What type of home do I want?

Would you prefer an older home or a new home, an apartment or bunglow ?

An older home can provide character in an established setting. Rooms are often large with decorative details. But don’t get carried away with the character and forget to think about the work and money that might be needed.

Here are a few things to consider

• the layout may not suit modern living – often the living rooms are at the front, away from the kitchen and private garden

• it can be hard to know what’s ‘behind’ the walls, so alterations can be expensive – builders may want to work for an hourly rate instead of giving a firm price

• the age may mean wiring, roofing, piles and plumbing need replacing

• sometimes even if you want to make small changes you’ll end up having to do other work to get consent

• some renovations need special care

Still keen? Check everything carefully, get expert advice first, compare as many homes as you can – and ideally find one where the major work has been done for you.

Do you want a new home?

New homes are generally well planned, need little maintenance and have modern kitchens and bathrooms. But you may have the extra costs of landscaping, buying curtains and carpets, and commuting. A new subdivision can take a while to start to look established. If you’re keen to build, read the section on building and renovating later on.

Do you want an apartment / Flat?

Living in the city is popular and an apartment can be the ideal first home or retirement unit. An apartment can provide convenience, security and less maintenance, and make it more affordable to live in a good location.

On the other hand, a small two bedroom apartment with no parking or outdoor space in town can sometimes cost more than a three bedroom home further out. And not all apartments are good investments.

Choose the right building

Apartments in older converted buildings can be a problem and make finance and insurance harder to get. Why? Because older buildings may need expensive maintenance, and many earlier conversions were poorly done by people out to make quick money.

There can also be problems with newer apartments, for example with building quality or sound proofing. And in some areas the large number of smaller, poorer quality apartments built has affected prices.

In general it’s not a good idea to buy ‘off the plans’ in a new complex where you have no proof of the finished quality.

Some owners spend years getting problems sorted out.

Get the right advice

Many people say they love apartment living and it’s one of the best moves they’ve made. But there can be pitfalls so it’s important to do your research and get good advice first. Here are a few tips to get you started

• talk to your local authority and ask them if they know of any problems – they do all the consents and inspections

• get advice from an independent valuer with experience of apartments in the area you’re looking – don’t rely on a developer’s valuation

• choose buildings by local architects, builders and developers with a good track record

• be wary of buildings where apartments often come up for sale – there may be problems with the building or society.

When you’re looking ask

• is there enough space to suit your lifestyle and belongings?

• does the home have the features you want?

• does it have storage and parking? Can you get in and out of the park easily?

• does it have good safety and fire prevention features?

• will noises and smells from the area bother you? Visit at different times to make sure what happens to the rubbish? Check it’s not stored near your unit

• can you hear the neighbors? Check for living and plumbing sounds at times others are home

• is there a society manager? If there is, meet them and ask how things run

• what work has been done recently and is there money put aside for new work?

• have there been any problems with the apartment or the complex, such as leaks, and what has been done about them?

• what are the society rules and the charges you have to pay?

• is there a fund or savings plan to cover large maintenance work?

• what are the other owners like – are they mainly owners or renters? This may affect how quiet and well kept the complex is

• what is the area like – how is it likely  to change in the future?