I think, the first step when buying anything is to set your budget. Next it helps if you can decide on which geographical areas to focus your search on. Ok I don't know much about this aspect but I was thinking something like, you can change the inside of your house but you can't change the outside. So location, location, location. And your neighbours. You probably intend to eventually sell the house, so consider resale value - existing location, changes in location (e.g. new train lines nearby), changes in property values, and anything about the house that improves or hinders your chances of selling it in the future (e.g. a swimming pool in a HDB flat. Or converting an entire room into a fish pond. Or even small things like moving the toilet bowl to another location. I read about someone asking if he could replace his stove with a bookshelf since he never cooked).
RenovationThis section is my real aim in writing this post. Things to look out for during inspection that will save/cost you in renovations. I feel I didn't do my inspections well because during every visit, my entire group got distracted by, "oh, this is a nice design, or we should change this, or we can use this room for that", instead of critically looking for flaws in the property. Good diversion by the seller and their agent, I guess. Ok so here are the things, from most to least likely, that you will consider renovating.
- Painting. I hear this is pretty much given. It's a cost-effective method to enliven and spruce up a place and can change its whole feel. I mean, people even do it when they aren't moving. Price varies by size and kind of paint used. I guess you should look at existing wall coverings and if you need to pay extra to get them removed (wallpaper!). Also consider things you won't change (e.g. window frames, cupboards, flooring) which will limit your colour options.
- Toilet fixtures and tiling. From what I hear, this is the 2nd most common thing to change. I guess people find using others' toilets gross? So budget to change this. HDB toilet options are pretty limited, so the costs should be easy to estimate. I mean each toilet will have 1 toilet bowl here and 1 sink here... so tearing everything down will cost the same.
- Kitchen stove (hob) and hood. Again, usually replaced. The past 3 things are most likely going, so there's no need to inspect them closely. Just look for big problems like leaky pipes, mould, especially on the ceiling.
- Kitchen counter/cabinets. This is where you can start saving money. Replacing the counter is going to cost at least $1000, and the cabinets several times that. So if these are in good condition, that's several thousand saved. Remember to look inside the cabinets and try out the hinges. Also consider the layout and size of the fridge alcove, if you can live with that. Oh, the part of the wall behind the counter - what's it called, the backsplash? Is also at least $1000 for a tempered glass one.
- Flooring. Flooring is a big big expenditure so you have to decide if you're gonna keep it or not. Consider if the existing flooring will last as long as you intend to keep the house.
- Cabinets. Several thousand dollars more if you're going to build a TV console, wardrobe, etc.
- Windows. This is what I really want to talk about. HDB has always been particular about windows, and they've just started requiring a $3000 permit for window work. That's for the permit alone. CHECK THE WINDOWS! The hinges, everything! Be prepared to pay if they need any work!
- Electrical. I think companies charge extra if you add electrical points, lights, etc. In a modern house, Internet access is more important than gas, so you might consider Wi-Fi reception, places to put the router, and even LAN cabling. For more pizazz, lay a HDMI cable from the TV to the couch so you can either use the TV as a monitor, or control your TV from the sofa.
Things You Can't SeeThings that affect your house, that you can't tell during an inspection
- Neighbours. This is a huge huge issue. I think I don't have to emphasise how important good neighbours are.
- Noise. Traffic, trains, people activity nearby.
- Weather/seasons. What directions the Sun shines in. Places that leak when raining. Not relevant to Singapore but things in other seasons, insulation, burst pipes, I dunno.