Property inspections are an essential part of buying real estate. A good selling agent will help owners put the best features forward. However, in the rush of a limited timeframe and bustle of people, essential details can be easily missed. Brady Marcs Buyers Advisory team member, Heidi Brown, shares what to look for when going to an inspection and how to save yourself avoidable issues down the track.
Choosing the right property is a careful balance of different considerations. Which factors are most important can only be determined on an individual basis, and factoring in the ultimate goals for a property.
When looking for a property on behalf of clients, the Brady Marcs team does a thorough evaluation right from the start.
Heidi’s biggest priority:
“I think the most significant thing I’ve learned is that your initial hunch is usually right – due diligence is very important to avoid surprises down the track. Find out what’s ahead of you, going into the purchase with your eyes wide open.”
Before you look at a property itself, start by assessing the neighbourhood surrounding it.
Are the streets well designed and regularly maintained? Is there easy access to main roads or transport hubs? Will there be bottlenecks or heavy through-traffic, or trains running late at night? Another feature to look for is the quality of the streetscape. Are there streetlights and plenty of parking for visitors? How close are local amenities such as schools, shops, and access to transport?
Next, consider current and future development work in the area. There is nothing worse than moving into a new home to find a construction site on your doorstep. Access to information about current and recent Development Applications can be found online through local council websites, and centrally through the NSW Planning Portal. Becoming aware of what work is in the pipeline can save you from surprises once you move in. A quick online search for newspaper articles can reveal on-going battles over such things as rezoning may have been going on for years without an official DA being lodged.
With the prospective property itself, look at the block and how it integrates to neighbouring properties. Is there easy access to the front door? What form of off-street parking is available? What is the condition of neighbouring fences, overhanging trees, and general privacy?
Inside the property
Once inside the property, it’s vital to assess natural light and note the house and windows’ orientation.
Any information you don’t know, such as which direction the property faces, can be asked of the selling agent. Note when the property gets morning or afternoon sun, and also the intensity against large windows. Consider any trees that might grow and block your view, particularly on a neighbouring property.
The layout of the house is also just as important. Picture how you might layout your furniture, including large items such as a TV unit, bookshelves, or dining suites, or any extras your family may need, such as an office desk. Note the house areas that will have high foot-traffic, look at the condition of the carpet, or scuff marks of timber of corners. Is there enough room for large appliances such as a fridge or washing machine? In the rush of an inspection, you may not notice that an appliance you assume would be there is missing, so having a basic checklist in your mind is essential.
Quickly assess the extent of renovation work that needs doing to meet your expectations and needs. How pressing is the work? What budget would be required to make changes? Look at the property’s layout and whether it has a good underlying structure for making changes.
In the bathroom, look at the condition of the tiles for any cracks and corrosion. Is there adequate storage throughout the house? Is the current storage built-in or free-standing units?
An important indicator to consider is to look at dark corners and cornices in particular for any cracks or signs of visible water damage. This can be evidence of deeper problems. Similarly, look for indicators of any evident repair work and ask why it was required. Ask the agent about any on-going issues with water or utilities.
In the laundry and kitchen, keep an eye out for household pest products, such as inspect-spray or baits. Look for evidence of black mould on furniture and walls, as this will show an on-going issue with dampness and the amount of ventilation.
In older homes, look at the condition of pinning underneath. If this is impossible without a full building report, look for movement in floorboards, noise, or areas where the boards may have sunk. Another great question to ask is when was the property built or renovated. When was the last pest inspections or treatments, and if any building or pest reports available?
Assess the outside of a property for both practical uses and any underlying issues.
If you are looking to knock down and rebuild, knowing the location of any ‘easements’ can significantly impact where it is feasible to build in the future. Easements are where utilities such as mains water or electricity infrastructure can freely pass under your property and can require access at any time. Failing to know the location of easements can result in costly adjustments down the track.
What facilities are present in the yard? Is there a pool? If so, is there adequate access to the pump? What is the condition of the concrete and tiles? Will you need to install a fence upon sale to comply with mandated safety requirements? If there isn’t a pool, has one been removed in the past? Is there adequate space for a washing line with good sunlight?
Strata and apartments
Apartments and strata properties bring a new array of considerations due to the nature of common property and a centralised approval process.
Knowing the quarterly strata fees is essential, but you also need to ask whether there are any special levies planned or under consideration. When was the last special levy? Have any on-going issues been resulting from the original build?
You need to know what the strata fees contribute towards, including whether a building manager is engaged, are there regular cleaners or gardeners for common property? Are there common facilities such as a gym or community room? If so, are there guidelines around the use?
Ask if the building is harmonious? Have there been any security issues lately? What is the general state of areas around letterboxes or entrance ways? If there are shared facilities such as a storage locker or common laundry, ask to see them and assess the location’s practicality and allocated space.
Asking about recent sales in a building can provide a helpful price reference. This information can also be accessed from a Avant Property Report. How much money is in reserve in the capital works fund? Are there recurring issues in the building or the apartment specifically?
Consider as well the location of the apartment within the building, and the ease of accessibility.
Have many lifts are there? What is access like for bulky furniture? Do the lifts come quickly, or are you waiting a long time. If you see other building residents, consider politely asking them about the building and level of harmony.
It is also helpful to assess what restrictions and bylaws are in place and the works’ approval process.
Are there features of your apartment such as window tinting or planter boxes that can’t be modified without approval from the Strata Committee or Local Council? Air conditioning, for example, may require strata approval. External finishes may require Local Council.
When to see a property
While inspections are often run on a tight schedule, it is ideal to try and see a property at its best and worst.
If it’s a rainy day, don’t shy away from inspecting a property, as this can be a valuable time to assess the property for potential issues. Try and see a property both at its best and worst.
Further research will pay dividends in the long run by unearthing unforeseen issues. Every property will require some compromises, but knowing all the information can make that process a lot easier. Looking for indicators in person can mean you can rule out a property before getting a full Building Report, Strata Report, or Pest Report at extra time and expense.
Some issues can be particularly challenging to predict, and it is best to avoid any area where there is uncertainty. For example, cladding issues are a current issue impacting many buildings with unknown outcomes.
Making an informed decision
Making an informed decision when looking at properties is essential. For example you may be asking, what is the estimated value for the property I am looking at? What is the estimated rental value for this property? What have other properties in this complex or neighbourhood sold for? What is median amount of days a property in the suburb stays on the market for? These are just some of the questions buyers should know.
Fortunately, there is a resource that can help: Avant Property Reports. Property reports contain information used by banks and real estate agents. This includes estimated sale and rental value, property history and images, suburb growth and insights, and comparable properties. Generated by property data and analytics providers such as CoreLogic, these useful reports are available to download here.
This information has been provided by Brady Marcs.