Biggest Challenges for Home Buyers?

My wife and I bought our first place at the end of 2019 after researching (and continuing to save) for a few years. We were thankful when we were able to buy somewhere and even more thankful that the process of buying a house was over.

Throughout the process I was struck by how biased everything was toward sellers and the real estate agents who represented them. Price guides were one of the most frustrating things because the sale price at auction was always higher than the price guide advertised, but on top of that were the hoops needed to jump through in order to even get information about a property. It felt like real estate agents held all the power.

Agents and sellers aside, we also found it tough to find properties that appealed to both my wife and I, and then to prioritise those inspections (which were often overlapping). Many times we'd return from the inspection having found a huge dealbreaker that was not disclosed in the listing, and feel that we'd wasted our time.

All up it feels like the system is broken on purpose, and I'm exploring ways to make life easier for buyers, possibly through some kind of online service, especially as the property market heats up again.

For anyone who is looking at buying a house right now (or who has bought a house recently), what are some of the biggest challenges you've faced throughout the process?

Also would love to hear any helpful solutions you've found in the comments. Thanks!

Poll Options

  • 2
    Figuring out how much I can afford
  • 57
    Finding house listings that appeal to me
  • 16
    Finding house listings that appeal to me AND my partner/family
  • 14
    Getting accurate information about a property
  • 297
    Price discrepancies between listings and final sale price at auction
  • 7
    Having to provide my phone number, email and post code at every inspection
  • 13
    Dealing with the subsequent calls & emails from inspections
  • 17
    Getting building/pest/strata inspections
  • 6
    Prioritising inspections on the weekend

Comments

  • to put it simply, it's a sellers market right now…

    • Throughout the process I was struck by how biased everything was toward sellers and the real estate agents who represented them.

      If seller pays the agent you'd expect them to be working in their best interest not you as the buyer. Buyer beware. Same thing with mortgage brokers. It isn't really a free service.

      It is only a sellers market because there is enough people who would buy anything.

      • Thing is, it's the buyer who is paying the agent by paying for the property.

        • Same thing with mortgage brokers. The borrow pays the broker in a round about way but we all know how that turns out. Watched The Big Short?

          People only serves those who directly hands them the cheque.

        • what next china is paying wages for Australian mining workers and we should royal to china ?

        • But not hire by buyer 😂

    • Yes it is. Thinking about selling my IP now, especially since it's still CGT exempt.

    • If you state the range is 700-750k then they should be made to sell.

      How would you make them sell though?

      For the record, I do agree with you - I don't get how they're allowed to advertise a price range when they clearly know that the owner's reserve price is above the top of that range! It's a waste of everyone's time!

      • Sign something before it goes to Auction then that can be on the section 32. Otherwise they get fined a certain amount.

        • the price range is now $1 to $10m

        • so what happens when i sell a property say my reserve is $1 million, agent advertises it for $800k - $1million..

          some random developer comes out and want to pay $2 miiilion

          as the vendor. i wouldn't want to be held to the $1 million reserve even though i think that was a fair price.

          • @Archi: So then maybe they should remove the statement of information range for good then?

          • @Archi: If it's gone into the range it should sell. Im talking about properties that get passed in within the range…..

          • @Archi: If the developer is willing to pay $2m (and others are willing to bid the price up to that amount), you won't be held to that amount.

            The reserve only prevents it selling for less than that price … not more.

        • QLD has wacky rules about giving price guides … it's basically a hotter/colder system with the estate agent where you say what your budget is and they basically tell you if your close or not.

      • Often the vendor sets the reserve on the day. Or they request more than previously expected based on the interest. The RAE never knows what the vendor will decide the day of the auction.

        • Which is why the statement of information price should be changed to "False Hope Information"

          • @iNeed2Pee: It’s a tricky one because the realtor can advise but ultimately if the vendor wants to be selfish and expect their place will go for higher, then they have the right to do that. Also if there’s loads of buyers, they’re gonna drive the price up with FOMO.

            Before the pandemic, the SoI was pretty accurate. It was doing what it was meant to do.

            It is the vendors being greedy and buyers wanting to buy now that are mucking it up.

            • @jjjaar: Yeah I get what you mean. It is a tricky one but it would be good to have some accountability that way as well.

              • @iNeed2Pee: Oh 100%.

                There are loads of RAEs that are using it as an excuse for under quoting. It sucks because it was meant to be that accountability tool, but there’s always ways around it.

      • it is happening right now in Melbourne e.g advertised price was $800K-$880k went to auction and it got sold for $1.01M.
        Another one was private sale with price guide 660K-720K but it got sold 770K and the property wasn’t even “attractive” 3 bedroom 1 bathroom unrenovated.

        • Where I am even the advertised price houses are going up every few weeks.

          I'm tracking pretty much everything that is coming up as I'm looking to buy by the end of the year, anything that isn't gone within days is having its price raised every few weeks…

          • @johndoh89: I believe that's because legally they have to adjust the piece of vendor rejects a written offer based on price. At least in VIC that's the case.

            • @OpayuOnam: I'm in NSW, what's the point in advertising for a set price if you are only taking offers well above it? At that point just have an auction and set your reserve…

              No wonder the market is screwed if people are paying $30,000 over the 'asking' price…

              • @johndoh89: The market is screwed because people have decided that is how much they are willing to pay.
                If you followed it closely across covid you would have noticed that price halted for a bit during peak of lockdown but as the economy showed it is not tanking then it slowly raised up and then suddenly in the last couple of months has gone batshit crazy. It almost feels like people think we are running out of houses.

                As for price discrepancy, just look at what @Dodgy Bob mentioned. If he values a house 20% more than the asking price then that is up to him or the market to decide. Same goes for sell for set price, if someone comes and offers higher why on earth would the vendor reject it?
                At the end of the day there is a mixture of underquote, bad judgement and agents who are absolutely horrible at their jobs. If I was to sell a house I would tell the agent this is my asking price, sell it for that or more, no auctions no putting it advertising it below what I want, do your job right as you are getting paid for it. Of course I would have done my research and know the value of the house.

        • Not all agents are underquoting, some are just morons. I just bought a place for 20% more than the "offers over" price on the day it was listed because it was worth it and I didn't want to have fight the 30 other buyers that would have been interested if I'd let it go to an open home. The agent and the seller couldn't understand it but once the deal was done I showed the agent the data I've collected from dozens of recent transactions that have their price withheld (I have some great relationships with other agents). The agent sells maybe 10-15 properties a year across 6 or more suburbs, so if relying on their own data or only that which is released publicly, they just wouldn't understand how much the market has moved recently. We're definitely in a post-covid market and it's only those that realise this that are able to secure a home. Everyone still working off last year's prices are here complaining about being gazumped.
          If it sells for 100k more than you thought it would, it's not because the other buyer doesn't value money, it's just that you were wrong about the value of the property.
          It's worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it.
          Oh and in auctions, it's only ever worth a few dollars more than whatever the second highest bidder is willing to pay. The actual buyer is usually willing to pay more again, but doesn't have to unless there is someone willing to compete at that level.

    • I had an agent who said the vendor won't be taking offers before the auction and outlined terms were 90 days.

      The day before auction I get a random text asking please outline the terms and whether you are paying deposit by cheque or EFT. I was like: "did I just buy it prior to auction without knowing it or are they just trying to change the terms?"

      • 🤣. Congratulations on your purchase!

      • I've been finding out recently that it's important to agree to settlement terms before the auction, because if you don't and are the winning bid you are bound by theirs

        • I think if anything is bespoke then you are not really bidding for the same thing. I think you bid when you are agreeing to be bound by those terms.

  • Sounds very frustrating, where abouts were you guys looking to buy? Is it a particularly competitive market there?

    • We bought in the inner west in Sydney. It's pretty competitive although we were quite fortunate to only have three bidders at the auction for our place (and not many more registered). Other auctions we went to often had 2 or 3 times as many bidders - it was crazy!

  • Being able to afford anything at all.

    • I get that! We started looking almost 5 years before we bought, but quickly realised we weren't in a position to buy and needed to keep on saving. We feel very fortunate to have been even able to purchase something and did have some help from our family.

  • The most stupid thing is when the sellers reserve price is above the range they advertised for.

    • Why are price reserves allowed to be secret?

      • Because that is literally what an auction is. Otherwise it would just be a normal sale with you getting gazumped.

        • If it's secret, then I could just put a billion and then its effectively a bunch of EOIs.

        • I cannot comprehend how knowing the reserve before the auction or at least setting it within the range is going to negatively impact the auction? surely at each auction there is a big chunk of disappointed people who came in expecting the house to at least get on the market within the range? what type of "buyers" is the auction attracting when it is hiding the expected cost? I'd rather more genuine buyers fighting each other than people who came in expecting much less getting squeezed out of their last cents, like I'd honestly hate to see people go all in and be so under pressure to purchase whatever I have be it house, car or limited edition golden bees knees pokemon card.

          • @OpayuOnam:

            I'd honestly hate to see people go all in and be so under pressure to purchase whatever I have be it house, car or limited edition golden bees knees pokemon card

            So you don't believe in personal responsibility?

            • @MrBear: I believe that housing is a commodity not an investment vessel.
              As for other items, no I'd seriously won't feel right selling someone something beyond their means. I would either refuse to sell, give them discount or spend the time to find them a better deal… For real!

              That's why I sucked at my retail job, I had the highest customer satisfaction rate with lowest sales. Thankfully my store manager and colleagues appreciated what I did for the store, so always had my back with area manager. I'm so glad it was just a temporary gig while I was studying as it was very heart wrecking watching some people go through multiple credit cards paying for goods.

    • A fix to this would be too require reserves to be declared to the agent when listed and then the reserve must fall in the price range.

  • Definitely the price range.. even private sales are cooked. In the middle of covid I made an offer on an apartment that was listed at 455-500k, they flat out refused to accept an offer that didnt begin with a 5..

    Current auction market is stupid. I know someone that was specifically told to list their property for 20% less than what they wanted, attract a bunch of people, if its listed way too low then just increase the range a little bit. The whole 'comparable property' statement of info in Victoria is just stupid, they just pick 3 crap places on the worst street with half the amount of land and say 'ye comparable aye'. OR they pick 3 properties that are just a little bit worse, that sold 5 months and 29 days ago that are all at the top of the range that is being stated.. or if its a complete crapbox they say theres no comparables and list it at 30% less than what it will go for.. Cray cray..

    • Agree with this comment wholeheartedly. Even if you want to do your own comparison or research it's becoming more difficult when prices are constantly listed as "price withheld".

      • This is where sale prices should be listed as close to real time on a government website.
        It has to be reported at some stage to transfer ownership and to pay stamp duty, so the government gets the information eventually, but it should be reported as soon as the contract goes unconditional - so for auctions, on the day.
        This business of "witheld" is stupid.

  • Is there anyone here who bought a property using a buyer's agent?

    • Yep see below. I would 100% recommend it.

      • My wife contacted a buyer's agent recently and was told she couldn't help us unless we had 1.4m

        We just sold out 2br townhouse for a subdued record of $640k and houses are around the 800k mark. She basically said she can't even buy houses right now, there's just too much competition. Useless

    • I’ve done it for both my PPOR and an investment property. I seriously don’t understand why more people don’t use them

    • Yes I did. Saved me at least 100k. The market was a bit different in late 2019 when we bought.

      Managed to buy without going to auction- older couple not wanting to go through the stress. It was listed on Friday, the Mrs viewed on Saturday, buyer's agent picked me up from work on Monday morning for me to view. On the way arranged builder and spoke with conveyancer. We worked out our highest offer, and he dealt directly with the REA. House was purchased without reaching our limit.

      It cost approximately $10,000, but if it wasn't for him taking me to see it someone else would have snapped it up!

    • How does one find a good buyer's agent?

  • It felt like real estate agents held all the power.

    I used a buyers advocate to buy my first home. I'm of no doubt that this certainly helped us sway the buying process back to a more even keel.

    They were an ex real-estate agent themselves so they know all the tricks of the trade and had a vast network of agents with off the books properties or ones with backstories where we could try to squeeze a good deal.

    Buyers advocates are under utilized IMO and solve many of the issues you identified in the OP already. The expertise, inside knowledge, help with negotiation etc was worth it for a modest fee IMO.

    • Thanks Skramit. That's really helpful. We did consider this but then the fee seemed a bit too hard to justify, especially when pretty much every $ was going towards the deposit. Do you mind my asking whether it was a fixed rate or a percentage? If a percentage, how much?

      • Everyones perception of value for money is different. At first I was a bit aghast of the fee structure like you…. but when you consider the potential service they offer…. if can lead to good value.

        This was on our first home buy a few years ago now, I'm pretty certain we saved about $50k off the purchase price by using this buyers advocate. The house was avertised for $630, we ended up getting it for $550 because the advocate found out from the agent selling it through his networking, that it had been on the market for a while and the person selling it was hitting crunch time of having to pay for their new place in a retirement home. So we went in with a lowball offer with a signed deposit cheque as advised by the advocate to help the negotiation…. and it worked.

        I cant remember the exact fee but it was around $2000 or something. And it was basically 'no buy no fee' if we found our own house and bought it without him (even whilst he was still looking for us) we didnt have to pay the fee.

        Through that whole process, he probably spent 6 weeks of looking at houses with us, getting us private inspections, evalutaing he houses with us as we walked through and going over the hidden gems or issues with each property. Money well spent IMO.

        • Thats a great price, money well spent on the buyers agent. Someone I know charges 2.2% of the selling price as their commission.

          • @hashtagbargain: I think that buyers advocates are largely a service aimed at 'wealthier' home buyers who have cash to splash and are happy to pay big fees for somebody else to do all the hard work. "Go and find me a house by the beach" kind of buyers. So seeing 2.2% doesnt surprise me at all.

            However we negotiated with our buyers advocate a fee that worked for us as first home buyers. We also factored the fees in to our home loan calculations, like a lot of the other fees involved with buying your first home.

          • @hashtagbargain: Wouldn't a percentage commission give them reason to work against you? If they knew you could spend $x amount, they might not negotiate any lower because it would affect their pay-day?

            Sure, you'll get some good ones working for you, but you'll get the unsavoury just working their own interests (like some brokers)

            • @aragornelessar: It's similar to the commission when selling a house.

              It's generally better for the agent to sell quickly rather than higher. Tha's why the agents will talk you down to meet a price rather than staying firm. Staying firma may mean an extra week/months work, where if you sell now they only miss a small amount of commission.

              So for a buyers agent going for that higher price may risk missing that deal. How much more work do they have to do to find the next house?

              • @dizzle:

                So for a buyers agent going for that higher price may risk missing that deal. How much more work do they have to do to find the next house?

                But they wouldn't be risking going for the higher price - they'd likely ask you what your budget is at the very start, and say you say it's $500k. Through their contacts etc, they find a house you'd like and they know the vendor is willing to go as low as $450k. What's in it for them if they know you're willing to go to $500k anyway? Goodwill and word of mouth might be the only things I can think of.. and from the people I've met in the industry, many don't care for that when compared to $$$ signs!

        • The house was avertised for $630, we ended up getting it for $550 because the advocate found out from the agent selling it through his networking, that it had been on the market for a while

          I dont think that would happen much anymore

          • @pharkurnell: Yes i agree. No chance in hot markets like Sydney and Melbourne.

            I looked at buyers advocates a few years back and I think they are a massive rip off. Pretty much their only value is "maybe" finding a property for sale before it launches a formal marketing campaign but what are the odds you a) like that property and b) even if you do, you're going to have to bid a healthy number to even have a chance of consideration by the vendor. Most vendors are going to auction because they know how hot things are and they don't want to undersell themselves.

            In terms of negotiation, again, in a hot market you really need to offer your best price because of the competition because low-balling will just mean you miss out again and again. As a buyer you just need to know your firm boundaries when negotiating. Getting a "bargain" in a hot market is impossible and getting a bargain in Melbourne or Sydney has been almost impossible for the last 5 years. GFC was one bargain point you got lucky or at the start of COVID.

        • If you don’t mind me asking, how did you come across the buyers agent? My friend is considering a career change into becoming one (has helped over 20 friends with purchases!) but has no idea where to start

  • sold grandma's house for 22% above the market price at Canley vale 2 weeks ago.

  • I would say getting into the market and getting approved for a loan is hard enough!

    • Not that hard mate

      • +11 votes

        Your privilege is showing. There are heaps of people who struggle to get approved for a loan with low wages, casualisation, contract work, high living expenses, cash-in-hand work etc. There are many reasons why a bank wouldn't approve a loan. It's not impossible, but it isn't always easy for everyone.

        • Your privilege is showing

          Don't want to sound rude. But maybe you just aren't in the financial position to be able to afford a house atm.

          • @serpserpserp: You're being negged because that is a rude and dumb comment, not to mention presumptuous. I wasn't talking about myself necessarily, but I know there are heaps of people who have saved up enough for a deposit but for some of those reasons above have issues with being pre-approved for a loan.

            • @kanmen:

              t I know there are heaps of people who have saved up enough for a deposit

              Having a deposit does not mean you are financially viable for a home loan. Keep saving, you'll get there.

              Think about it if it was your money. Would you want to lend it to someone that has a casual or cash in hand for the next 30 years?

        • Unfortunately home ownership isn't available for everyone, despite as much as we want it to be.

  • Only getting 15-20 minutes to look at a place with lots of other people looking at the same time, then within a few hours offers are made and decided upon.

    • +15 votes

      Yeah, I find it hard to fathom this. I spend 2 months deciding on a new $600 monitor and compare every minute detail. Can't imagine doing this on a $1M house.

      • You literally don't get given the time to do so. Houses in Newcastle are selling within a week.

      • I bought my house with only viewing it online and literally seeing it for the first time on auction day. I think once you know what you want you don't need a lot of time. You can get builders and engineers etc to look at a place in a non auction environment but it isn't a given that they'll pick up defects that'll put you off buying.

        A mate of mine bought a place in the pandemic, had a ton of professionals look it over. Doing reno's now those same professionals have now found faults in the building and they sure aren't going to refund their fees or cut him a deal for the issues they missed!

  • The ACT has mandatory building inspection reports to be provided by the seller. The absence of this requirement in Victoria is frustrating.

    • agreed. that's why I always ask the agent to use www.beforeyoubid.com.au to make sure.!

    • Honestly this should be a thing Australia wide. We don't have it in SA either.

      • Not disagreeing, but there is a chance that the agent works with the same inspectors, that then "pad" the report in the REAs favour. I wouldn't expect them to deny big things (like the presence of termites), but they could easily miss small items.

        It's like relying on the other persons lawyer to provide you advice. They are doing it for their client, not you.

        • You would need a legislative scheme with good monitoring. The ACT scheme appears to offer good protection for buyers:

          "The building and pest inspector preparing building and pest inspection reports must hold appropriate professional indemnity insurance. The professional indemnity insurance must provide for a minimum limit of indemnity of $500,000 or another amount determined in writing by the Minister.

          The building and pest inspector must not be a relation to the seller. It is an offence for an inspector to make false or misleading statements or omit anything from an inspection report. Penalties apply for non compliance with the Civil Law (Sale of Residential Property) Act 2003."

  • IMO theres a lot of aspects that really annoy me, not that some of them isn't expected though.

    Theres properties that I see as "just listed" and then the agent tells me its already been purchased? Like is it that fast? And why not remove it?

    Figuring out how much I can afford was hard as well I went with a few brokers who basically told me "don't come back until you have xxx dollars essentially" (nice about it of course). Only to talk to the bank who was saying that I have more then enough, which was an interesting discrepancy. I also found banks told me more about other ways to get a loan (grants/etc) and specifics of the bank (specific numbers they look for or history) which I thought the brokers would've done. In saying that though I found an awesome broker in the end, so I guess my point is "ask everyone"?

    Price and listing is probably the biggest ones for me, anything good is snapped up quick, anything bad you'll likely quickly find a reason why its bad, so it hard to get something that fits. Also I've been told even with pre-approval it can depend a lot on what the bank is willing to let you borrow if they don't value it equally.

    Biggest pet peeve personally though is talking to agents who aren't authentic. I know thats there job and I expect some sales, but I have a really hard time buying from people thats not transparent. Especially in ways where someone may have done their research before, for example telling me the place is almost sold, so put in an offer QUICK! When I know its been sitting there for 9 months now and is still sitting there 4 months later. Another agent was asked about a sinking fund, and she said "I don't know, I don't know, how about I text the owner and whatever they reply with I'll forward to you". Like you're selling a $450K apartment and you don't know anything about the sinking fund? I ended up asking another real estate agent selling in the same building who actually told me that If I'm interested they'll get me the strata minutes.

    Last thing is probably the process overall and if you've done enough. Like did I check the place enough, did I talk to the right peole, was there someone I was supposed to talk to earlier? It just feels like such a massive amount of money and not really a clear guide for me, that I ended up on youtube looking at others thoughts.

    • You know real estate agents are just Joe blows off the street. They aren't exactly top of their game people or they would have decent jobs instead.

      Also being a real estate seller in Australia is probably the easiest country in the world to do it in. Houses sell themselves.

  • The only way you will meet buyers' requirements is to make the reserve public prior to the auction.

    Whether or not this would change the end price for the vendor is the real question.