When buying a property, there are certain things to look out for. Thorough home inspections are essential when buying a property – not only for peace of mind, but also as a potential wallet-saviour. Viewing a showhouse can give the potential buyer small clues about the overall condition of a home. Below, we round up some of the most common examples.
The devil’s in the details
Look out for small signs of neglect in the property. This starts as soon as you walk up to the house. Notice the state of the garden, the boundary walls or fences, the pavement. Once you step into the home, pay attention to the ceilings, any cracked tiles or plaster, and built-in cabinets.
Important rooms to take note of are the kitchen and bathrooms. We already know that these are the most expensive areas to renovate or replace, so you want to ensure that they’re in good structural shape. Look out for signs of damp or mould and the condition of kitchen cabinets and countertops. In the bathroom, it’s a good idea to open a tap and check the water pressure.
The roof, windows, doors, and walls are important spots to take note of. If windows and doors are made of wood, see if they show any signs of rot or decay. Don’t be afraid to ask the agent about the state of the roof – even more so if it’s thatched.
Leaks are usually pretty easy to spot, so keep an eye open for damaged ceilings. In the garden, pay attention to the gutters around the house. If gutters and drains aren’t functioning properly, it could lead to a build-up of water around the home, which could lead to problems with the foundation. Cracked walls aren’t necessarily a sign of trouble, but should be investigated nonetheless.
Common home defects identified through home inspections
- Poor drainage. Inspectors will always check that storm water flows away from the house properly and whether the roof needs new gutters and downpipes. They will also inspect whether there is a danger of water ponding seeping under the foundations.
- Faulty electrical, plumbing and gas installations. Older homes often need electrical and plumbing upgrades, including new wiring, DB boards, hot water geysers and plumbing pipes and sanitary ware. If electrical wiring, geysers and gas lines are not properly installed a home may become a safety hazard.
- Leaking roof. Leaking roofs result from poor flashing, blocked gutters or aging roof coverings. Depending on the type of damage, repairs can range from minor to extensive.
- Defective or non-existent insulation. In the days of cheap electricity most South African homes were built with no thought to insulation and energy efficiency. As a result many South African homes are freezing in the winter months – far colder that equivalent homes in Europe or North America – even though our climate is much milder.
- Poor maintenance. A do-it-yourself seller’s or bakkie-builder’s fixes to plumbing, electrical and other problems may cause more harm than good.
- Structural damage. A leaking roof or settling or weak moving foundation may mean roof structures, doorways, walls and support beams become unstable. Most South African homes are built on problem soils which move with the seasons.
- Water seepage through windows and doors. If a home inspector sees evidence of water damage or water ingress, then re-caulking windows and doors, adding weather-stripping or other more extensive repairs may be necessary.
- Rotten window and door frames, timber floors and roofing timbers. South Africa has a host of pests like borer beetles, termites and wood-destroying fungi which attack timber components of a house – especially in the dark, moist areas of the structure.
- Poor ventilation. If moisture continually accumulates in a home, it can lead to structural damage and health hazards. Installing ventilation fans and keeping windows open to improve cross ventilation will help – but buyers may find they need to alter walls or other structural aspects of a home in order to improve light and ventilation.
- Hazardous materials. Older homes may contain lead-based paint and asbestos materials. Homes may also contain unhealthy levels of potentially toxic moulds.
Why home inspections matter
Getting a thorough home inspection done allows you to negotiate the asking price of the property. Once you’ve received the inspection report, you’ll also have a better idea of what needs to be done to fix the property up. Armed with this knowledge, you’re able to make a sound decision on whether or not you’d like to put in an offer.
Home inspections should cover everything from safety issues like security gates and fire walls, to structural issues such as moisture and leaks. It will also reveal problems related to electricity and gas, as well as maintenance issues. In order to make the best possible decision for your investment, taking care of the nitty-gritty of a home inspection is essential.