Buying any new property, let alone your first home, is always an exciting whirlwind of possibilities. However, rushed inspections and emotions can come into play and cloud your judgement. For this reason it’s important to remain impartial and look out for key tell-tale signs that the property you have your eye on isn’t what it seems.
While you won’t uncover every issue with a property on your first inspection, with a little assistance, you’ll be able to spot the signs that indicate bigger issues. To help you on your way, we’ve put together a complete guide for identifying issues on first inspections – because if they go unnoticed, your new dream home could be bigger drain on your wallet and wristwatch than you ever bargained for.
It’s important to check the water pressure in any property that you’re thinking about buying, as both high and low water pressure can be signs of larger issues in your home that will continually get worse.
Low water pressure can be related to hidden leaks, large mineral deposits in pipes, or old and corroded pipes. High water on the other hand, which might feel fantastic in a shower, can lead to leaking, unseen water damage, and the breakdown of fixtures and appliances.
First of all, if the water isn’t on, ask for it to be turned on so that you can test it. Properties rarely get water disconnected completely, so shouldn’t be a problem to have it turned on at the property during an inspection.
When checking for low water pressure, look out for:
When checking for high water pressure, look out for:
If the water pressure only seems to be low or high at one fixture or point of the house, then it’s a problem that can usually be fixed easily as it’s likely to be fixture specific and not a plumbing issue.
However, if it’s an issue that persists for several fixtures on the property, then you have a bigger problem. The last thing you’ll want to do when you purchase a property is have to shell out thousands to have a new plumbing system installed.
Giving a home a fresh coat of paint is a common home improvement tactic when selling a property. Painting a home not only makes it look less ‘lived-in’ and ready to move into, but can also cover-up a multitude of costly sins, so be wary.
A freshly painted home could be an attempt to cover up cracks, damp, termite damage, mould, and mildew. It’s important to go into your first home inspection with a curious eye as you don’t want to run into extensive and expensive issues down the track.
You’ll want to be on the look-out for a few things, but firstly, you should be worried about any new paint smells. The owner may have put on a fresh coat to enhance the value of the property but there may be something more sinister at play.
If some rooms have been completely overhauled with fresh paint but others have not, ask why.
Look out for bubbling paint or stained areas on walls or on the floor near walls, as these could all be a sign of serious leaks.
When you attend a first home inspection, you’ll want to look out for signs that the bathroom will cause you problems.
Bathroom issues that are left unchecked can lead to extensive water damage, as well as a hefty blow to your bank balance. What you need to look out for goes beyond leaks and mould, which are signs of problems that have already taken root. You’ll want to be aware of anything that has the potential to cause problems in the future too – take a look at our handy list below.
Look out for a foul or unpleasant smell – this is can be a sign of a sewage leak or pipes that aren’t draining properly.
Cracks in walls and ceilings are some of the most obvious problems to uncover at a home inspection. You’ll want to be smart and keep the following tips in mind.
Cracks in a property’s walls and ceilings can indicate problems with the home’s foundations. This means the home may have warped from its initial construction shape, and while sometimes harmless, other times it has the potential to cause severe costly issues.
You’ll want to look for cracks around windows, along ceilings, walls and where walls join ceilings. You’ll also want to check that doors open and close easily – if a door is jamming or swinging wildly within its frame, you could have a foundation fault on your hands. If it is sticking within the frame, it could also be swollen from damp – in this case you’d likely need a building inspector to investigate further.
If you find a crack in a wall, keep in mind that not all cracks are worthy of worry. Narrow vertical cracks are often caused by minor settlement and normal shrinkage and are not structural defects – especially if the home is old, then this is to be expected. Horizontal cracks on the other hand are much more of a concern than vertical cracks.
However, any large crack wider than 1.27 centimetres should be looked at by a professional as it could be pointing to a serious foundational issue.
Remember to move furniture when you inspect a home just in case it has been strategically placed.
Damage to electrical wiring and points can not only be costly to repair, but also incredibly dangerous. You’ll want to make sure the property you’re buying is in good condition.
From warm-to-touch electrical outlets to flickering and dimming lights, electrical problems vary, but the one thing they have in common is that they shouldn’t be ignored or messed with, as they are often signs of potentially dangerous conditions.
Most electrical outlets and problems should be inspected by a licensed professional, but there are a few things you can look out for when inspecting a property:
While some sellers innocently like to move furniture around and decorate with wall art to show their home in its best light, you also need to understand that this is also a tactic used to cover up unsightly issues or problems with a property.
If you turn up to a property to inspect it and the furniture looks like it has been recently moved, you need to be asking why. At the end of the day, you don’t want to have to foot the bill for repairs when it could’ve been avoided if you were initially aware of problems and defects.
You need to be on the lookout for a few things:
Don’t be embarrassed to do your due-diligence, because when it comes down to the crunch, it’s your money that you will be parting with.
To the untrained eye, the initial stages of rising damp can be hard to identify, so follow the below to pinpoint more established damp issues.
Issues with dampness might initially seem innocent and nothing to worry about, but with time they can exacerbate and cause costly problems – not just to your property, but also to your health.
While having the windows open might be an innocent tactic to make a home feel breezy and inviting during a home inspection, it could also be an attempt to cover up smells arising from bigger issues or to regulate a home’s overall temperature.
You need to be curious about open windows and uneven temperatures in a home because both of these can be a sign of poor ventilation or insulation.
You have to wonder what the home would smell and feel like if all the windows were closed – would there be an unpleasant smell? Would it be musty? Would the home be very hot or very cold?
When you walk into the property, tap into your senses and see if you notice any strange temperature changes while moving from room to room. A weirdly cold bedroom, overly damp bathroom or musty downstairs rumpus room can all point to issues of poor or deteriorated insulation that will need to be dealt with to avoid bigger problems.
While this may just come down to simple availability, it’s worth looking into.
If you’re not seeing the property at various times of day, then you’re definitely not getting the full picture. In real estate circles, this is a tried and tested technique for increasing the selling price of a home, or covering up other issues. It could be to reduce the need for electric lighting or heating/cooling, or to make a poorly facing and dark house less obvious. It could even be an issue not directly related to the home, such as overly loud or busy traffic outside or difficult neighbours. It’s certainly worth knowing about!
There you have it, a guide to uncovering some of the most difficult to identify potential problems when inspecting a property that can really stack up. Remember to ask questions and have your wits about you – don’t be afraid to trust your intuition.
If you feel positive about a property and can’t see any obvious issues or damage, then you can enlist the expertise of an experienced building inspector who can give you a detailed report on every aspect of your home. Good luck!