PREVENT A NASTY PROPERTY SURPRISETom Uhlich
HOMEBUYERS and real estate investors are being warned to watch out for the hidden traps that may be lurking in their potential purchases.
Leaky showers, cracked ceilings and self-opening doors and among the signs pointing to bigger and more costly “nasty surprises”, the Association of Building Consultants says.
Spokesman Chris Short says understanding a building’s condition and the likelihood of future repairs is vital when assessing a property purchase and managing a mortgage.
“Many homes are tidied up for sale, with the pre-sale spruce ranging from a basic clean through to bogging cracks, repainting, retiling and re-grouting, and even new floor coverings,” Short says.
“The makeover might look good, but it also masks what might be more sinister problems such as termite damage, salt damp, structural issues, unlicensed and dangerous electrical work, and more.
“For example, a leaky shower might seem harmless on the surface but if the leak is allowing water to flow into the soil next to your home, it’s likely to attract termites.”
Short says building inspections can be particularly valuable for investors who will not be living in the property they buy.
“You need to know it well so that you’re clear about urgent maintenance requirements to meet your obligations as a landlord – such as ensuring smoke alarms are hardwired – and the cost of long-term maintenance,” he says.
Property academic and author Peter Koulizos says beginners should always consider a building inspection.
He adds to make sure the report is a written one, rather than a verbal agreement.
“Some of my students have been able to negotiate the contract down by the repair amount or they have just pulled out,” he says.
Koulizos says when entering any property, potential buyers should take in a deep breath.
“If there is a musty smell, it’s a sign of salt damp,” he says.
Another thing to check is the perimeter of the house and make sure there are paths surrounding it.
“You can minimise cracking by keeping the moisture content of the soil fairly constant,” Koulizos says. “Paths around homes are not just there for decoration.”
HIDING A BIGGER PROBLEM?
- Cracks in ceilings and walls are hallmarks of footings sinking or rising, which causes the walls to flex.
- Other signs are doors out of square in their frames, self-closing and self-opening doors.
- Leaking hot water services, rainwater tanks and airconditioning pipes can create moisture that attracts termites.
- New floor tiles installed over old tiles can trap moisture between the tile layers.
- Cracked tiles and mould at the shower base and plaster bubbling on the wall in the room next to the bathroom are also signs of moisture.
- Any repair work to the building’s paths can provide an entry point for termites.