My latest article is in The Age, Domain section today. Have a look if you’re thinking of buying or renting:
You’ve worked hard all week, but instead of settling down to a Netflix-binge this weekend, you have to go home hunting.
Whether you’re looking to rent or buy, house-hunting is time-consuming and can often be a chore. You trail around countless suburbs and open houses, struggling to find what you want and can afford, and while open houses can be helpful, they tend to brush the negatives under the pristine Ikea rug.
So when making the life-shaping decision about your next home, try to enjoy the whole process as much as possible by making every house-hunting expedition a day out. Start by taking a tour of your target area, exploring the main attractions and chatting to the people who live there.
Here are six ways to make sure an area is right for you, while also having some fun along the way.
Try the smashed avocado and coffee
One of the quickest ways to get to know a suburb is to head to a well-patronised cafe and have a latte with the locals. Assess the general vibe and friendliness of the staff and customers. Chat to the waiter or barista. They’ll know all the regulars and will have first-hand insight into the area and its residents.
Picnic at the local park
Pack a picnic and people watch in the park. What’s the environment like? Are the gardens well-maintained and litter-free? Is it a child-friendly space with well-designed playgrounds? Would you feel safe here at night?
If you’re into health and fitness, check out the sports facilities and walking tracks; and if you’re a pet-owner, make sure dogs are allowed.
Sample the weekend and nightlife
Visit the area on the weekend, and if you enjoy a night out, check out the local restaurants and bars. Is there enough variety and excitement to keep you entertained and are there good dining options for your tastes?
Alternatively, if you’re not a night-owl and relish the quiet, this is a good time to discover if your potential new neighbourhood becomes a chaotic tourist hub on Saturdays, or if the noise from the bars and clubs in the evenings would be unbearable.
Take a ride on public transport
Jump on a bus, tram or train to your potential new home to find out how accessible it is. Timing the journey is also a good idea. Note the frequency of services and the number of delays and cancellations. Consider travel time to the CBD and the walking distance from transport to the street where you may live. Journeys involving a change of train lines or bus routes require more time and effort, so take that into account.
Drop in at the local farmer’s market or town fair
Most suburbs hold a farmer’s market, town fair, fun-run or some other fundraising event that offers an ideal opportunity to get to know the people and the area’s environment and character. Decide if it’s the kind of community you’d want to be a part of and, potentially, a good place to raise a family.
Visit an Open Garden
In most states you’ll find open garden events during the warmer months, offering private garden viewings and information sessions.
Enjoy the magnificent gardens while you get an idea of local landscapes and architectural styles. Those with a green thumb will find plenty of inspiration for gardening, landscaping and outdoor living. Get answers to all your horticultural questions, and discover what kind of plants and flowers grow best in the area.