Buying in the wrong area and not shopping around enough for the right property are the two main regrets of Australian buyers, according to a new survey. However, these mistakes are entirely avoidable if you do your research properly.

Home hunting is not a spectator sport. If you’re committed to finding a great home at the right price, you have to get off the couch and into the marketplace. You have to go to the open inspections, get to know a few agents, walk the neighbourhood and take notes in your inspection notebook. You have to attend auctions, record sales data, read the papers and keep your pulse on the market.

From my experience, the people who find and buy the best properties in the shortest timeframe are the ones who really immerse themselves in the search. They make it their part-time job. Buyers who dabble a bit here and there often end up struggling to find what they’re looking for.

The survey, done by Mortgage Choice, focused on first home buyers but it gives a good indication of buyer habits generally.

The most troubling statistic I found was that 43.5 per cent of buyers only looked at 0-10 properties before buying. Are you serious? You can see 10 properties in one Saturday alone! Buying property is a major financial decision and shouldn’t be done lightly. You’ve got to do your research and visiting numerous open homes is a big part of that.

I’m always surprised by how few buyers check out the neighbourhood they’re buying into. The survey found one in four buyers wish they’d bought in a different area and again, this comes back to research.

Looking at sales data, reading about the suburb and talking to agents are all important steps. But you’ll be amazed at how much you can learn by simply taking a walk. Stroll down the main street, see how busy the shops are, notice the people walking past you.  You’ll soon get a vibe for the area.

If you have a specific property in mind, stroll down neighbouring streets and sit outside the property at different times – at night, in the morning, during peak hour, after school. Remember, properties are shown at the time of day that suits the home best. From a buyer’s point of view, you want to make sure that at other times it’s an equally pleasant environment. This is particularly important if shops, schools, pubs and other community amenities are nearby.

If you spend a little time around the property, it will be easy to meet the locals.  It’s amazing what you can pick up on the grapevine. You might find out about local traffic conditions, problem neighbours, noise issues and proposed developments. Locals will be well-versed in the joys and challenges of living there and they have no reason to gild the lily.

Last but not least, attend auctions. Stand in the crowd and you’ll see what type of people live locally. Watch the bidding to get an idea of demand – is it fierce, are buyers cautious? Note the sale price and compare it to sales data from a year ago on similar homes.  And while you’re at it, take note of bidding strategies and auction procedures so you’ll be more prepared when you bid yourself!