Top 10 building defects to look for when buying a home

No property is perfect. Each one will have some things that you might need to repair or want to improve. But it’s worth knowing whether or not the repairs decrease the value of the property.

Use this checklist to help you identify any issues before signing a contract or handing over any money:

Exterior Checklist

1. Position

Use the compass app on your mobile phone to determine whether the house is facing north or south. This is important because a north-facing house will ensure it is filled with natural light. You can always block out the sun with blinds and drapes and use air-conditioning in summer, but natural is important. South-facing homes will be colder all year round, dark and are more likely to experience issues with damp.

2. Garden

Many trees have as large a root system as the crown. What this means, is that if the tree is 15m across above ground, it may well be 15m across underground. Ensure that you’ve checked the position of any large trees and the implications of their root systems.

Also check whether they are deciduous or evergreen (they lose leaves in winter or keep them all year around). Leaf litter can be a hazard. By checking their foliage, fruit and nuts before you buy you may save yourself a lifetime of leaf-raking or pool cleaning. Tree removal is expensive.

The position of the house is important for a garden. If it’s a south-facing house the garden will be shaded, which depending on your location can be great (in a hot, dry climate) or not so great (in a cool, wet climate). .

3. Roof

Spend a few minutes looking up at the line of the roof. If it seems crooked or sagging there could be structural problems. If the gutters running from the roof to the downpipes show signs of rust, they are ready to replace or they may be blocked and flooding. If you can see cracked tiles, broken mortar, rusty corrugated iron or missing slates then you could be up for an expensive repair.

4. Plumbing

Signs of moisture damage and faulty drainage can be expensive to fix. Check for any external signs of cracked or broken pipes.

Follow the downpipes to the storm water soak wells. If there are signs of flooding near the base of the wells, they may be inadequate for the amount of water being flushed down. Enlarging storm wells can mean moving garden beds or digging up paving.

Inside checklist

If the plumbing has been done badly on the outside, the chances are it’s the same on the inside.

Internally, check shower stalls for mould or loose tiles. Flush toilets to see if the water drains slowly (tree roots in pipes?) or the cistern needs replacing (takes a long time to stop running).

Look inside kitchen cupboards near the sink and in the laundry as well. If the cupboards smell damp or there is a Damp Rid collector or Closet Camel in residence, you could be budgeting for additional expenditure.

1. Walls

It’s worth noting any cracks, damp spots, corrosion, and separation or signs that the owners have tried to repair the walls. Fine lines may be map cracking and mean the plaster has not been applied correctly. Signs of mould on the walls near the floor plate may indicate rising damp. Other signs of damp may indicate faulty plumbing, blocked gutters or a leaking roof. Mould may trigger allergies and may need professional cleaning to remove. Check for cracks around doors and windows. If there has been settlement, these cracks may be large.

2. Ceilings

Shine a torch (you can use your mobile) onto the ceiling. Any sagging may indicate water damage, termites, clumsy trade people, drywall problems or shoddy construction.

3. Electrical

If you see an unusual number of extension cords and adaptors you’ll probably find the house hasn’t been re-wired. Old houses with old electrical systems may indicate a date with an electrician is coming your way.

4. Floors

Listen when you are moving throughout the house for creaking or squeaking of timber floors. One trick is to take a marble with you and put it in the centre of a room. If the marble runs to the side of the room, it may indicate a dome-shaped floor and restumping may be needed. However, if it is an old enclosed veranda then you should expect a sloped floor (they were built that way so the rain would drain away from the house).

5. Cooling and heating

Make sure the heating and cooling are connected and working. Sometimes old heating and cooling appliances aren’t in working order or are installed incorrectly and end up costing hundreds of dollars in refitting or power bills.

6. History

Finally, it’s worth doing some searching on the internet about the suburb you are looking to buy in. If the area used to be zoned industrial, make sure you know what was there before the house was built. If the property is near to operational industrial land it is worth searching the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) website to make sure that there aren’t any businesses polluting the air or land around your new home.

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