Keep an open mind when searching for property

Tiny wooden house in a forest

The property searching process has often been likened to a filter funnel. In some ways no different from the decision process of buying a car or a piece of white ware. You set out your criteria - price, performance, style, look, capacity and then you narrow the field until you have spotted the right purchase item at the right price and at the right retailer. Not so different with property buying you would think?

Well the fact is, it’s very different.

For a start the application of those 5 criteria detailed above can create a vastly different set of options. The likelihood is that the list of possible properties will make it hard to objectively compare. Secondly and most importantly your refined and filtered selection will suffer from very limited stock availability - in fact there’s only ever one house.

In New Zealand we are seldom able to select from identical readily-available properties as we don’t really have big new developments of new houses where you can select what style, price range and location you want from a number of near identical options.

Given this reality of the searching process, it is really important to keep an open mind when undertaking the searching process and not to become blinkered as to the possible options that are open to you. Too often buyers become stressed because they become blinkered as to the range of options which seem to diminish in front of their eyes as candidate properties are snapped up by other buyers and the range of new offerings seems to constantly lack what is desired. There is a danger of becoming fixated on that one property - ‘that property’ which might have been the one that you missed out on because you were not ready with your finance, or had not had the time to visit, or because someone loved it more than you and they were prepared to pay more than you. This syndrome creates a false benchmark by which all other properties become judged and is likely to lead to frustration.

The best advice is to try and keep an open mind. As you go through the process certainly set up email alerts from the main websites for those key criteria, but try every few days take the time to browse around some properties that are outside your main requirements - so look at properties in other parts of town or that have a different configuration of main living rooms and bedrooms. This approach should allow you to de-clutter your mind from the self-imposed constraints and allow you to explore new options that might just highlight a property you had not thought of.

It is a well-known fact in the property buying process that there are just three key criteria you must juggle - price, location and size. It is highly unlikely that you will, in the process of searching for a home, be able to fullfill all three criteria precisely. You will have to compromise on one, be it price because you just have to have those 3 bedrooms and have to live in a specific location - so the budget blows out. Or you have to sacrifice that 3rd bedroom because the budget is not flexible and you cannot live anywhere else.

Another common blinkering constraint is around the current look and feel of the house and garden. A garden can be easily brought back to life if it has been neglected or equally it can be transformed from children's play area dominated by grass and trampoline, to a more flower and shrub based garden; harder if there is hard landscaping, but not impossible by any means. When it comes to the interior try to ignore the way the current owners have laid out the house, try and consider the rooms as just rooms - a bedroom could quite easily become an office or a playroom and vice versa. Clearly it is harder to make changes to bathrooms and kitchens without a certain degree of investment but it does not preclude that situation arising. Obviously look past the condition and choice of paint or furnishings. It seems an overstated fact but as a buyer you are not buying the house with the sellers furniture and choice of decor, it will be your furniture, your choice of decor and colour scheme. That prompts another thought.

How often do you hear of people mentally questioning if their sofa will fit this room or that room, or equally other pieces of furniture? The reality is the house purchase is often many hundreds of times the cost of a couch so why rule out a house for this reason?

The more you can retain an open mind the less should be the stress your experience around the process, the more you can be exposed to alternatives which could work for you, if you allow them the time to be considered. The reality is that we are by nature adaptable people, we can adjust to our surroundings and therefore you must at all times avoid that sense that there is just one house out there that perfectly suits your needs and believe ‘that house' will come along - if you wait long enough. That is highly unlikely to happen. So keep an open mind.