We are often so excited about purchasing property that we may overlook faults when assessing potential homes. The prudent purchaser will be sure to perform a thorough investigation before signing that dotted line. Here are some of the pitfalls you can avoid which can result in you digging deeper into your pocket than you bargained for:
- Always view houses during the daytime as some faults may be less obvious during the evening or at night
- Check ceilings for stains or stripping paint. This may indicate leaking which must be fixed and immediate repair costs must be factored when buying a property.
- Where wood is being used in the home's construction, a termite trail could indicate possible structural damage. Termite treatment is necessary but more importantly, the source must be found and destroyed.
- Ask about the age of the house in relation to the types of pipes used in the plumbing. You may have to change to PVC piping if metal pipes were used and have become rusty or corroded.
- Ensure that you know if the house uses its own septic tank/absorption pit or central sewage. Be sure to locate the system if it is on the property. Additions to the house over the septic pit will likely be problematic in future.
- If you wish to purchase a property on top of a hill/slope, check to see that water run-off does not erode the soil. Make careful note of any soil erosion and the presence of retaining walls and/or terracing to control this.
- Check the age of the air conditioners if installed. Also check energy efficiency of the a/c unit, for example a 12'x12' room might use a 12000 BTU air conditioner. If you know you are going to be using the a/c a lot, you might want to invest in an inverter unit which conserves energy more than the average a/c unit.
- If a house is over 10 years old, there is the possibility that the electrical system cannot handle today's electrical needs. An indication of exceeded capacity may be the flickering of lights when a microwave is being run as well as an electric stove or even a toaster. Re-wiring might mean chipping of walls which can run you into the thousands of dollars as well.
- If land slopes towards the house, water might run into the foundation of the property resulting in a weakening structure and/or a mouldy smell. Make sure that there are adequate drains outside of the house (which are clear). Also check the walls for water stains which will indicate water seepage.
- If a powder room does not have windows, it should have exhaust fans.
- It is recommended that you engage the use of an engineer to perform structural assessments.
- When purchasing a town home, check to ensure that back-up facilities are in place - generator, water tank.
- Although strata plans may be restrictive, they are there to protect you and to maintain the general aesthetics of your property. Ask about the strata rules in place before you buy.
- Check out maintenance costs and what it covers when buying or renting a property in a complex - common areas, garden areas, pool, lighting, electronic gate etc
- When purchasing a home with gable or hip roofs in a hurricane belt, check to see if hurricane straps have been installed.
- Investigate open lots and empty houses near to a property you are purchasing. Ask how they are maintained, by whom and how often. This could mean not only maintaining property value for your house but security as well.
- Do prepare a needs list when shopping for a house for purchase or rental. Place the highest priorities at the top and assign a score to these needs. You will find it an easy choice when assessing two or more properties.
- Do not be shy to ask about the neighbours when seeking to invest in a property. Ask about the average age of the neighbours, their professions etc. You might find you have bought the "perfect" house with "not so perfect" neighbours.
- Check inside kitchen cupboards to assess the state of the wood. If there is some wood rot, it could mean expensive replacement.
- Remember to add 15% to the cost of the house as processing fees (transfer costs, stamp duty, attorney's costs, valuations etc). Many are caught unaware during a purchase that these costs must also be included in the purchase of a property.
- Be aware that mirrors in a house tend to make a room look larger than it really is. You might want to carry a tape measure to help with assessing room sizes.
- While the seller must provide all the facts if asked and should not deliberately misrepresent or fail to fully disclose the home's condition, the onus is on the purchaser to perform a full investigation before purchasing. It might mean involving an expert (your real estate dealer) to make an assessment. There is after all reason for the statement, "caveat emptor."