Buying a house checklist: What to look for & consider

JAMES HURWOOD
3 June 2017
You might think a particular house looks perfect for you, which it very well might be, but there a tonne of other things to consider when buying a house beyond what the colours of the wall are.

It’s one of the biggest purchases you are ever likely to make, and it can end up being a serious time-sink – but it’s easy to let your heart rule your head when it comes to buying a house.

There’s a huge number of things to consider when buying a house, and most of them are more important than paint colours. With that in mind, Canstar has put together our very own ‘buying a house checklist’ – with a few (unemotional) things to keep in mind when attending the myriad of houses you’ll look at as a prospective home-buyer.

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Here’s our 10 things to look for when you’re buying a house:

  1. Consider where you really want to live
  2. Is the house close to important facilities?
  3. Does the house have the right number of rooms to suit your needs?
  4. Are the building and roof structurally sound?
  5. What are neighbourhood noise levels like?
  6. Does the house have good natural light?
  7. Does the house have adequate power?
  8. Is there any sign of termite activity?
  9. Are there any planned developments nearby?
  10. Is the garden suitable?

Ready to buy? Find out how to buy a house with our guide.

Now for the detailed considerations…

1. What makes us want to call a new suburb home?

When it came to house hunting, everyone will want something different in terms of their built environment. Affordability will obviously be a top criterion, but peace and quiet, good schools, shops and a low crime rate are also likely to be important. Check out Canstar’s summary of the top 10 fastest selling suburbs around Australia as of January 2017:

TAS: Montagu Bay at 5 days Moving to a new suburb
VIC: Tooradin at 8 days
NSW: Lapstone at 9 days
QLD: Keperra at 10 days
WA: Daglish at 14 days
ACT: Ainslie at 16 days
SA: Melrose Park and Rosewater tied at 25 days
NT: The Gap at 41 days
Source: CoreLogic, Jan 2016 – Jan 2017.

Suburb aside, let’s examine what makes for an attractive home!

If you’re in the market for a new home loan, see our comparison table below which features some of the best products on our database sorted by comparison rate and with links to lenders’ websites.


The table above displays a snapshot of fixed & variable rate home loans available for first home buyers on Canstar’s database, with links to providers’ websites.
Source: Canstar. Based on residential fixed & variable home loans available for a loan amount of $500K at 80% LVR, and available for Principal and Interest repayments.
*Comparison rate based on loan amount of $150,000. Read the Comparison Rate Warning.

The table above displays a snapshot of fixed & variable rate home loans available for Refinance on Canstar’s database, with links to providers’ websites.
Source: Canstar. Based on residential fixed & variable home loans available for a loan amount of $500K at 80% LVR, and available for Principal and Interest repayments.
*Comparison rate based on loan amount of $150,000. Read the Comparison Rate Warning.


The table above displays a snapshot of fixed & variable rate home loans available for Investing on Canstar’s database, with links to providers’ websites.
Source: Canstar. Based on residential fixed & variable home loans available for a loan amount of $500K at 80% LVR, and available for Principal and Interest repayments.
*Comparison rate based on loan amount of $150,000. Read the Comparison Rate Warning.

2. Is the house close to facilities that are important to you?

Unless you want to live rural, making sure that prospective future homes have at least some level of proximity to the essentials is probably important to you. You may want to look for a house that’s walking distance (a subjective term if ever there was one) from the following as a minimum:

  • A small set of shops, or at least a convenience store of some description
  • A park, or some other kind of significant green space
  • Public transport (being able to get to work or your regular engagements without the use of a car is useful)

Closeness to facilities may be especially high on the list of things to consider when buying a house for families. If you have kids, consider how close to their school(s) you want to be, along with school catchment areas. Obviously living within walking distance of them may not be possible (or practical in the case of inner-city schools), but you don’t want to leave yourself stuck with a half-hour drive every morning to get the kids to class.


Maybe try looking for houses that aren’t necessarily walking distance from the schools in question, but that your children could comfortably catch public transport from and to or ride a bike to.

New house near schools

3. Does the house have the right number and configuration of rooms to suit your needs?

This one might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s on our buying a home checklist for a reason. Obviously you won’t spend more than a second or two figuring out the number of rooms the house has, but how those rooms are configured is where your noggin needs to start joggin’.

When it comes to rooms, you should consider the following:

  • How close are the bedrooms to the living room(s)?

It might not seem like a big deal, but if you end up with a bedroom that’s directly next to the room with the TV in it, you might be in for a sleepless night if you decide to turn in early. Look for a house where the living room is a reasonable distance from the bedrooms.

  • Do any of the bedrooms face the west?

The cardinal directions aren’t something that you might have at the forefront of your mind when inspecting homes, but believe us when we say that compass points are definitely one of the most important things to ask about when buying a house, especially when it comes to bedrooms. Bedrooms that face west can get very warm, very quickly, and that goes for all times of the year, not just summer. A home with a single western-facing bedroom is forgivable, especially if you plan on using it as a guest room, but if the majority (or all) of a home’s bedrooms face to the west, then that’s a deal breaker in our opinion.

  • What does the future hold?

Were you planning on having a kid/another kid anytime soon? Maybe you’ve got a parent who may need to come and live with you in the future due to illness? Either way, consider the number of rooms you’ll need in the future, rather than the number of rooms you may need right now.

4. Are the building and roof structurally sound?

This one isn’t on our list of ‘things to ask when buying a house’; it’s on our list of ‘things to figure out the answer to yourself’. What we mean by that is that when it comes to the structural safety of any given building, we don’t recommend taking the agent’s word for it. Get an independent building inspection done, and go from there.

We’d also recommend having a building inspector check out the overall build quality of the home, along with the various fittings, the level of insulation, etc. According to House Search Australia, this can reveal issues with the building you wouldn’t have uncovered by yourself, which can actually end up being useful to you.

Director Jacques Parker says, “Not only will it reveal what the dwelling is really like (warts and all) but may provide a further negotiating tool should the vendor not be aware of some faults.”

Problems with construction and build quality can also be a deal breaker if severe enough, so it’s important that you be prepared to deal with that potential heartbreak.