Thereās an art to visiting open homes. Rebecca Stevenson looks behind āthe vibeā and smell of baking as she searches for a new house.
Iām not exactly in the market for a new home, but I am in the market for open homes.
Let me explain. We own our home. Our home is a dump but I acknowledge in owning our home we are totally lucky, and weāve bought and sold in a rising market ā which is how we came to purchase a villa relatively close to the city centre about five years ago. But still with an unfathomably big mortgage.
It is, as they say, one of the worst houses on the best street. (In my view). Weāre surrounded by similar villas in various states of repair and dis. Now our house needs renovating. It is, as I euphemistically say, authentic.
We havenāt done anything proper to it. Weāve spent all the money we saved on heat pumps and carpet squares for the bedrooms and lounge. We have original kauri floorboards, rough sawn and charmingly uneven. We have original wiring, the light in our babyās bedroom doesnāt work and we get by, screwing the clip in bulb in and out. Part of his original kauri ceiling is starting to come away, but the stuff that grows out of it is sorted with a good suck of the vacuum.
We need to renovate our house. Or. Do we buy one thatās already done upā¦
So Iām in the market, if not for an actual home, for open homes. I want to stay in my area, so thatās where I start. I know I also want a renovated house, so I look for ones which are already done. And thereās three on over the weekend, all within walking distance. Too easy.
But I donāt want to become vulnerable to shiny new kitchen benchtops, a bunch of fresh flowers, and some baking smells. So, Iāve been pointed to this handy wee open home guide on the settled.govt.nz website, which is run by the government regulator, the Real Estate Authority.
The site has a useful summary of the sorts of issues to think about when youāre heading around home after home after home, with practical tips on what matters to look for ā not only in a home, but your potential neighbourhood too. Snoop around the neighbours, check the public transport routes, and what the local shops are like. We already live here, we know what it has and what it lacks. So thatās checked off.
Thereās also a comprehensive checklist you can take, and it really runs the gamut of potential real estate disasters from sad water pressure to sunken floorboards. Hereās what I found:
First house up. Itās a flat across the street and itās probably in worse condition than our house, so Iāve broken my only condition (a done up house) already, but such is house hunting. Always twists and turns. But itās got a higher position than our house, so Iām off to have a nosey.
This house really sucks. It hasnāt been cleaned properly in eons, and quite frankly I do not want to touch a thing. The toilet is outside for Peteās sake and the ceilings are a mix of orange smoke stains and dead things.
Itās in terrible nick. So most of the guideās questions about the outside are a write-off. Itās in awful, awful, condition and everything needs doing.
āCheck the storage in each of the rooms, hallways and garages,ā the guide tells me. āOpen doors and look inside.ā I wish I hadnāt. Itās gross. So I didnāt want to touch the cupboards. Sorry not sorry.
āDoes the property tick the boxes for what youāre looking for, for example, sun exposure, bedrooms, bathrooms, views and outdoor living?ā
Great sun, loads of bedrooms (four), but two of them are locked (WTF, itās not called a ālocked homeā), bathroom looks like a scarfie flat, the yard has an untamed upward slope but the views at the crest are killer. Cool.
āCheck the shower pressure, tap pressure and how well the toilets flush.ā
Now I have to take issue with this advice as an Aucklander who gets charged for water in and out. Nothing moves me faster than realising my kid has been in the shower for more than two minutes. If I was holding open homes and everyone flushed Iād be charging an entry fee.
But I would make an exception if you went back for a second visit. That shows intent and is a goodwill down payment, so Iāll allow it if your serious, and mortgages in central Auckland are way too big to put up with weak water pressure.
āCheck the outside walls, and roofs and look at the condition of the decks, fences, chimneys, garden and lawns. If there are wooden windows, check the condition of the putty and look for any rot or areas that have been filled. Check the condition of exterior paintwork. If the exterior is plaster cladding, check for cracks.ā
Itās all villas around these parts. Wood, wood and wood. Itās our brick chimneys that we worry about, and yep, this one has an oldie. That means dollars to remove it, dollars to keep it, and if you keep it itās a massive space suck. Sucks.
Not many boxes are getting ticked here, and despite the view and the romance, itās nowhere near enough to offset the checklistās fails. Ā
On to Number 2.Ā This house is across the park from ours, and wait, itās not a villa. Itās a brick number. So Iām immediately looking for stuff to hate on.
Itās renovated. Thatās a good start, but itās so fresh that the wardrobe doors arenāt on, and thereās some chunky painting that is also super fresh white too. Itās a nice house though and I am happy to touch stuff here, so letās get back to the list.
āCheck the condition of all doors and windows and see if they open and shut properly.ā
Itās all pretty new, and present and accounted for. I canāt complain. I head out onto a surprisingly small and angled deck and my god, there it is.
The entire backyard is covered by two double garages.
āCheck there is enough parking on the property and the street for you and your visitors.ā
Thatās a garage-tastic yes on that one. I donāt love it, I have to say. As the house already has a huge driveway and a stone-lined park near the front door. You could, on the upside, turn one half of the garage into a kids rumpus room. Sounds peaceful.
āRetaining walls: Check for cracks and sagging or bowing.ā
This house is a lower-lying property than we like. Itās got a significant retaining wall bordering a public park running along the length of the property. If you had to fix it, it would be definitely expensive ā and youāre also a touch overlooked.
Number three. Now this one is a bit of a trudge. Itās closer to the action and consequently the section is a touch more squished. Itās been renovated but itās a bit weird? Has it just been spruced up, but the fundamentals like piles been left undone?
āLook at the condition of the floor coverings. Check to see if the floors are level.ā
There does appear to be some sloping, but the floorboards look pretty solid. The website recommends taking a marble to roll along the floor, and I do, but just canāt make myself do it in the midst of this bustling open home. Itās a villa. Of course itās bung. But itās a big decision, so when you find somewhere you love, donāt be afraid to get out your marbles (or flush the toilet) before you bury yourself in debt.
āImagine youāre living there. Think about the rooms you plan to use a lot and move between them. Make sure the rooms are big enough for the furniture youād like to put in there.ā
Furniture is fine because Iād take the opportunity to turf our horrendously enormous corner couch too. But this is the real question. Can I imagine weāre all living there? Comparing my checklists, number three is definitely my fave. Am I really in the market? Not sure. But Iām heading back for a second visit this weekend, and this time Iām going to test the shower pressure.
Have a good look around. Open cupboards and turn on taps to check if the property meets your needs.
Itās a good idea to take a few photos when youāre there to help you remember the details, especially if youāre viewing a number of properties. Try to take someone with you to view each property ā itās helpful to get a second opinion. Take your time and walk around at your own pace ā you might live there one day.
This content is brought to you byĀ settled.govt.nz. Buying or selling a home is one of the biggest financial decisions youāll ever make. AtĀ settled.govt.nzĀ youāll find comprehensive, independent information to help you feel more in control ā and help to get you settled. From when youāre thinking of buying or selling, right through to when youāre moving in or out, youāll find information that will help you make informed decisions. Head toĀ settled.govt.nzĀ for more information.