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Buyers beware asbestos roofs

02 Sep 2013

When buying a home today, it is essential to be aware of houses that have asbestos roofs. 

When buying a home today, it is essential to be aware of houses that have asbestos roofs.

There is now conclusive evidence that asbestos roofs and partitions can deteriorate, especially if they have not been regularly painted. They then release microscopic fibres into the atmosphere which can cause lung damage, especially if homeowners are already ill. 

For this reason, Bill Rawson, Chairman of the Rawson Property Group, says it is highly likely that within five to ten years, buyers will simply refuse to buy any house with an asbestos roof. 

He says the remedy, of course, is to replace the roof with one made-up of environmentally safe material such as tiles, thatch or IVR sheeting. The fact that this will almost certainly be necessary might be used to negotiate a more favourable sales price, he says. 

“While it is generally acknowledged that the phase out of asbestos is a good move and is long overdue, it also has to be accepted that asbestos removal can only be done by a trained and qualified contractor whose labourers have been clothed in special protective suits, which not only enclose the body but the entire face as well.” 

Rawson says these specialist teams are necessary in this work, but the employment of them can add to the contractor’s bill. 

He says what seems likely to be a fairly simple removal task becomes a highly specialised exercise in which every fraction of the asbestos has to be extracted from the building, if necessary, by the use of high pressure vacuum equipment. 

Rawson warns that buyers today have to beware of homes with high energy costs, for example, those with extensive single external glazing which is subject to high temperature fluctuations. If such homes are heated by electricity, the cost of running them will almost have already trebled in the last decade and will increase exponentially in the future, he says. 

The use of heat pumps and solar heaters will become inevitable and are, in fact, quite likely to become legally mandatory in the not too distant future. The cost of installing such equipment, he says has to be taken into account in any offer to buy. 

Also to be taken into account is the swing towards domestic liquid petroleum gas (propane and butane) as an alternative to electricity for cooking and heating, he says. 

“In a typical small South African home one gas heater, turned on only when the water is required, will provide all the hot water necessary for the home and this cuts 60 to 75 percent of the electricity costs.” 

In a home where the electricity bill is usually R800 plus per month, Rawson says the cost of the geyser will be around R380, thereby effecting a R420 saving per month. 

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