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Couples encouraged to play the long game

In this new six-part series, West Real Estate explores the best homes for different buyer demographics. In part three, we take a look at what couples should consider when buying a home.

Generally enjoying significantly more borrowing capacity, it tends to be far easier for couples to get their foot in the door of the property market than singles, and they comprise the vast majority of the homebuying demographic.

For young couples, even those without children, Realmark North Coastal Real Estate Agent Aaron Green’s number one tip was to purchase a home that was future-proof.

“Buy something too big for you, because even if you may not think you’ll have kids or get married, you’re better off getting your first house as something that you would grow into,” he said, as opposed to buying a smaller property you’d have to move from in a few years.

“In six or seven years’ time you might say, ‘we’re married now’, or ‘we have a child and the house is too small’. Then you have to pay stamp duty again, as well as agent fees and marketing costs.

“You’re better off with a house you can see yourself in for a good 20 years.”

Budget was the determining factor for most young couples encountered by LJ Hooker Kalamunda and Foothills Principal Grant Winning.

In the suburbs he operates, Mr Winning said the “bottom of the hill”, that is, High Wycombe, Forrestfield and Maida Vale, was more geared towards young couples and first-time buyers than the family-oriented ‘top of the hill’, being Lesmurdie, Kalamunda and Gooseberry Hill – albeit not exclusively.

“We have a fair percentage of those professional couples or older couples where the kids have flown the coop and they’re looking for more of a lifestyle property to suit themselves,” he said. “But for young couples entering the market, it can be difficult to get something they want for their budget at the top of the hill because properties are a lot more expensive.

“They are probably going to need to be prepared to do some work on the home that they purchase up there to get something in their price range, whereas they’re going to get a lot more bang for their buck down the bottom of the hill.”

For those couples with children, or thinking about having a family, priorities tended to gravitate towards proximity to schooling, parks, public transport and shopping, whereas couples with no plans to raise a family sought more lifestyle and amenity-based locations close to town centres, Mr Winning said.

Dealing predominantly in the northern coastal suburbs, Mr Green said many couples who may have previously considered buying in Scarborough were starting to look increasingly at the slower suburban pace of Duncraig, but added they needed to remain cognisant of their means.

“They’re getting that land portion that is still close to the beach, and there’s not so much high-density living” he said. “But the problem is sometimes their budget doesn’t facilitate their taste.”

An older property with a good, solid floor plan and scope for improvements is far more beneficial than a high-priced trendy abode on the cusp of a buyer’s lending capacity, Mr Green said.

“As long as you get the right floor plan – good separation of kids bedrooms off the hallway, not off living areas, and a kitchen, dining and living area that looks out to a pool or grassed area, that’s the winner,” he said. “And if you have to sell it again, you won’t get stuck.

“It’s the old saying, Rome wasn’t built in a day. A lot of these people get so distracted with wanting to have everything now, and they’ll go into debt up to their eyeballs. It pays to slow down and buy something that needs work. Then you can slowly add to it.

“You’ve got to hold real estate for the long term.”

Mr Winning agreed and said a pragmatic approach was key.

“Lots of couples want low-maintenance, lock-up-and-leave – they want it all done for them,” he said. “But if you buy something that needs work and you get in there and make the improvements, then you’ll hopefully reap the benefits of it.”

Mr Winning said there was no time like the present for young couples to become homeowners, and prices were likely to increase in the near future.

“The property cycle is still at a low,” he said. “We think we’re going to see some change in that sooner rather than later because at the moment demand is quite high as supply is very low.

“So, you can argue there’s never been a better time to get in the market.”

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