Buyer's guide to home inspections

24 Oct 2012

Property sales tend to rise from October to December as more people make a move in preparation for a new year. 

While some defects such as cracked roof tiles and damp walls might be more obvious, hidden defects such as rotten roof beams or a leaking geyser are more difficult to spot.

A new home is one of the most expensive purchases you will ever make, says Eric Bell of Inspect-A-Home. While most people think this will be an exciting journey, a 'fresh start', too many are disappointed and suffer financially when they find out that their dream home is a money-drainer rather than the investment they imagined it to be. 

Bell believes that it is important for buyers to understand the condition of their property before they buy it. While some defects such as cracked roof tiles and damp walls might be more obvious, hidden defects such as rotten roof beams or a leaking geyser are more difficult to spot. 

These defects might mean that a house is unsafe and repairs could run into the hundreds of thousands, leaving buyers with massive, unexpected bills. A current case before the Estate Agent Affairs Board (EAAB) has one buyer living in a hotel while over R400 000 worth of damage is being repaired in his newly purchased home. 

Despite extensive media coverage and an exposé by Carte Blanche, individuals are still buying houses without having them inspected by a professional organisation. Bell warns that there are currently no laws governing the disclosure of defects before a property sale. 

All too often, sellers want to sell their properties and agents want to get their commission, so pre-sale inspections are not recommended and buyers are encouraged to sign disclosure documents stating that the property is in good condition. 

Potential buyers should remember that they are not required to sign disclosure documents or accept a Voetstoots clause. Most sellers, buyers, and agents are not building inspectors and are therefore not qualified to evaluate the condition of a property. 

Have a look around

Are you house-hunting? At the next show house, Bell advises you consider the following: 

- Are there any large plaster cracks that could indicate structural damage?
- Can you spot peeling or blistering paint indicating a damp problem?
- Are there signs of rot in any wooden doors, floors, or window frames?
- Does the roof have missing tiles or damaged gutters?
- Are the kitchen and bathroom well ventilated and are the taps in good working order?
- Are boundary walls, electric fencing, electric gates, and garage motors in good working order?
- What about the geyser? How old is it? When was it last serviced? Is it insulated?

Get an expert opinion

While you can pick out obvious defects through a quick visual inspection, the truth is that it is difficult to spot hidden defects unless you are an expert. 

Bell recommends that all sellers and buyers have a thorough home inspection by an accredited expert before buying a property. An inspection on a standard three bedroom, two bathroom house with a double garage should cost you approximately R3 000 to R3 500. 

A reputable inspector like Inspect-A-Home will deliver a comprehensive report on the interior and exterior of the property, highlighting structural concerns, recommending repair solutions, and ensuring peace of mind for both seller and buyer. 

Bell explains that using a service like Inspect-a-Home does not mean that the sale will not go through.

Rather, it means that the seller and the buyer will have an objective assessment of the value of a property and any possible concerns. 

In the long-run, this means happy clients, possible repeat business going forward for the agent, and no nasty surprises. 

“Most houses inspected do have defects, and if costly to repair, a reduction in the purchase price is only fair. It is important to note that 97 percent of houses pass inspection and are still sold,” says Bell. 

Don’t get caught out and buy one of the 3 percent that have serious problems, he warns. "Before signing, call an accredited home inspection service to ensure that your dream house is all you expect it to be."

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