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Finding your forever house

By Monica Boyd

The “forever house” – real estate’s unicorn or an achievable property purchase?

For Melbourne’s Alastair Francis finding the perfect place was a pipe dream until recently. Renting a two-bedroom house in Surrey Hills, Francis was keen to find a roomier place to accommodate himself, partner Grace and his mother-in-law.

The definition of a forever house differs from person to person.

“Our criteria was it had to be close to a station, have extra space and be fairly newish so there would be no major maintenance issues,” he says.

“We went to a few open for inspections, but they had either gone before we got there or were just too expensive.”

The trio relocated their expectations to Mooroolbark, a further 25km east from Melbourne’s CBD, and found just what they were looking for.

“I had my reservations about leaving Surrey Hills, but Mooroolbark is a lovely suburb and we’ve settled in now,” Francis says.

“When you find the place that suits you, it’s such a relief. We have no plans to move.”

While the definition of a forever house differs from person to person, Antony Bucello, director and state manager of National Property Buyers, says there are some common hallmarks that make homeowners want to stay put.

Location paramount

A practical location is on everyone’s wishlist, but Bucello says a forever house is usually not found on a busy road or backing on to a railway. It has reasonable proximity to the CBD as well as good road and public transport access to the city. Local strip shops within walking distance are a must and a major shopping centre should be a short drive away.

Nearby primary and secondary schools as well as parklands are essential, particularly for families.

Streets ahead

Landing a good neighbourhood can be a roll of the dice. But there are some signs house hunters who never want to move again should look for.

“A bad streetscape – things like too many ordinary houses, no nature strips – can turn people off,” Bucello says.

“Tree-lined streets, good views, low traffic and a good neighbourhood vibe usually attract people.”

A fab floorplan

A forever house can be renovated or extended in the future, but for the present it needs to have good bones. In addition to being structurally sound, it needs a flowing floorplan.

Is the kitchen close to the dining? Are the toilets and bathrooms in a private area away from the living areas? Does the outdoor dining area flow from the indoors?

Position & privacy

No one wants neighbours prying into their backyard so cross any houses with overlooking properties off your list, says Bucello.

“All you can do is make sure overlooking properties aren’t there when you buy,” he says.

The orientation of the property on the land should invite lots of natural light. If not, check whether some well-placed skylights would fix the problem. by Kate Jones 03 MAR 2016

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