Five Key Things to look for during a Property Inspection
Have you ever inspected a property on a Saturday? You arrive at the property, you get out of the car, you shake the agent’s hand, you leave your details as you go for a wander through, and you get back in the car. And then later that day, you try and recall some of the things you remember about that property, and you go totally blank.
If so, you are not alone because people do this all over this country, every weekend. It’s large because you go into these properties with a bit of an emotional journey throughout, but it’s proudly that if we are going to part with a lot of money to buy this real estate, we need to have a bit of a method or framework that we go through. As a buyer’s agent who sees scores and scores of property on a monthly basis, for me to differentiate it and to remember on behalf of a client, it’s important that I have that sort of mental checklist that we go through.
The first one is all about location. And a lot of this homework can be done in advance because there’s so much really good information that you can get on the internet. You can go to Google Earth to check things out, just to make sure you have a good understanding of the particular location that you’re going to look at but nothing actually beats driving around yourself and having a bit of a look. Because you want to observe the people. You want to observe the types of cars people drive because it gives you a hint as to the demographic of the area. You want to observe the smells in the area because if it’s too offensive people won’t want to be there as it might be an indication that there might be a factory that’s upwind that’s bringing it down. So there’s nothing that actually does replace that sort of, looking around the suburb yourself. I encourage you to drive around beforehand. But I also encourage you to go at different times of the day because typically you’re looking on a Saturday morning when everyone’s home. Everyone’s home from school, home from work, but you do want to check it out during peak hour, and you also want to check it out during kids’ school pick-ups and drop-offs just to see if your street becomes a cut through or a bit of a thoroughfare. It’s important to not just check it out on a Saturday morning. And equally, you need to have some familiarity of where the schools and all of the lifestyle drivers are if you are coming to that area. Where am I going to get my latte? Where am I going to get my smashed avocado on gluten free toast? Where are the cafes that I’m going to spend my time when I am not working? But also, when I do go to work, how am I going to get there? Do I go by public transport, can I get to the train easy? Or do I need to catch a bus? Or perhaps I need to catch a tram to get to the train station? All of these things are really important considerations. So when it comes to location, some of it can be done in advance. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t not do that when you get there.
The second thing that I do when I get out of the car is looking at the street appeal. I would actually stand back from the property, just have a look, and get some context from that property compared to the others. Am I looking at a brick house when everything else is weatherboard? Or am I looking at a weatherboard when everything else is brick? I really want to get an understanding of what is up and down the street so I can get an idea of where this one that I am looking at fits into the overall picture of the suburb. And equally, I want to know is there any street appeal at all? Do I look at this property that stands proudly in the street or is it on the low side of the street so you have to look in? Or you are at the high end of the street and you have to look up? Or is it just on the flat? So, there’s lots and lots of things that you are trying to get a handle on in a short amount of time. What about the roof? Is it a terracotta roof where everything else is colour bond or vice versa. So getting that context is really, really important. But the other thing to keep in mind. is if you’re planning on buying something and doing some renovations and some extensions to, have a look and see if any of the neighbours have actually done it before you. Are you looking at a property next to someone who’s put an extension up? And someone else down the street? Which will give you a bit of an indication that the council is sympathetic to that type of thing. Or you’re looking at a property where no one has got a second story addition, and you’re going to be a pioneer. Because then, you’re going to need to make sure the council will allow you to do that. And the other thing that I think is important is, don’t be afraid to knock on doors of the neighbours on either side of the open for inspection. Because you’d be surprised as to how much information you can get from spending that 10 or 15 minutes talking to the neighbours. You might find out that the reason they’re selling is because down the road they’re building 50 apartments that are suddenly going to increase density, and there won’t be any parking on your street. Or equally, you might find out that, that neighbour next door is actually planning on putting that extension on and you are on the wrong side and you are going to get some shadowing that will come into it.
So if you’re going to spend half a million, a million, a million and a half on some real estate, invest that 10 or 15 minutes talking to the neighbours, I can tell you from experience, I’ve got some of my best in-tell in buying real estate from doing that very thing.
So the other thing that we need to be thinking about is the construction of the particular property because a lot of modern buildings around a concrete slab and then they put the frame up on the roof. But back in the old days, the properties that were built brick footings, timber floors, the timber construction and so we need to be thinking about stumping. Whether there is any subsidence and the other thing that we need to always be conscious of is, older properties or character home require more maintenance. And that is something that we need to share the plan for. But the beauty of the older properties are that they’ve got that period charm. So if you do go the effort and your budget allows to restore them back to their original form, they can come up absolutely stunning and from a capital growth perspective, they can pay a very, very handsome dividend.
The next thing you want to do is to pay attention as you’re walking through the property, checking out things like the floors and the walls and the quality of the paint, the roofing, all those sorts of things that you don’t often think about until later. At the second inspections, a lot of people would go into the property and go, “I didn’t actually realise that was there”, and that happened because they weren’t actually paying attention. So you want to have a look at the appliances, are they older appliances, are they in good working order, or do they look like they’ve been replaced quite recently? Importantly, depending on which climate you’re in, does it have the right heating? Does it have the right cooling? And how old are those things? Are they likely to need more maintenance or are they likely to be something that’s been put in more recently and won’t need much maintenance at all? Have a look at the fixtures and fittings. What is the quality of those things? Will they need to be replaced? Or are they fine as they are? And quite often you could comment on the fact that it’s really light and bright in a property, but not pay any attention to the fact that there are no window furnishings whatsoever. So when you move in, you’re going to have to go and get those things in place which is an additional cost. Don’t be afraid to walk out the back and look at the quality of the fence. But also, have a little peer over the fence and see who your neighbours are because you don’t know who’s lurking over that back fence. It is important to know who you’re about to get into bed with because you will be spending a bit of time in close proximity to your neighbours.
Then the last thing I do is what I like to call the ‘Forgotten’ category. Because, no one really thinks about the plumbing, or the electrical, or the roof or the subfloor. Is there any water damage? Those sorts of things. So a little tip is to go and find where the shower is, and have a look at the wall behind the shower. See if there are any leaking through the grout, it might need some maintenance or high moisture readings as well. I always suggest that people get a building inspection done. Absolutely. But you have to spend some money on it, so it makes sense for you to go and check these things out beforehand to give yourself a bit of an idea. Is the electrical board one of the new modern ones, or is it one of the old and sort of dated ones as well which would indicate the wiring hasn’t been done.
There’s a lot that you can do in the inspection, but the point is very simple. You’ve only got a 30-minute window for these open-for-inspections, and so, therefore, you’ve got to use your time very, very wisely. So that’s what a Buyers Agent does. As a Buyer’s Agent who is trained to look at all of these things on behalf of the client that they are buying for because they have been through so many properties that these things become commonplace. But for those people who aren’t going on a regular basis, it’s really important to consider all of those things when they are looking to do a property inspection.