas and generous bedrooms there’s a lot of minor touches that can transform how you feel about a place. 

Fix the floor plan

Some houses have a confused floor plan that can be very off-putting and make it hard to imagine how you will use the space. Assess whether rooms are fit for purpose or whether you could alter the general flow by changing how you use each area. It is worthwhile checking what walls are load-bearing as often big changes can be made for little outlay by knocking down walls that aren’t structural to create bigger living spaces.

Similarly have a look at traffic flow around the house. Are doorways placed correctly for fluid movement from room to room or is there an alternative placement that would encourage a seamless transition to each space? Also have a look at annoying things like rooms that have two or more entries – too many doors make a room disjointed and placement of furniture a hassle but it’s often an easy fix to close up some walls to make the room feel inviting.

Indoor/outdoor flow is a major consideration for modern living. If a property lacks a connection to the outdoors get your builder to assess the potential for opening up living spaces and give an estimate for how much it would cost. Often there will be a straightforward solution such as putting in French doors or building a deck with sliders to completely alter the atmosphere of a house.

First impressions

The kerb appeal of a house can play a big influence on how you view the rest of the property but it can often be something that can be improved without too much hassle. Look at the fencing and gate, front path, access to the front door and general presentation to see what can be improved. If the property is overgrown this is a quick fix to remedy, or it may be that some landscaping is needed to soften lines. Feature pots either side of the front door, an attractive outdoor light fitting, or a new front door itself are all little tweaks that can make a house feel more inviting.

If the section hasn’t been well-maintained it’s worth imagining what it would be like with a tidy up. Tatty fencing, areas that need water blasting, aged pavers and worn outdoor furniture are all cosmetic things that can influence how you view a property. Conjure up an image of how it would look with a makeover, some feature plants, a designated outdoor living area or some shelter to see if you can transform the section into a welcoming space. If the property is overlooked by neighbours a quick-growing lilly-pilly hedge may be the answer to any privacy concerns.

Words by: Sarah Beresford. Photography by: Rachel Kirby/Getty Images and bauersyndication.com.au.

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