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Villa or Villain? What to Look for When Buying a Pre-1940s Home

The charm and character of pre-1940s homes can be very appealing to potential buyers. Many of us are especially drawn to villas with their ‘chocolate box’ prettiness and graceful lines decorating many suburbs. However, it’s important to be aware of the possible pitfalls that come with owning this gracious older property. 

One of the biggest concerns is the possibility of having ‘problems’ that your insurance might not cover. Some of these issues you might be able to spot yourself, but others might need a qualified building inspector to uncover.

Four key areas to consider before buying a pre-1940s home

1. The roof over your head

The condition of an older house’s roof should be one of the first things you check before buying. Has it been reroofed? If not, it’s likely to be sporting a near-100 year old cap!

  • Look for signs of wear and tear, such as missing or damaged sheets or fixings, leaks, or sagging.
  • Find out if the roof has been replaced, and if so, when and with what materials.
  • Reroofing can be expensive, so factor this cost into your decision-making process.

Read more about common types of roofing in New Zealand.

2. The electrical wiring

Old wiring is a major fire hazard. If the wiring in the home is original, you may need to have it replaced before you can get insurance. Not sure what you’re taking on? Check the switchboard for the home which will give you an indicator of what sort of wiring you’re buying. Are you looking at an old ‘fuse’ type of board, or a newer circuit breaker one? While it might not need replacing right away, an older switchboard can mean it won’t handle the load of a modern household full of 21st century technology. 

Your property inspection report can give you peace of mind when it comes to important and potentially expensive repairs.

Learn more about electrical – building basics.

3. The foundation

Every building needs a stable foundation and it’s important to know what you’re getting before you buy. In older homes, unless they’ve been re-piled, the chances are that cracks in the foundation, uneven floors, doors and windows that stick can be signs of issues. These can all be very expensive to repair, which is why your property inspector will be closely checking your foundations.

Find out how your property inspector can spot what’s happening underneath.

4. What’s behind the walls?

Last but not least, is a lesser-known, but hidden hazard: scrim and sarking lying behind the wallboard or gib. Scrim is a type of hessian sacking, which was commonly used in pre-1935 houses. Sarking is (usually very dry) old timber or wooden boards that the scrim is tacked or stapled to. 

Due to its flammable nature, this wall lining is seen as a significant fire risk. Many insurers will require proof of its removal or replacement before agreeing to cover your home. But what if there’s no sign of it and the walls are smooth and ‘modern’? Don’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet. If it’s been gibbed over, or tastefully renovated, you might never know it’s there… but your knowledgeable property inspector knows what to look for, and will report back.

The bottom line – when buying ‘old’, factor in extra costs

It is important to note that these are just a few of the things to consider when buying a pre-1940s home. When making an offer, be sure to factor in the cost of any potential repairs that may be needed. While buying ‘character’, especially a sought-after villa, can be a great investment, it’s important to be aware of its shortcomings! 

By doing your research and getting the property inspected, you can help to avoid any surprises down the road. Go into your next purchase with your eyes wide open. For true peace of mind, book your comprehensive pre-purchase inspection with the Property Inspectors today on 027 2939 808.

Don’t let new construction fool you: Why you still need a home inspection for a new build.

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You have to jump through a lot of hoops these days to buy a house, and the last thing you need once you’ve purchased is a home that throws up some expensive issues, like a new roof, leaks or re-piling. You might think that by investing in new construction you’ll be able to avoid any major issues, but that’s not always the case.

That’s why it’s so important to book a property inspection before you hand over that last payment. The reality is that any home – even new ones – can have issues that you probably won’t spot, but your registered property inspector will.

But I’ve got a Master Build Guarantee?

While a Master Build 10-Year Guarantee can give you comfort, it only covers specific items and only if the building company is still around. Check your agreement VERY carefully as most of the time the 10-year warranty is for structural only. Waterproofing cover might be half of that period.

There have been plenty of cases where the standard of work carried out by builders, or the materials used have fallen short (think leaky homes). Even if the builder is still in business, getting them back to remediate any issues is often half the struggle. That’s why it’s a great idea to pick up any problem, finishes or areas that aren’t up to scratch before you sign off on the deal. Remember, as soon as you finalise payment, you’ve lost a lot of your leverage.

Uncover hidden defects

At The Property Inspectors, we offer a ‘defecting inspection’ which is less around weathertightness and risk and more around visual defects and the overall look of the property. The inspection might note:

  • paint defects
  • plastering not being done properly
  • squeaking floors
  • appliances that don’t work or aren’t installed correctly.

It’s a comprehensive walkaround to pick up all the things a layperson might not notice.

One of the biggest issues I’m seeing in new builds is shoddy internal plastering, with wide joints, popping screws etc., which compromise the whole look and feel of the home.

Image credit: Unsplash

Guard against shoddy workmanship

As well as picking up on those visual defects, your property inspector is also on the lookout for sub-par workmanship – and I’ve seen a few rippers across my career! A new build I saw recently had the shower and toilet on the same wall, with the toilet offset (not centred in the gap) by about 150 millimetres. A little thing, but a visual headache that’s likely to drive you nuts after a while – and expensive to fix. Many other issues are serious and can have long-term consequences for the structural integrity of your home like:

  • showers that don’t drain
  • cracked tiles (which will let in water and moisture)
  • flashings not fixed or screwed (likely to lift off in the first big breeze)
  • roofs damaged, bent, rusty or not fastened well.  

All of the information in your report gives you leverage to go back to the building company to get everything up to scratch before you buy.

New build does not always mean ‘Healthy Home’

The Healthy Homes Standards were brought in to ensure a better standard of dwelling for tenants and focus on key areas like adequate insulation, heating, ventilation and draught proofing. A BIG misconception is that most people think a new house automatically meets the standards – but they’d be wrong. So if you’re planning on renting out your new build purchase, you’ll have to dig into the details. E.g., there’s no regulation to put heating into a new build, but it’s a mandatory requirement for Healthy Homes.

Peace of mind

Your property inspection gives you an independent review of your new build, so you don’t just have to take the building company’s word for it. It’s no longer just ‘you versus the builders’ if something goes wrong. So before you hand over your final cheque and sign off your acceptance, make sure you book a comprehensive report with me and the team. Peace of mind is just a phone call away! Call 027 2939 808 today.

Who Does House Inspections? All You Need To Know About Pre-Purchase Inspections

Who Does House Inspections? All You Need To Know About Pre-Purchase Inspections

What inspections should I get when buying a house

What inspections should I get when buying a house – The importance of Home Inspections

What Do Home Inspectors Do

What Do Home Inspectors Do?

Spring cleaning: What’s winter done to your potential home purchase?

Spring at last! With the turn of the season, you might have a new house (or first home) in your sights, but the very damp autumn/winter in many parts of the country has left plenty of properties looking worse for wear. 

With wet, gloomy weather, exterior maintenance often slips – but in property inspection land, this is great! It gives your property inspector the perfect chance to suss out any problems or red flags that might not have been as visible in sunny, dry weather. And when it’s all documented in a comprehensive report, you’ll have in your hands a heads-up about future costs and repairs.

Here are some of the things your property inspector will be checking:

How’s the roof?

Lichen and moss can build up on roofs over time, and if left unchecked, they can cause damage. Winter is also the time any leaks are likely to become obvious, so your property inspector will be on the lookout for visible damage, signs of leakage, breakage, rust and corrosion. Read more about roofs here.

Are gutters and downpipes flowing?

How have the gutters fared over winter? Gutters and downpipes are perfect gathering places for windblown debris, leaves from overhanging trees, and gunk. Chances are, they’ll be overflowing, slimy, growing a bit of grass, and needing to be cleaned out. Are they still structurally sound, and draining, or are they a clogged-up disaster? 

When it comes to buying a home, you’ll want to be sure that no water will get backed up, blocked, or overflow, which can lead to water damage to the structure. While gutters can be fixed, it’s a potential repair you’ll want to know about. Find out more about gutters in our blog.

What’s the condition of the cladding?

Your property inspector will pay close attention to what’s on the exterior of the house and how it’s holding up. Cladding is expected to perform as a weathertight material to keep structures insulated and dry. But nearly every type of cladding is likely to degrade someday, especially if it hasn’t been maintained well. The siding, brickwork, weatherboards, and especially plaster cladding can be damaged by harsh winter weather. Your property inspector will be looking for cracks, holes, anything loose, as well as moss, lichen and mould that might have built up. It’s especially important to get rid of this, as it holds and absorbs water. If there are any issues, it’s best to address them and repair them as soon as possible to prevent further damage. Want to know more about cladding?

How is the section looking?

With floods fresh in people’s minds, it’s always good to scan the section to get the lay of the land. Where is the house situated, and what sort of section is it on? Is it elevated, on the high side of the street, or down the bottom of the hill, a long driveway, or in a dip in the road? Is the backyard looking swampy, and are there obvious places where water can pool? Or is it high and dry with good drainage? If it’s prone to water ingress or potential damage it can be a very expensive problem to fix, so do your homework and get the experts to check it out.

Image credit: Unsplash

Say no to mould

End-of-winter mould can be a big issue for many homes, and while the presence of it in bathrooms, basements and other areas isn’t necessarily a disaster, it can be a sign of poor or no insulation, bad ventilation, water leaks and moisture. Mould is not something you’d want to live with – and it’s something you’ll want on your checklist.

Get peace of mind

Getting a property report at the end of winter is actually a great idea. Knowing the condition of your potential new home is hugely important before taking your purchase any further – and it’s usually a small price to pay to ensure that you’re getting something you can live with, and in! Get in touch to get the property inspection process started – Email:  or call: 027 2939 808.




The heat is on

When it comes to buying a new home, checking out what sort of heating it has (or doesn’t have!) is important info to know. After all, a warm home is vital for your health and comfort, and going into it blind can really put a ‘dampener’ on your love of your new place!

There are many different ways to heat a home, from modern systems like heat pumps and underfloor heating, to traditional means like fireplaces, wall panels and gas heaters. So let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the heating most commonly seen in NZ houses.

Heat pumps 

Heat pumps are a type of central heating system that uses electricity to move heat from one place to another. They can be used to heat your home in the winter, with the advantage of also cooling it in the summer. Heat pumps are generally considered to be a very efficient source of heating, so they can save you money on your energy bills. However, they can be expensive to install and do need servicing.

Panel wall heaters

Panel heaters are an inexpensive type of electric heater mounted on the wall. They provide background warmth and can be a good choice for bedrooms or rooms that need heating overnight. Many have thermostats and timers to regulate the heat. Some have fans which can be surprisingly noisy!

Underfloor heating 

Underfloor heating uses hot water or electricity to heat the floor. It basically turns your floor into one big heater. While it can be comfy under your tootsies (especially in a bathroom in the dead of winter), it can be expensive to install. Underfloor heating can also be difficult to maintain – if it breaks it can be impossible and/or expensive to repair e.g. if it’s under a fully tiled floor.

Open fireplaces

You can’t deny the lure of an open fire, flames roaring in the grate, maybe a bowl of marshmallows to toast nearby… Sadly, while open fireplaces look inviting, they are not at all efficient, with only about 15% of the heat warming your room. The rest is all ‘going up in smoke’ (along with your heating budget) by escaping up the chimney. Open fireplaces can also be a fire hazard, so might not be practical for families with children and pets.

Image credit: Unsplash

Solid fuel burners

Solid fuel burners or wood burners are another type of traditional heating system, and usually have a high heat output. This makes them very energy efficient at around 60-80%. Solid fuel burners also require regular maintenance, such as cleaning and refuelling. Unless you have access to a free source of fuel, you’ll be paying for a wood delivery most years.

Image supplied

Gas heating

Gas heating is a type of system that uses natural gas to heat your home. In New Zealand gas can be a relatively inexpensive choice, depending on what region you live in. Gas heating is generally flued or unflued with flued gas heaters preferred over unflued. (We’ll tell you why in a minute).

Flued gas heaters have a pipe that serves as a chimney for taking away both emissions (that ‘gassy’ smell) and moisture. A good floor-mounted unit can be as energy-efficient as a heat pump, but heat pumps are usually cheaper to run.

Unflued portable gas heaters are the ‘old school’ moveable type that are dangerous to use, as they add loads of moisture back into the air, contributing to mould and dampness. They can even produce carbon monoxide if they’re faulty. Basically, steer clear, due to all these reasons PLUS the fact gas heating can be a fire hazard – they’re an accident waiting to be tipped over.

The bottom line

It is important to find out what heating source you’ll be dealing with before you purchase a home. Consider your insulation levels as well – homes with good insulation will require less energy to heat – but that’s a whole other blog!

If you’re unsure, just ask us. When you book a comprehensive report from your friendly Property Inspector, you get expert information and advice right from the get-go. Call us on 027 2939 808 for real peace of mind before you buy.

Healthy Homes – it’s not just for renters

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If you’re in the market for a new home or thinking about moving from a rental to owner-occupied, you’re likely to be familiar with the Healthy Homes Standards. These were brought in to ensure a better standard of dwelling for tenants and focus on key areas like adequate insulation, heating, ventilation and draught proofing. 

But, healthy homes aren’t just for renters! Wouldn’t it be great if you applied the same requirements and principles across the property you’re looking at purchasing? Does your potential purchase come up to scratch? Is it warm, dry, and properly insulated? What, if any, is the heating source? Is there adequate ventilation and are the drains working?  

When you get a property report back from us, we’ll let you know if your dwelling is ‘compliant’ so there are no (expensive) surprises when you move in! 

Insulation – the money saver

Let’s start at the top with insulation. It’s such an important factor in any building that we wrote a whole blog about it. Good insulation acts like a blanket to keep your home warm in winter and cooler in summer. But if it’s not up to scratch, or non-existent, you’ll soon find out with chilly floors, cold rooms and often, condensation, mould, and damp issues. An uninsulated or barely insulated house will also suffer from poor thermal performance, with heating costs and power bills soaring as a result. So, it’s important for any property inspection to include this in the report.

The heat is on – or is it?

Next, what’s your source of heating going to be? When winter hits, you’ll wish you had planned ahead for this one. When you visited the open home, you might have been delighted to see a heat pump installed… but we’ll be checking to see if it’s heating the whole place or just a part of it. Is the heat (or cooling) going to the right places or simply blowing air into the corner of the lounge while leaving the bedrooms freezing? If not a heat pump, what other, if any sources of heating are there? After all, you’ll want to know how expensive it’ll be to keep your home warm.

Sealing the deal

Ventilation and draughts are another biggie that can make the difference between a cosy home and a cold home. Mechanical ventilation systems like DVS can help in this regard, but so can opening windows for fresh air flow. The issue is when windows and doors don’t close in the frames properly or have degraded seals which leach cold air into your indoor spaces – brrr. Another plus of well-sealed windows and doors is noise reduction from noisy neighbours, roads, etc. With a pre-purchase building inspection, you’ll know what you’re getting into.


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Book peace of mind 

With the variety and age of housing stock in New Zealand, unless you’re buying brand new, you’ll almost never meet all the ‘requirements’ set out in the Healthy Homes Standards. But a comprehensive pre-purchase inspection is a great place to flag any future areas to upgrade or prioritise. When it comes to opting for the best ‘healthy home’ you can, you’re worth it – and your family’s worth it. It just pays to do the leg work first! Give our friendly team a call on 027 2939 808 and book a report for real peace of mind.

Liked this article? There are plenty more like this on our website.

Property buyers’ cheat sheet – what to look for when you’re buying a house

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Whether you’re buying your 5th home or just getting a toe on the property ladder, it’s a must to book a full pre-purchase property inspection before you sign on the dotted line. However, when you’re out looking at houses, there are some simple things you can check before you commit to a full report from The Property Inspectors.

Here’s our property buyers’ cheat sheet to take with you on your travels:

  1. Check if it has a cavity.

We’ve posted before about cavity systems in homes. Whether a property has a drained cavity system or not can hugely impact its weathertightness – which can have flow-on effects to the durability and longevity of the building structure itself. A quick check you can do is to put your hand underneath the bottom of the exterior cladding and feel if it’s hard against the substrate or underlying layer of the framing. If there is a gap, it’s likely the property has a cavity system which gives moisture a chance to escape prior to damaging framing.

  1. Check the ground clearance

In some properties the exterior cladding goes all the way down to the ground (such as in certain plaster homes) and sometimes there are gardens built up against the lower cladding. This makes it much easier for any rain or ground moisture to sit up against the cladding and work its way into the surrounding framing. Generally the solution to this sort of issue is bringing the cladding below the base of the framing which can be a costly exercise in some cases. At best, it’s something for you to look at and potentially fix up later. Know before you buy.

  1. Check the roof and gutters

You might not be able to see much from the ground, but try and eyeball the roof you’ll be relying on to keep out the elements. Have a look and see if it’s clean, or is it covered with moss, grime, old rusting steel or obvious repairs? While you’re at it, check the gutters – can you see any blockages, grass growing, or water ponding up there? (Tip: have a look from the second floor if it’s a double-storey). Replacing or repairing your roof soon after purchase could be one of the biggest costs you face as a homeowner, and not one you want to tackle with a brand-new mortgage!

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  1. Be on the lookout for mould and damp

Sometimes you can smell must, mould and damp before you see it, so when you enter a house, make sure you have your nasal detectors switched on! Pull back the curtains and have a look at the rear side for mould spots, check whether the bathroom ceilings and silicone joints have black spots, and inspect the carpets for signs of discolouration, particularly in the corners. Are there dehumidifiers in the house, or tubs of ‘Damp Rid’ in the wardrobes? All these are signs of attempts to control moisture in the home.

  1. Check the electrical board

New Zealand has many homes which are old, with electrical wiring which is dated and might not be safe. Try and find the switchboard for the home which will give you an indicator of what sort of wiring and electrics you’re in for. Are you looking at an old ‘fuse’ type of board, or a newer circuit breaker one? While it might not need replacing right away, an older switchboard can mean it won’t handle the load of a modern household full of 21st century technology.

These are just some quick visual things you can do as you embark on your property inspection journey. If you are in the market for a new home, make sure you read back over our Building Basics series. When you’ve found the one you really love, call us on 027 2939 808 and book a comprehensive pre-purchase home inspection for real peace of mind.

How to work out if a property has flooded or is at risk of flooding

Prospective homeowners might have a new concern to factor into the search for their next purchase – the risk of flooding and whether a property has been flooded before. With that in mind, knowing where to find that information, along with a comprehensive property inspection, will equip you with the facts before you buy.

Read on to find out how to determine if a property has flooded or might be at risk of flooding in the next climate event.

Check the council files for property information

A property’s LIM report is a good place to start. In it, you can see if the house has been identified by council as being at risk to natural hazards, including flood.

A flood hazard means flood water will pool in low points, or water could be fast moving down a slope. If you are Auckland-based, the council has a Hazard Viewer – click on the ‘flooding’ tab to see if there is a flood hazard on, or near your property. Core Logic has an NZ floodmap for a full picture of the flood risks nationwide.

Things to look for at the property

1. The lay of the land

When you’re visiting the property take time to assess the lay of the land. Where is the house situated? Is it down in a valley or is it on a hill? Does it have a long driveway that runs down towards it? If yes, could this act as a path to funnel lots of water towards the property? 

2. What’s around the property?

If there are neighbours, where are their houses in proximity to yours? Are their houses sitting above you and does yours end in a natural valley or low-point? Remember their stormwater, services, and run-off have to go somewhere.

3. What kind of foundations does it have?

Different eras of homes bring a variety of foundation construction. Is it a concrete slab or is it sitting on piles? – because each will operate differently during a flood event. Houses on piles are generally preferable in flood-prone areas because you’re higher off the ground. Plus it’s usually easier for your property inspector to access the space to look for any pooling of water, damp or damage. Tip: We’ve got comprehensive information about types of foundations on our website.

4. How’s the ground level around the house?

When a house is built low to the ground, e.g. on a concrete slab, or with little clearance from the earth, moisture ingress can cause havoc by wicking up into walls, causing damp, mouldy conditions. High moisture levels inside a home can be an indicator that the home is damp, even when water has drained away.

And don’t forget to check the exterior of the home for gardens, lawns or banks of dirt up around the exterior cladding  – basically, anything up against the house that could become more saturated in heavy rain and hold moisture.

5. Check the groundwater controls

While most homes will have drainage such as stormwater and strip drains, they only work when they are clean and clear. Check for silt, leaves and other debris which might block them and stop water getting away from the property. Also note where the drains are in relation to the house – are they at the low points of the section or driveway? Is the driveway shaped to funnel water away from the dwelling or is it a likely gathering point in heavy rain? Does the lowest part of your section bypass the drain so water may pool having nowhere to go (and cause issues) further down?

6. Are the gutters and downpipes up to scratch?

Old, leaky gutters and downpipes might cause rainwater to spill out onto the section, adding to issues with water pooling when it’s teeming down.

7. Suss out the garage and internal walls

Garage floors are often concrete which is a good place to see any staining around the walls where water might have come in. On internal walls, if there’s been flooding or high moisture, there could be signs of mould or damage to carpets and cladding. 

Image credit: Canva

It can be an expensive problem to fix

If a house has been in a flood, damage might have been repaired so it can be hard to work out if a property has suffered water issues and how serious it was. Remediation of issues in a flood- prone property can become very expensive. There are also things owners can do to mitigate future problems, such as changing the fall of a driveway, building retaining walls, adding more surface water controls and drainage – doable but costly! 

With lots at stake around the purchase of any property, it pays to do plenty of due diligence with checking council files, and making sure you get a qualified property inspector on the case! 

Get in touch to discuss a property inspection now – phone your friendly property professional Dane on +64 27 2939 808.