Check a property thoroughly before buying
THERE’S no shortage of horror stories about people who have bought a property that looked fine on the outside but which, in fact, hid serious defects.
Major problems and faults can cost property buyers many thousands of dollars to fix.
So how can you avoid buying a lemon? The rule is to buy your first home using your head, not your heart. This means thoroughly assessing properties for signs of existing problems and problems that may occur in the future.
When inspecting a property, you should do two types of checks. The first is your own initial appraisal and the second if you’re serious about the property – is to bring in the experts.
A good way to go about your inspection is to divide the property into three areas – the inside, the outside and the surrounding land and structures.
The following is a list of things to look for.
Insider’s tip: If you have friends or family who have recently bought a property or have expertise in this area, ask them to come with you. They may be able to give you some pointers and they might be more objective. Inside the dwelling: Water pressure: Turn on the taps and check water pressure and colour and how well it drains.
Damp: Check for stains, water marks and paint damage. Sellers will sometimes paint over damp to hide it, so use your sense of smell.
Cracks in the walls, or doors that stick: These can be signs of subsidence or movement.
Sticking windows: If windows don’t open and close properly, the frames may have warped or rusted. New paint jobs can hide both. You can tell if wood is going to rot by pressing it with your finger – if soft, there’s a problem.
Mould: If there’s mould in the bathroom, it usually means a ventilation problem.
New paint: Paint is often used to hide faults.
Bathroom: Check for damaged enamel and broken surfaces. Loose grout and cracked or lifting tiles can be signs of water damage. Check the plumbing for leaks.
Hot water: Ask the age and performance of the unit and when last serviced.
Insulation: If you can, look through the manhole into the roof to check the age and condition of the insulation and ask whether the walls are insulated.
Pests: Look for signs of pest trouble, such as rat or mousetraps or poisons. Sagging floors, springy floors and steps, as well as hollowsounding beams, can all be signs of termite damage.
Electrical wiring: Old-fashioned switches and sockets can be signs of old wiring that could need replacing.
Heating and cooling systems: Inquire about the age of the units, their service records and whether they are running well.
Floor coverings: Check the carpets for wear and tear, and decide whether they’ll need replacing. Lift any rugs to make sure they’re not covering any damage.
Kitchen and laundry: Check the age and quality of the bench tops and cupboards.
Decor: Consider how much redecoration needs to be done.
Renovations: If you’re planning to renovate, it pays to go a step further and check the ease with which tiles can be lifted and carpets removed. If you can and it’s safe to do so, get under the house to see if floorboards can be polished or whether they need replacing. Think about how much work the kitchen and bathrooms will need. Outside the dwelling: Orientation: Check which direction the house faces and if living areas will be too hot or cold.
Fuse box: Make sure it meets safety requirements. If you have doubts, get an electrician to check the box and the house wiring before you buy.
Guttering: Look for disrepair. Check whether the downpipes and drainage are in order and fixed well to the stormwater drain.
Asbestos: Ask whether asbestos has been used. Most often, it’s in walls, roofing and fencing. It is always best to have asbestos assessed and removed professionally. Inhaling asbestos dust can cause serious health problems.
Roof: Check tiles. A sagging or undulating roof can be a sign of underlying structural issues.
General appearance: Check the overall state and look for damaged windows, cracks in bricks or cement work and whether the house needs to be repainted.
Extensions: Check the quality of the workmanship on any extensions and ask to see the council approvals.
Surrounding land and structures:
Trees: Trees nearing the end of their lives can pose a danger and be quite expensive to remove.
After your inspection, reflect for a moment on what you’ve discovered. Document your findings and estimate how much any repairs will cost.
Weigh up whether the costs outweigh the benefits of buying the property.
If you still want to proceed with the purchase, it’s time to bring in the experts.