You’ve got the baby, now you need the house in the suburbs to create the perfect parenting life! What do you need to look for in a first home – especially if you’re on a budget? This is the “first home buyers guide for parents” – how to choose the right first property that will grow with your little family.
First home buyers on a single income
For most people, the first home you buy will be all about sacrifice. Not just sacrifices needed to make the mortgage every month, but sacrificing those dream features for affordability. Who has a deposit ready for a million dollar home on one income – NOBODY. So, when it comes to those ‘first home buyer choices” these are the priorities for parents.
Is the property safe for little people
- Is it fenced, or can it be fenced on a budget?
- Is there a crawl space under the house, if so, is it secured?
- Is there flaking paint or asbestos at toddler height that needs immediate addressing?
- Are any stairs or doorways a suitable width for a baby gate?
- Is the “potential nursery” quiet?
- Can the kitchen area be baby gated?
- Is the house free from mould, bugs and other nasties that can cause respiratory problems?
- Do the neighbours appear to be considerate (and responsible dog owners if applicable)?
- Has the property been well maintained and cared for (this will save you a lot of grief long term)?
- Are all patios, fences and verandas compliant with anti climb heights and “safe gaps”? Read more here.
- Does the yard have any poisonous trees that will need removing?
- Is the property in a safe area?
- And of course, does it pass its building and pest inspection (see a sample report here). There’s nothing worse than climbing the property ladder into debt, not profit!
Will the property grow with your family?
First home buyers get stuck with those tiny 2 bedroom cottages far too often. Consider moving out a post code or two if it means being able to stay in your first home a little longer. Usually, the longer you stay, the more you’ll have to spend on your dream home. When buying a first home, make plans for what you’ll need to buy your second home. This means roughly calculating when you’ll move to somewhere bigger – and putting a savings plan in place. If it looks like you’re going to be in your first home for ten years, there’s more to consider than baby gating!
- Will your child be able to play outside? Is it a quiet street?
- Is it a neighbourhood well established for families (lots of kids, room to scoot or skate etc)
- Are there parks nearby?
- Is it in a school catchment that you’re satisfied with?
- Is there room for your next baby?
- Is the property close to childcare, shops and public transport?
- Is there room for your child to have his own space as he grows?
- Is there shady trees or room to plant them to make outdoor play possible in summer?
Wish list items
While the wish list may be thin on a first home buyer’s budget, there are a few key bonus items worth investing in:
- Cul-de-sac living. A quiet cul-de-sac full of kids makes for a very happy childhood
- Nearby nature and cool playgrounds. Having somewhere to go to tire your pre-schooler out will be a big benefit
- Close to support. If you can buy close to grandma, then you’ve got someone to turn to in an emergency (or when you just need a bleeding hour to yourself!)
- A backyard. If you’re first home is to be a flat, opt for a block with a grassy play area for kids. If getting outside means packing up prams and nappy bags and the whole rigmarole of leaving the house in early childhood, you may find it all too hard. So many parents opt for apartments as an affordable first home, but a decent outdoor play area is a must.
- A second toilet. A second toilet will make everyone’s life easier long term.
- Space. A rumpus or other “space” where your child can run amok without causing a constant trip hazard for those around her will give your child a more free-range childhood. Outdoors is fine… all the better to get messy!
No matter which first home you choose, it’s going to be a special and important part of your child’s life. First home buyers may need to sacrifice a few of the wish list items to get on board the property ladder but once there, you’re assuring your child of a brighter financial future.
This is a guest contribution from Andrew Mackintosh, owner of Brisbane Building and Pest Inspection Company Action Property Inspections. Andrew has been making recommendations to first home buyers for almost three decades.