When it comes to buying and selling, we always like to put trust in people, but the fact is, concealment of possible defects is a widespread concern in properties for sale. It’s so easy for hidden defects to go unnoticed during an open house visit unless an experienced property inspector is engaged to carry out a pre-purchase inspection.
Of course, honesty should always the best policy when selling a house, but buyer beware, sellers desperate to sell their home will do what they can to cover up flaws. From filling cracks and covering them up with a coat of paint to strategically positioning furniture to hide a defect, it happens more often than you’d think.
Defect cover-ups to look out for
When you find the home of your dreams and receive a glowing report from the homeowner and real estate agent, it’s easy to overlook defects. Here are some common concerns that are relatively easy for a seller to hide:
Painting, decorating or strategic placement of furniture makes it easy to conceal water damage. To the untrained eye, the early signs of mould are not apparent either. If there is mould, a strategically placed candle will do the trick in concealing the smell. All of these things are red flags for an experienced building inspector and a thorough check to areas beneath the home, outside the home and foundations needs to be carried out to find out if there is any water damage to the property.
A leaky roof
Without crawling up into the roof space and carrying out a thorough inspection, you are solely relying on the honesty of the real estate agent and homeowner to disclose roof problems. Unfortunately, it’s common for homeowners to carry out DIY repair work on a leaky roof, not fixing the problem, but instead, concealing it temporarily.
Structural cracks are a common defect that is easy to hide with some no gaps filler and a coat of paint or strategically placed furnishings. Structural cracks often indicate foundation movement and if they get too big are a serious problem you need to know about. A building inspector can not only identify structural issues, but they can help you work out a monetary value on the repairs that'll help you during negotiations.
As with structural cracks, creaky or uneven floors can often be the result of movement or perhaps a renovation that hasn’t been performed to code. If you think something doesn’t seem right with the floors in a house, don’t ignore it, get a building inspector onto it. It’s not just a matter of aesthetics and money but safety, too.
Timing of inspections
Although not a structural issue, pay close attention to the timing of the open for inspections. Is it at a time of day when the traffic is light? Perhaps it’s in the morning when the soft morning sun warms the back veranda and not when the heat overwhelms the front of the house. Or, are the open homes only on during the week to avoid the number of cars parked on footpaths during the weekend?
Do yourself a favour and take a walk past the house in the afternoon or go for a drive and test the traffic around school pick up time to get a clearer picture of what living in the neighbourhood would be like day-to-day.
How not to get stung by cover-ups
Forget the real estate and homeowners report, an independent, non-biased property inspection is essential before purchasing any property.
Look at this inspection as an advantage. Yes, it may uncover some defects, but this arms you with the power to negotiate the price once you know exactly what requires repairs and how much it will cost you. It can also potentially save you money; knowing about the hidden water leak now will save you thousands to fix a significant defect down the track.
Don’t get stung by dishonesty, take control as a prospective buyer, keep your eye out for these cover-ups and get an experienced building inspector on board to do a pre-purchase inspection so you can avoid some nasty surprises after settlement.
Andrew Mackintosh is the owner and inspector at Action Property Inspections, Brisbane. Andrew has carried out over 20,000 building inspections, is a licensed builder, a licensed building inspector and a Member of Queensland Master Builders Association & Institute of Building Consultants.
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