Anyone looking for a home will naturally be focused primarily on the dwelling itself. You want it to be in good condition, have the amount of room you need and include the features and style that suit your requirements. However, are you giving sufficient attention to broader issues about the property and its location? Are you judging it on how it will impact on your overall lifestyle? There are many important things that may not be so obvious until you actually live in that home and in that neighbourhood.

You don’t want to leave it until after you have moved in to find out that there are some major downsides that have gone undetected in all the “new home excitement”. Here are ten tips to help you take a step back and assess the big picture before you make the leap.

Develop your own checklist. Being clear in your own mind about such issues is essential before you start looking at properties, so take the time to get your needs and priorities down in writing, so you can assess them as objectively as possible as you make inspections.

These top ten tips will help you look beyond the bricks and mortar.

1. Does it suit your lifestyle?
While the home may have stylish inclusions, plenty of space and be spotlessly kept, you need to look beyond this and consider if it fits your actual lifestyle.

For example, it may have an impressive formal dining room and a lavish games room, but if you tend to entertain more casually outdoors and don’t fancy playing billiards then these features may be more of a burden than a blessing.

Put down in writing what lifestyle issues are most important to you and compare each property to you list to see how it stacks up.

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Make sure the aesthetics of a home does not outweigh the practicality of the place

2. Ease of access
An impressive home that has great water views may seem very appealing, but this may distract you from some practical issues that may not be in its favour.

If it is located at the top of a 40 metre driveway on a 30 degree slope then this may become a major issue once you are living there day in and day out. This is particularly relevant if you are looking at the property to take you well into retirement when the knees may not be so ‘hill friendly’.

3. Light and shade
Another big issue that may be pushed too far down the list of priorities is aspect. It may not be top of mind when you are inspecting, but this can be a major factor in how enjoyable the home is in the long term.

A property on the south side of a hill, for example, may look lovely at 10am on a spring morning, but may become bleak and miserable at 4pm on a winter’s afternoon. This is a major lifestyle factor that may not hit home until you have lived in it.

Take a close look at the terrain and aspect and be studious in establishing what point of the compass it faces. To gain a more realistic impression of the aspect and light, make a few visits at different times of the day.

4. Weather exposure
If it’s a coastal property, is it exposed to strong winds and salt air? If it is inland, does it sit in a heat sink area, or will it catch a cooling evening breeze? If it is in a warm climate, does it have sufficient shade and protection from trees and good sized eaves and verandahs to mitigate the heat? Assessing such factors may take some research and imagination, but they are not things you should leave to chance.

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Shutters are a great way to insulate your property

5. Heating and cooling
Depending on which part of the country you are located, the heating and cooling provisions in the home may be major factors for comfort and lifestyle appeal. Ducted air conditioning in tropical climates, for instance, may be a mandatory and you don’t want to be caught with the expense of having to install such features.

6. Kitchen and laundry
The amount of time spent in these two key rooms on a day to day basis makes them critical rooms to assess. Do you want a kitchen that is open to living areas for socialising, or do you prefer to cook with some privacy? Do you have specific features, such as gas appliances or extra bench space that are important to you? Does the laundry have comfortable access to the living areas of the house, or is it tucked away in a lonely corner? Make a list of your key requirements before you start looking at properties.

7. Howdy neighbour
This can be a big one if you don’t do your homework. Check the amount of privacy from all windows in the home and from various parts of the perimeter of the property – particularly around the main entertaining and living areas.

You don’t want a neighbour’s second story peering into your pool area or back patio. This is another issue that can benefit from a few visits at different times of day/night to check on neighbour activity and noise.

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Choose an ideal neighbourhood to suit your lifestyle

8. Shopping convenience
This is such an easy factor to leave in the background of your property selection, yet it can have such a big influence on day to day living. Check out how close you are to major shopping centres and consider what traffic issues there may be in getting there at peak shopping times. Is there a smaller convenience store within a short walk? Are there specialty stores nearby that are im-portant to your needs, such as a bottle shop, baker, deli or newsagent? What about restaurants and cafes?

9. How does your garden grow?
An elaborate, lush garden may look like an attractive feature when you are considering a property, but it may be a major burden when you have to live there and look after it. Be realistic about how green your thumbs are and how much time you will actually want to spend week to week tending a garden.

For some it may be an enjoyable lifestyle activity and for others it will just be a chore that takes them away from what they really want to do. Make sure you are clear on what you want, before you even get to the front door of the home.

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Creating a garden can be fun but also a lot of work so ensure you are clear on what you want

10. Traffic and noise
These are issues that may not be very apparent at every hour of the day, so do your research on how the home will be affected by noise at peak traffic times. Spend enough time in the area at different times of the day too, so that you can assess any noise sources that may not be so visible.

A location near a public park may look pretty, but what is it like on a Sunday afternoon when there are families picnicking there? Are there schools and businesses near the property – these can cause quite a bit of noise and traffic congestion at certain times, even if the neighbourhood looks serene for most of the day.

A home located near a local club may seem to offer conven-ience for the occasional night out or daytime activities, but what is it like at closing time on a Saturday night as revellers make their way along your street?

What features or aspects do you feel are important in property selection? Share your thoughts below.