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.