Buying a home is one of the most important purchases you’ll make in your lifetime – if not the most important. It’s not one you want to ever regret – so it’s important to go into it with your eyes open. You’ll need to have a pre-settlement building inspection conducted by a professional, and that’s exactly what we here at Hobart Building Assessment Services can help you with.
Look at what materials have been used in the construction of the house, and whether they’re in good condition.
Bricks: are they cracked?
Timber: is it warped or rotting?
Gutters and downpipes: any signs of rust?
Is any of the paintwork peeling or weathering poorly?
Are the ceilings or eaves bowed or discoloured?
What is the fence made of, and will it keep your dog in (and the neighbour’s dog out)?
Ensure you take a good look at the materials used, and don’t be shy when asking the real estate agent any questions you have. Inform yourself about the properties of these materials. For example – While bricks are fire resistant, has a wooden frame been used? In certain conditions (high winds, earthquakes), wood can perform better than brick, as it’s more flexible. You may also have environmental concerns about the materials used in the construction or renovation of the home.
A professional building inspector is the one person who can really advise you on the structural integrity of a house (along with so much else), but there are some more obvious structural issues you can be on the look-out for.
What condition is the house in?
Does it seem like the previous owners kept up with the maintenance?
Does it need painting inside and/or out?
What renovations might need to happen in the foreseeable future?
If you think you can live with that lime green bench-top and mission brown tiling in the kitchen for the next few years, think again and make sure that’s really the case. Could you comfortably live in the home in its current state until you can afford to renovate?
If you’re not such a dab hand at DIY and are planning to contract jobs out, considerable expenses might be on the horizon. It is important to ponder these possible future expenses to give yourself the best shot at home sweet home as possible.
Going the distance
Take a drive – or even better, a walk – around the neighbourhood to gauge the home’s distance from local amenities.
How close are the shops?
If you have children or are planning on their arrival, how close are the local schools?
Is public transport handy?
In a place like Hobart it probably is, with our Metro bus system.
If not, how long does it take to drive to shops/work/school?
Is that going to pose a problem for you getting to work or to your other commitments each day?
Natural light is underrated – you’ll save on lighting and heating if your home makes the most of the big energy source in the sky.
When you’re at home, you’re likely to spend most of your time in the living room, kitchen/dining areas and backyard – and this is where aspect come into play. If these areas face north or north-east, considered the most favourable option by many, then the sun will be directly over those spaces in summer. When the sun sits lower in the sky in winter, you’ll still get some natural light.
A south facing home is likely to be dim, so moisture and humidity might be a problem. If your home faces west, the afternoon sun is likely to be intense and at a lower angle, meaning it’s more difficult to block out when it proves too much. East facing homes have morning sun and not much else – which in winter means very little sun at all.
Of course, if your northern view consists of your neighbour’s wall, then it’s probably a good thing your living areas face a different direction. Or, if you’re in a built-up area where the sun is blocked by other buildings, you’ll need to take other factors into consideration.
If you don’t share the previous owner’s taste in furniture, it’s not such a big deal. But what about the items they’re leaving behind, like floor and window coverings? Check that they’re in good condition, and if they’re useable at least in the interim until you can afford to freshen them up.
We previously mentioned the importance of natural light – but if you’re getting buckets of warm sun, that won’t be much use if there’s no insulation. Is there double glazing on the windows? In a cold part of the world like Hobart, this could provide real energy savings.
Check any visible pipes under sinks and on toilets for signs of damage or repair. Can you see evidence of mould in the bathroom or other areas of the house? What about termite damage? This can spell disaster. Do the windows and doors open and close easily? If not, this could be a sign of warping or moisture in the wood. Do the fireplace and flue function well? Are fixed appliances like the oven and dishwasher good quality and in decent condition? Are those cracks above the window merely due to the normal settlement of the house, or are they something more?
Other factors like the amount of storage available, the number and positioning of powerpoints, and noise from nearby businesses or traffic might not be deal-breakers, but should still be considered.
If you’re a born green thumb, you might be looking for a decent sized yard. But when you take your lifestyle into consideration, look realistically at the kind of upkeep would be involved for the size and style of the garden. The romantic idea of a large yard can soon fade when you have to spend your weekends mowing, pruning and weeding.
Is there a reticulation system, and if so is it in good working order?
Is the system based on a bore or mains water?
Also consider the impact of any large trees or shrubs close to the house or fence line.
Are any large tree roots in proximity to paving or plumbing where they can cause damage?
Do you see any signs of termite damage?
If you spot some termite damage in a rotting log in the corner of the yard, this may not be cause for concern if the previous owners are up to date with their pest control management in and around the home – but make sure you have a professional check it out.
When you go ahead with your pre-purchase building inspection (See our Pre-purchase Building Inspection page), which should definitely include a pest inspection by a professional, they’ll be able to advise you on this.
Tick of approval
If there are any buildings on the property in addition to the home, ask the real estate agent whether they have the necessary council approval. If they don’t, you may encounter problems down the line (like not being fully covered by your insurance).
To find out more about the regulations around building and plumbing work in Tasmania, make sure you’re familiar with the Construction Code.
At the end of the day, it’s your decision.
We don’t intend to scare you off buying a house with this list of considerations. Sometimes when you see a house, it’s love at first sight – and that’s got to be a big part of your decision. You just need to make sure yours is a lasting love affair by being informed.
Don’t hesitate to walk away from a bad deal.
And being fully aware of the issues with the house – once you know you’re willing to take them on – can be a useful bargaining tool when negotiating the price. Being informed can save you money in more ways than one!
If you’re looking for a professional building inspector in the Hobart area, please contact us for a discussion and free quote – we’re here to help.