Why do we ne­glect the con­di­tion of our biggest in­vest­ment?

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY - Robin and Pa­tri­cia Sil­ver

START a con­ver­sa­tion with peo­ple who live in flats and it won’t be long be­fore they’re com­plain­ing about the high ser­vice charges and es­ca­lat­ing main­te­nance costs.

They want to en­joy the ben­e­fit of shared fa­cil­i­ties and not hav­ing to deal with things them­selves, but they sim­ply will not ac­cept that costs go up and are of­ten many times more than just a few years ago.

There is an ac­cep­tance that build­ing in­surance premi­ums may have in­creased and that the up­keep of gar­dens, lifts, win­dow clean­ing and light­ing com­mu­nal ar­eas all cost more than in pre­vi­ous years but there is a strong re­luc­tance to dig deeper into the pock­ets to pay for it.

You’ll soon hear the in­evitable, woe­ful ex­cla­ma­tion: “If I lived in my own house, I wouldn’t have to pay all these ex­penses and, even if I did have to pay some of them, I’d be in con­trol of them any way.”

Then there’s the killer blow that crops up when­ever some ma­jor build­ing works need to be car­ried out. There’s never enough cash in the sink­ing fund so an ad­di­tional, emer­gency levy has to be raised on all res­i­dents.

In those cases where re­serves have been built up over many years, there are grounds for the added com­plaint from flat own­ers who are just about to sell their apart­ments that they have been mak­ing con­tri­bu­tions for years and now that they’re mov­ing out they’re get­ting noth­ing back in re­turn.

They choose to over­look the fact that a well-main­tained build­ing makes for a more de­sir­able and valu­able prop­erty which should be eas­ier to sell.

At the end of the day, this is one of the com­pro­mises that has to be made when you choose to live in a more com­mu­nal en­vi­ron­ment with joint fa­cil­i­ties shared with your neigh­bours. In­di­vid­ual stand-alone home own­ers do not have to face this is­sue but all too of­ten sim­ply ig­nore prob­lems that oc­cur in the build­ing where they live.

Ig­nor­ing a small re­me­dial main­te­nance job can mean a much big­ger and far more ex­pen­sive re­pair a few years down the line. This par­tic­u­larly ap­plies to a roof, gut­ters and fall pipes, lead flash­ings and wooden win­dow frames.

As a nation, we re­spond so quickly and gen­er­ously to sup­port the re­pair and sav­ing of old build­ings. Just think of the vast num­ber of church re­pair ap­peals, the cam­paigns to save sea­side piers, rail­way sta­tions, wind­mills and open-air lido swim­ming pools and you will soon see how ironic it is that at times we are loath to do the same for our own homes. Too of­ten we as­sume that a roof should last at least a hun­dred years.

If it’s looked af­ter prop­erly, it may well do so, but if it is ne­glected, how­ever well-built in the first place, it sim­ply won’t last that long. Strangely, it’s com­mon prac­tice to have an an­nual in­spec­tion and main­te­nance con­tract for a cen­tral heat­ing boiler, a bur­glar alarm, a wash­ing ma­chine and a host of other ap­pli­ances but very rarely the build­ing in which they are fit­ted.

If there was ever an op­por­tu­nity for pro­fes­sional sur­vey­ors to pro­vide a valu­able ser­vice, then this is it! Af­ter all, a sur­vey is seen as a sen­si­ble mea­sure be­fore buy­ing a prop­erty so doesn’t it make sense to have a build­ing’s con­di­tion re­viewed at ap­pro­pri­ate in­ter­vals af­ter you’ve forked out all that money when you own it? When your car is three years old, by law it needs to pass an MOT in­spec­tion and, these days, a list of rec­om­men­da­tions for fu­ture re­pairs ac­com­pa­nies the cer­tifi­cate that is is­sued when the ve­hi­cle passes.

Quite frankly, it’s be­wil­der­ing that for most peo­ple, their biggest and most per­sonal pur­chase doesn’t merit a sim­i­lar check, to help pro­tect such a mas­sive in­vest­ment and at the same time, avoid the in­con­ve­nience of some­thing go­ing wrong in the very place called home.

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