Five building checks to make
Beware before you buy
THERE’S nothing quite as exhilarating as finding the house of your dreams within your budget.
But be warned, even pictureperfect properties can hide faults which prove expensive to fix.
Colin Legg, founder of SPI Property Inspections, has been checking houses for faults for 15 years and says a building inspection is a must for any buyer.
“People know how to live in a house but few understand how they are constructed or appreciate how a seemingly small issue can result in expensive problems later on,” he said.
Mr Legg, who runs a team of 10, says buyers should engage an inspector who is a registered builder with plenty of experience.
“We look at the quality of workmanship and for structural problems or ongoing maintenance issues likely to cost money down the track, so a buyer can factor this in to their decision making,” he said.
So what should you look for before buying a house?
1. Signs of settlement
It is not unusual for the earth to settle underneath newly built properties, estates on reactive soils or areas experiencing an extended dry period.
While some settlement over time is to be expected, more severe movements can result in faults to a house’s slab or stumps, frame or other parts of its structure.
Look for cracking around doors and windows, in the outside brickwork or for doors not opening or closing properly.
Generally speaking, fine cracks are easily fixed, but persistent cracking or larger cracks (5mm plus) indicate an expensive fix.
2. Ceiling stains
Water moving from the roof down into the structure or living areas is always a problem and needs to be fixed immediately.
Mr Legg says buyers should look for stains on the ceiling – or evidence that stains have been painted over.
Buyers should also check outside, ensuring the roof gutters are clear, free of rust or any grass growing in them.
Every year, these wood-gnawing insects are responsible for millions of dollars of damage to timber frames, floors and stumps across Australia.
Mr Legg suggests the first place to look is under the house to ensure conditions are dry and there is no timber or other detritus lying around to attract termites who like to fester in damp conditions.
If a property has termites, they may leave thin muddy trails as they crawl up concrete stumps or across plaster, skirting boards and architraves.
Many houses built up to the 1980s used asbestos in the eaves of the roof or as underlining for floors and tiling in kitchen and bathrooms.
The best way to tell is by tapping the surface – if it makes a sound like hard glass it is probably asbestos.
Asbestos which remains sealed shouldn’t prove a problem but if you plan to renovate or an asbestos lining has become exposed, have it checked by an expert.
Never under any circumstances remove asbestos yourself.
It is a hazardous material and must be removed by a specialist.
Mr Legg says buyers can check the fuse box to see if it has recently been upgraded with a safety switch and circuit breaker to guard against dangerous short circuits.
He says buyers should also keep an eye open for any spot burn marks around power points.
These are a sure sign that the wiring needs to be checked by a licensed electrician.