I wish I knew where I saw it written. Am pretty sure it was in a newspaper, a real estate lift-out guide perhaps.

It said before you buy, you need to have looked at 50 houses, to determine the kind of structure you are looking for, its relative cost when compared to surround suburbs to be able to narrow down the actual value – ensuring it is as close as possible to your budget.

Yep, that’s what I read. I wouldn’t make something like that up.

So we did. We looked at 50 houses – not in the paper – in the flesh ! Oh dear, what process. I had no idea how competitive cities are, how many bad houses are out there, how awful some people’s choices are, and how desperately you can long for one particular perfect house, miss out on it at auction and never look back. It ended up taking 8 months to buy our house and 90% of our weekends included house inspections.

In the end, we didn’t buy a bouncy-castle house. They might look fun from the outside, but once inside it’s easy to be deflated. Bouncy castle houses are fun & attention-grabbing but without substance. Instead, we learnt lots about styles and features (mostly what we didn’t want) which was a very important part of the exercise as it helped define what we wanted in a sea of choice.


Here’s a smattering of houses we bid on at auction or made offers for.

Some observations about property to avoid in Adelaide include:

1) The villa vacuum

We saw lots of lovely Victorian villas (from the front). They are such a feature of this city that no doubt someone reading this will have one and be offended. We LOVED them so – at first. But like a bouncy castle, they were all show without substance. Made of stone (cold) and only 4 bedrooms really with an extension you’d have to rip off and start again with. For $900 000 ! I know ! It’s crazy ! We are renting one and it’s cracked, cold in winter and hot in summer. That Adelaidians love their old homes is admirable – from a materials sustainability perspective. But unless you’re on the north side of the street, they are wrong. Dark, damp – and still trendy. And a maintenance money pit. Absolutely lovely to look at from the streetscape – but how these are as desirable as they are I don’t know.

2) The Lego

We saw quite a few of these. Like Lego, you just keep adding & adding. Then it falls over. There’s simply nothing you can do to fix this house. Money has been thrown at it, to get sunny vistas, to get extra bedrooms, another bathroom, etc. The problem is the house design was poor to begin with. The Californian bungalows with the living areas smack bang in the middle of the house are one kind. The afterthought teen bedroom jutting out into the backyard. Materials that weren’t great to begin with, then additions that are worse. Oh my.

3) The dark side of the street

Despite having all the features we needed, there were 4 houses we liked initially but then we went inside. The bedrooms all faced the sunny side of the street and the main living spaces were in shade. The idea that a building can be built without sunny outdoor space still seems lost on people. It didn’t take us too long to immediately rule out any house that wasn’t orientated correctly, no matter looks or price or convenience.

I would definitely recommend spending as much time looking as you possibly can when buying a house. Give it a year, double the size of the area you’re looking to buy in, make up wish lists of features you want (old vs new, single vs. double storey, street type, streetscape, diversity of building styles and sizes, access to transport, slope, orientation, materials, architectural style) and be relentless in your pursuit of what’s smart over what seems beautiful. Cos’ in the end good liveability IS the most beautiful quality of a home.