Buyer beware

Buying A House: 15 Common Defects

buying a house
When buying a house, check for common problems like rusting gutters and downpipes!

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Buying a house is a big investment. You should know what you’re getting into.

When buying a house it is imperative that you investigate the condition of all the components of the house. This can save you a great deal of anguish and unforeseen costs. By having the property inspected by a certified home inspector, before signing on the dotted line, defects can be identified. You can then make an informed purchasing decision.

Buying a house – the most common defects to look for.

1)   Rotted Wood

Continuous exposure to moisture causes wood to rot. Inspect wood in the kitchen and the bathroom: toilet seats, countertops, basin and sink units and flooring. Also check the exterior of the home: deck, eaves and verges.

2)   Inadequate Ventilation

Without proper ventilation, moisture cannot evaporate. Over time this will become a problem.  Furthermore, bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms can become havens for mould growth.

Proper ceiling space ventilation allows the sun’s heat to promote evaporation.

In addition, condensation on the underside of metal roofs, as well as under-tile membranes, can damage the roof structure and ceilings. A home inspection will identify stains and signs of dripping moisture in the ceiling space.

3)   Improper Maintenance of Appliances

When buying a house it is important to establish if appliances and other equipment have been regularly maintained, e.g. regular cleaning of ovens, stovetops, filters in the air–conditioning units and in extraction hoods.

4)   Amateur Repairs

Amateurish (non-professional) repairs are most commonly found in plumbing and the electrical system. These generally do not comply with building regulations and represent a real danger, and may cause further serious damage in future.

5)   Poor Drainage

Inadequate drainage around the exterior of the home leads to water intrusion in basements, garages and above damp proofing. This can compromise the foundation of a home and create mould problems.

6)   Failing Heating & Cooling Systems

A failing or ageing heating and cooling system will likely require costly maintenance. These systems can potentially also emit toxic carbon monoxide fumes. When buying a house it is important to remember that older systems are also considerably less efficient than modern ones. They cost more to run!

7)   Environmental Hazards

Because of less stringent building regulations in the past, older homes may contain lead-based paint, high levels of carbon monoxide, toxic mould and asbestos. To identify such problems professional inspection and testing is required.

8)   Faulty Geyser Installations

Geysers need to be inspected carefully, as dangerous installation are not visible. A geyser can potentially represent the biggest danger in the home, as they can explode if not correctly installed. A home inspection is imperative to identify problems in this area. More than 40% of the homes I have inspected had faulty geyser installations.

9)   Plumbing Problems

Pipes under the sink made of incompatible materials can lead to dripping taps, leaking fixtures and slow drains. The seller should address all plumbing problems before you buy.

10)  Electrical Safety Issues

Buying a house with dated and faulty electrical systems can cause breaker tripping or fire. Ungrounded plug outlets and faulty earth leakage circuit breakers are safety hazards and can result in injury, death and financial loss.

I have regularly found faulty wiring in electrical panels and other areas of the homes. In addition, I have found that that electrical Certificates of Compliance do not necessarily guarantee an absence of problems.

11)  Controlling Water

Water intrusion can be one of the most destructive and expensive problems on a property. Therefore, check for well-maintained gutters, downpipes, and proper grading around the foundation to direct water away from the home.

12)  Cracks

Most homes develop some cracks. Old and new homes can develop cracks as well depending on climatic and physical factors.

Not all cracks are structurally significant!

However, it is worth getting to the bottom of what is causing the cracking. A crack is actually the visible symptom of a possible problem and not the problem in itself.

13)  Roof Problems

Before buying a house inquire if there have been any roof leaks. Furthermore, insist that the seller guarantees that there are no roof leaks.

Roofing can contain old or damaged materials or improper flashing. Moreover, roofing problems can cause major and expensive problems for your home.

14)  Storm Damage

Damage from storms, strong wind, tornadoes or flooding has long-term effects on a home. Therefore, thoroughly inspect the roofing, exterior walls and railings for wind and water damage before buying a house. Also, check for defective (post-storm)  repairs. Inspect the internal walls and ceiling for water intrusion. This can potentially lead to mould, with its resulting health problems.

15)  Damp and Mould

Surprisingly, most homeowners on the Highveld believe that it is too dry for mould to be a problem. This is a fallacy, especially in older homes.

Mould requires moisture and warmth to grow and is often found in damp, warm areas. Furthermore, it can enter a home through windows, vents, doorways and air-conditioning systems.

Mould can have serious health effects. They produce mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are the chemical toxins found on the surface of the mould spore which can be inhaled, touched or ingested. Moreover, mycotoxins can cause a suppression of the immune system and even cancer.

When buying a house, the most common places you may find mould is in the bathroom and kitchen, especially around leaking taps and under sinks. In addition, mould grows behind appliances such as the dishwasher, fridge and clothes dryer. If there are or have been roof leaks you may find mould in the roof space.

Furthermore, foliage growing against the house can cause mould to grow outside and inside the home.  Mould can also be found in other areas where condensation and humidity are high.

Finally, before you buy a house, ensure you have commissioned a home inspection for possible problems. The inspection report is your guarantee against buying a cat in the sack!

Prevention is better than trying to find a cure.

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