You would think that I would be an old hand at househunting as an expat, I have been through the motions of moving house as an expat more times than I would like to remember. I think the websites I use have all my preference saved, as I once again go through the motions of searching for a new home to live in, four-bedroom – tick, three bathrooms – tick, close to amenities – tick, pets allowed – tick. House hunting as an expat, here we go again!
It feels like I am always looking on one real estate website or another. I am checking for the right area to live in, checking that the walking distance to public transport is feasible, and of course driving distance to schools, universities and work locations. There are a few things I tick off the list before speaking with an estate agent, and here they are.
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Location, Location, Location
The location to me when househunting as an expat is the most crucial part of the searching process; everything can go pear-shaped if the area is wrong. You may have your dream home, but at what cost? How far is your home from work, school, public transport, grocery store, medical practice, vet, park and friends? I always check the distance to all of the above before I choose an area suitable for our needs. The wrong area will make a big difference in your experience with your new posting (been there done that).
Finding the right Real Estate Agent when House Hunting
Having the wrong Estate Agent is a tricky one, because if the company has allocated someone to you. Or even worse if you like the agent that you have been dealing with, then this can leave you in a sticky position. So ensure that they understand your needs from the beginning. Otherwise, you spend precious time looking through homes that do not suit your family.
Type of Housing
Be aware that you can not compare your current home in your current city. Things like your budget, the area you are relocating to and of course, the style of available housing rentals, will all need to be considered and wayed up before your search begins. I usually check with other expats before house hunting; this will be a good indication of what you can get for your budget.
Apartment versus Landed house when house hunting
In the past, when househunting as an expat, we had always opted on a landed property when house hunting, especially when our house was full of noisy children. However, these days the luxury of low maintenance apartment living with facilities that we usually have to travel to is much more appealing. Do not forget there is also the option of serviced apartments that eliminate many of the issues living a transit lifestyle has.
Will your furniture fit? Do you need more furniture to fill it? Yes, my life has been a yoyo filled furniture driven ride with the constant headache of buying and selling furniture with every move. Expat facebook sites are the best source of furniture bargains. For most purchase second-hand furniture saves the trouble of bringing a container load of furniture with them. Warning – if you want to buy new furniture at your new destination then check sizes and cost, who knew bed sizes were different all around the world, I sure didn’t!
There honestly isn’t a one size fits all scenario when it comes to tenancy agreements. Each country has standard clauses; however, they do tend to throw in unexpected curve balls if you aren’t looking. Ensure that everything is legit and check with a third party, do not just take the real estate agents word (we learnt the hard way on this one).
Ask the estate agent when you are house hunting whether they know the Landlord personally, or whether the Landlord is a company, rather than an individual owner. There are a lot of other factors too, have they rented to other expats before? Have they been challenging to work with in the past? Is this their only property? Was this their family home? Having a good landlord can make such a difference to your mental well being (nope I am not exaggerating here I promise).
Generally speaking, it is hard to determine what your neighbours will be like before you move into your new home. It doesn’t hurt to ask around, especially if you know people in the neighbourhood already. I am pretty sure we have all had that one neighbour that made their life challenging while living next door. If you have contact with the current tenant, then this is the best person to ask. Generally, they would give you an honest answer (unless of course, they have ulterior motives).
Bring a tape measure when House Hunting.
The size of the room is essential to determine whether your furniture will fit. Before you head out to view properties ensure you measure beds, lounges and even TVs (yes, who knew a tv could be such an issue when determining a loungeroom size). These could all become a significant factor when determining your new home.
When you should start house hunting
It all comes down to timing, but this is a hard one, isn’t it? Start looking too early, and you risk scaring off your potential Landlord with a date that seems way too far down the track. Start viewing too late, and you risk all the excellent properties being scooped up before you get there. The general rule in house hunting is that most expats move at two times of the year, either at the end of the calendar year or at the end of the western hemispheres school calendar year. So househunting earlier is generally favourable.
Well, good luck on your househunting and remember that patience is a virtue! If you do not find the right home straight away, well there is always serviced apartments in the interim until you find the one for you.
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