Investing in time is your biggest windfall

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Shop around. These two words describe the best possible philosophy in any sphere of real estate — be it buying, building, renovating, searching for a mortgage or insurance, or simply choosing an agent to sell your home. 

And while it’s easier said than done, each of these requirements will take time and energy to carry out. But it’s worth remembering that your efforts will be rewarded many times over in terms of self-satisfaction, presentation and many happy returns. 

The ‘keep it simple’ rule applies. Overcomplicating any matter can only lead to communication breakdowns, arguments and unnecessary stress for all parties. 

It is often said that you make money in real estate when you buy (rather than sell), so acquiring local knowledge will avoid the chance of overpaying, and the long-term negatives of added interest and overleveraging that accompany one of the property market’s most derided moves. 

Assess your priority list

By doing your homework, not only do you know what you are paying for, but you also acquire knowledge of the local market and the best people to help shape your future. 

As any buyer discovers, their budget will govern exactly where and what they can buy. But prioritising your wish list (i.e. size, location, house type) and focusing on a particular area are the first steps in the right direction. This may entail driving through the streets of an area you like and highlighting a target area to start searching seriously. 

Flexibility is the key

Depending on whether you are a first-home buyer or are looking to add to your investment portfolio, keeping an open mind is just as crucial to the process as the time-honoured principles of price, position and potential. 

Buying the worst house in the best street is always sound advice, however, one should always be wary of over-capitalising, especially if planning to renovate.

Set your limits

Shopping around and knowing one’s limits, financially speaking, will largely remove panic buying during auction competition while allowing you to stick to a game plan and reap the rewards in the long term. 

The same can be said for house and contents insurance, with special rates often offered to existing policyholders. 

Adhere to a financial plan

The next step is finance. Conventional wisdom suggests that mortgage expenses should not exceed one-third of your salary, which is where shopping around for the best loan product can also help.

Whether you opt for the cheapest mortgage rate or the flexibility of mortgage offset accounts depends largely on the individual, but be sure to read the fine print of honeymoon loans, as what appears attractive is likely to have some restriction or catch.