The Little Known Features Architects Look For When Buying A House That Others Don't

Design floors.

Image: Eoghan Lewis Architects

Buying a house is a lot like buying a car. You might have an idea in your head about what you want, but once you start shopping around, your mind’s likely to change. Every man and his dog has an opinion on what you should do, and there’s so much conflicting advice out there… And you almost wish you were a mechanic, so you knew what to look for.

Just as a car dealer and mechanic are likely to have different perspectives on what makes a good car, a real estate agent and an architect look for very different things when it comes to shopping for houses. Of course, the classic real estate agent adage of “location, location, location” has some truth to it, but finding the right house for you isn’t just a matter of postcode.

David Kidston, founder of boutique Newcastle firm HACK Architecture, shared what he looks for in a home with – and his insights are rather surprising.

One of your foremost considerations, especially in the harsh Australian climate, should be how the property interacts with the elements.

“Good cross ventilation of a home will not only reduce the reliance on an air conditioner in the summer, but will also reduce the likelihood of mould growth and make the property a healthier place to live over time,” he explains.

“Do the window types and locations offer good cross ventilation? Awning windows offer more limited ventilation than a casement window or louvres. Another impact on this might be any noise source that is external to the house that would prevent the window being used for ventilation, such as heavy traffic.”

Temperature management is an often overlooked feature of buildings that will make a huge difference to your quality of life in the long run. Small features can make a big difference, too: for example, “high ceilings will always make a space feel larger than it is… [and] will also make the home feel cooler,” he relates.

Another key consideration is sunlight. “A property with a rear yard to the north… offers potential to place the living area to the rear of the home, if not already located here, and direct sunlight to these living areas. Direct sunlight from the north is relatively easy to control, to allow in through winter and keep out through the summer. This orientation also gives best access to outdoor spaces from the living areas, and ultimately gets the best use of your outdoor spaces as part of the living area.”

Green space and the use of wood as a building material not only helps with temperature management and air quality, but also has tangible mental health benefits. Image: studioplusthree

It’s also worth being realistic about the future life of a home.

“Over time, renovations or alterations are like to be carried out on the property. Having property that offers easy adaption will help. Well-located bathrooms and kitchens are especially important. These are costly items to be moving and make future renovations more complex. Don’t forget to eye that layout carefully.”

“If you are considering buying an older home watch out for poor quality renovations. Sometimes these will devalue a property as there is a lot more work to be done to correct the poorly thought out and poorly constructed owner-builder projects… For new properties, keep an eye on the quality of workmanship, and ask questions if you want to know more.”

It’s not just the house you’re looking at buying that’s important, either.

“What impact do nearby properties have on the one you are considering? Do they overshadow your whole back yard and render it dark or damp year-round? Or will they impede any future changes you’d likely want to make to the property? These factors can have a big impact on how you – or possible tenants – live in the property – and not items that can be easily changed.”

Kidston also has a perspective on what you shouldn’t worry about.

“Features, paint colours and floor coverings are things not likely to be around in 20 years time anyway… Don’t get hung up on them.”

Finally – keep your emotions balanced. There’s nothing wrong with being pragmatic, but buying a house should be a special experience – don’t be afraid to take a risk. DMARGE recently caught up with Edward Brown, director at Australia’s leading real estate provider Belle Property, who says you need to “educate yourself [but] don’t try to overthink… Pay what you think it is worth and be prepared to have a buffer but also pay that little bit more to secure the property.”

“You don’t want to be that person who just keeps missing out because you keep trying to be too pragmatic about price of the property. Ask yourself: ‘how important is your time and the journey in the search for a new home?’ If you find something that ticks most of the boxes for you; jump at it because there might not be another one.”

In short? Be the architect, real estate agent and house shopper all rolled into one.

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