Expert Advice by Rich Harvey


Buying a home in Sydney with a limited budget can be a daunting challenge. With a population of over 4.76 million living in 665 suburbs radiating out from a spectacular harbour there are many options.  Most of us will end up buying between 3 to 5 homes in our lifetime as we move through different life stages so it’s a good idea to step back and plan your approach.  Here are some tips that will help make the process a little easier.


  1. Future proofing – Decide how long you plan to stay in your next home.  Is it a 3, 5, 10 or 20 year plan?  Will this home suit your future needs?  The cost of selling and stamp duty to change locations can be expensive, not to mention the hassle of moving every time.   Look forward and anticipate what your needs will be in the future.  Think about proximity to transport, schools, shops, friends and other social/ recreational activities.
  1. Write a Wishlist  - Clearly define your priorities from the start.  Write a list of what features are ‘essential’ and what ones are ‘preferable.’  While it’s nice to have a pool and a view, is this realistic for your budget?  Could you cope with a two bed apartment plus study nook rather than a 3 bed apartment?  What property type will best suit me and my family?  Unit, semi, townhouse, duplex, house, granny flat, mansion?
  1. Commuting - How long is the commute to work?  In Sydney’s congested traffic this is a critical decision factor.  You might think 90 minutes each way is ok now but this will impede on your family lifestyle after a few years.  While Palm Beach is a lovely location, the daily commute could send you mad.   Anticipate and imagine your daily routine.
  1. Renovation /Value adding potential – If you plan to renovate or extend make sure the street and the suburb can absorb the price increase you would expect on the sale.  It can be very easy to over-capitalise on a renovation!  Understand what you can do with your house and block of land in the future.  Things such as extensions, renovations, introduction of a swimming pool, tree-removal, etc. Buying an original 3 bed brick house on a good size block in a middle ring suburb can be a stepping stone to a larger home down the track. Or a one bed unit can be a step toward a two bed in the future.
  1. Functional floorplans - Analyse the current floor-plan. Can I change the floor plan easily to make the space more user friendly?  As you do your inspections think about how the floor plan might work for your family.  Is there enough living space, storage space, perhaps a rumpus area for noisy teenagers or a study nook for working at home?  Check if there is enough natural light and if the house has the right feel for you – it will be your home and you will want to enjoy the space and make it your haven.
  1. Know the locals. Get to know the local area by walking around to see what the neighbourhood is like and what recreational facilities it provides.  Visit the neighbourhood at different times of day and hang out in the local cafes and shops for a while.  Just stop and observe to pick up the “vibe” of the area.  Chat to the local shop keepers as they will happily give you insights.  Examine whether the neighbours are house-proud or if other houses in the street are in dire need of improvements.
  1. Is Development coming? Check if there are any new developments or rezoning planned near your new home.  You do not want a block of apartments being built next door or a child care centre that will increase traffic volume. Investigate the local councils future plans for the suburb. Find out if any major projects are in planning that may be either positive or detrimental to the value of your home. 
  1. Know the value – the profit is in buying at the right price.  Learn what surrounding homes are worth in your particular area.  Especially if the suburb is new to you – there may be large discrepancies between the value of similar houses in neighbouring suburbs.  Find out how many houses sell in the suburb – it is tightly held with few transactions or is there an abundance of sales.  Don’t rely on median house prices to indicate value – these can be misleading if the market is really moving .  Look for directly comparable sales of properties sold in the last 3 months and identify which streets and locations within a suburb are the most highly sort after.   There always seems to be a “golden triangle” in each suburb that the locals value highly.
  1. Transactional tips.  Have your finance and deposit ready.  Line up your solicitor or conveyancer to review the contract once you have negotiated the price.  Be in a position to move quickly if you need to. Show interest but not emotion. Don’t play it too hard but on the flip-side good selling agents will pick up on your emotion early – balance is important.
  1. Don’t be afraid to ask an expert – it will save you money and heartache in the long term.  Do your own research or seek the assistance of a buyer’s agent.  Do not trust the selling agent who only gives you the comparable sales that help the vendor’s cause.   Do not trust the selling agent who appears to be working for you.  A buyers’ agent will work on your side each step of the way, locating suitable properties, appraising value and guiding your decision making. 

Rich Harvey

Managing Director, propertybuyer

This article was written by Rich Harvey, founder and Managing Director of propertybuyer, Sydney & Australia’s most awarded Buyers Agents. Propertybuyer helps property investors and home buyers search and negotiate the right property at the right price, everytime.  For further details please visit or call +61 2 9975 3311 or 1300 655 615.

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Disclaimer: while due care is taken, the viewpoints expressed by contributors  do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Your Investment Property.