Estate Agents and Property Inspections

When Estate Agents Should Insist On An Independent Inspection

independent inspection
An independent inspection and report protects both the estate agent and the seller

The EAAB (Estate Agents Affairs Board) encourages buyers to have a home inspection. However, which buyer ever reads the articles on the EAAB’s website? Maybe estate agents read the articles and the EAAB encourages estate agents to advise buyers to have an independent property inspection?

Most estate agents prefer not to have an independent property inspection, mostly because of concerns over defects that may make the sale fall through and because of the cost involved.

Estate agents should know better! Insisting on an independent property inspection may save the agent from strained relationships with both sellers and buyers. Furthermore, an independent inspection will prevent damage to their reputation or possibly even costly liability later on, should problems occur with the condition of the property.

An independent home or property inspection doesn’t kill a deal by forcing sellers to disclose defects that they wouldn’t otherwise have known about. Any defect that is serious enough to kill a real estate transaction is best discovered before it can kill the deal or result in litigation at a later stage.

Whether an estate agent should insist on an independent home or property inspection depends on which defects are not written into the disclosure by the seller. It also depends on whether the agent is willing to insist that the seller has a fully independent home inspection done.

What should be considered is that the seller and agent can use the inspection as the seller’s disclosure.

Points to ponder

If you have doubts after reading the points below, it would be advisable to insist on independent property inspection:

  • Does the property appear well maintained?
  • Has the seller voluntarily shared details on the condition, problems and any physical damage to the property?
  • Have you visually spotted all the damages/ problems to the exterior or interior of the property?
  • Are the damages/ problems you have spotted minor, common maintenance issues?
  • Do any damages/problems that you have spotted need further investigation?
  • Do you know what has caused any damp or moisture problems, or visible water damage anywhere on the property?
  • Is the seller’s disclosure a true reflection of the condition of the property. Does it include any of the damages/problems to the property that you have visually spotted?
  • Is there municipality approved plans available for the property?
  • Are the recent (or any) additions/ alterations included on the approved plans?
  • Would you purchase this property without an independent property inspection report?

The price of a property inspection cost becomes secondary to the success of the sale if there is any doubt.

Moreover, what you and the seller should keep in mind is that the cost of a property inspection is a fraction of a % of the cost of the property. It should therefore not be a factor in the decision to have a home or property inspection.  

Protecting yourself and your client

The important question you should be considering, as the seller’s agent, is how to protect your client and yourself against problems that may surface later.

Therefore, if you inspect your client’s property yourself, you will be liable if serious problems are found later on. You should rather insist on commissioning the services of a qualified professional inspector.

A property inspection will provide a comprehensive evaluation of the condition of components and systems of the property. In addition, in most cases, you will miss defects that a qualified inspector is specially trained to look for. Therefore, unless you are also properly qualified as an inspector yourself, rather employ a professional.

If the seller refuses your request for an independent home or property inspection, you should protect yourself by placing a protection clause in your “Offer To Purchase”. The clause should advise the buyer to have an independent home or property inspection to determine the overall condition of the property.

Estate agents are now known as “Property Practitioners” and the EAAB is now the “Property Practitioners Regulatory Authority”.

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Plants Growing against Your House.

The Danger of Creeper Plants Growing Against Your House

Creeper Plants

A while back, I inspected a house in an older part of Johannesburg. From the road, the house was very pretty with an ivy creeper growing on the walls. However, having plants winding their way up your outside walls can cause actual damage to your house. Therefore, you should think twice before allowing creepers to grow on any wall in the first place.

In fact, the best advice is not to have any gardens within 1 metre of your home! Watering gardens against your home can cause uneven settlement of the foundation and cracks in your house.

The worst plants to plant against your house are destructive plants known as “self clingers”.

Self-clinging creepers

Self clinger creeper’s rootlets go into existing fine cracks and fissures, using them to enhance adhesion and occasionally penetrating the interiors of buildings through them. The mortar between bricks can be loosened through this activity and is often torn away from the wall when a creeper is removed. The same strong adhesion can result in chunks of plasterwork being pulled away, attached to the creeper vines.

In addition, on roof structures, creeper tendrils and rootlets can work their way under roof tiles and other roofing materials. Unless you remove the creeper maintenance, like painting and roof repairs, is impossible.

Moreover, any plants and shrubs with their foliage against your home may even dislodge gutters and roof tiles and can hold damaging moisture against wall surfaces causing moisture to penetrate into the wall and roof structure of your home.

Some articles and posts claim not all climbing plants bad for your house and some can provide “genuinely benefits”. However, the detrimental effect of having these climbers on your walls far outweigh any benefits they may have. Moreover, some climbing plants are very aggressive in the way they attach themselves to your walls and, if left unchecked, can cause serious structural problems.

Which creepers to avoid?

Ivy is a prime example. The sort of plants to avoid having grown up your wall are often the ones that have “suckers” or little mini branches like spikes, that burrow under the paint into the plastered walls and into the mortar joints of the face brick walls for a foothold.

There are many different species. According to my local nurseryman, these are some of the worst:

  • the trumpet vine;
  • Climbing hydrangea;
  • Star jasmine;
  • all types of Ivy (15 species);
  • Tickey creeper or climbing fig;

What other damage can a creeper do?

If it is a large plant with a very thick “trunk” or base, and it is very close to the wall, the roots can cause settlement or undermine the foundations, resulting in expensive structural repairs.

Roofs and gutters are very vulnerable and any plant or tree should never be allowed to grow to the height of the eaves. They can crack, dislodge tiles and roof timbers and deposit leaves and debris on roof and gutters resulting in roof leaks rotting timber. In addition, they encourage birds, bats, insects and other vermin to invade your roof!

However, it’s not all bad news if you have, or you would like, plants trailing up the outside walls of your house.

How to enjoy creeper plants without ruining the house.

A creeper locks itself to the wall as it climbs, so to avoid that damage, it is necessary to provide some sort of frame for the plant to climb, and lock on to. Instead of the wall, a supporting trellis is ideal for this. But, keep it some distance from your walls. Additionally, how are you going to paint and maintain the house walls if your house is covered creepers?

Which creeper to grow?

If a creeper must be grown onto your house or garden walls, my nurseryman has suggested that a Japanese creeper, also known as Boston Ivy, should be planted.

Boston Ivy is fast growing and although the suckers do not penetrate into the wall. However, they must be kept away from growing up to the roof level as they can dislodge gutters and roof tiles. These creepers are safe as long as you control them.

Which creeper plants would enhance rather than harm your home?

Your local garden nursery should be able to give you advice on creepers that will enhance your home but not cause any damage.

My nurseryman advised planting the following:

  • Virginia Creeper
  • Climbing rose plants (preferably helped by a trellis)
  • Firethorn
  • Traveller’s joy or Old man’s beard
  • Hydrangea

How to remove creepers from the walls

Creeper damage to wall
If you don’t take care with removing a creeper, the paintwork and plastering on your wall will look like this!.

Creeper Removal Tips

  • When removing creepers, pull it VERY gently off the wall. Don’t worry about the stems that break and stay stuck. Furthermore, if the roots have grown into cracks, you don’t want to damage your mortar joints or plasterwork by yanking too hard.
  • Over time the roots will harden and be nearly impossible to remove. The sooner you can clean your walls, the better.
  • Loosen any whole roots and stems that are still attached by using a wooden or plastic scraper. However, be careful not to damage the mortar or plasterwork further.
  • You can start scrubbing once just the hairy tendrils are left. Use a dry nylon household scrubbing brush and loosen as much dried material as you. If there are still tendrils remaining, loosening them with water and mild detergent. If the scrubbing brush isn’t doing the job, try a stiffer brush, or a scrubbing sponge. However, the stiffer the brush, the more likely you are to damage your wall.
  • If all else fails, you can use a propane torch to burn away the remaining roots. Be sure to wear goggles and keep the flame away from wood or flammable materials.

Painting after creeper removal

At this stage, leave whatever remains. Patch or replaster and repaint plastered walls.

Unfortunately, when you remove a creeper from a wall it often leaves behind suckers which are very difficult to remove. Often, if it is a plastered wall, painting it with normal paint, will not get rid of the marks left on the wall by the suckers.

However, a thick textured wall coating may be thick and durable enough to hide the marks from the suckers.

Rejointing faced brick walls

You will need to repoint the joints in the brickwork that has been removed or damaged. Furthermore, this will avoid moisture penetration into your walls and house.

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THE HOME DETECTIVE » home inspection blog » Page 2

Mould and Sleep Loss

Health Risks of Mould in the Home: Sleep Loss

sleep loss

WC: 529

Do you suffer from sleep loss?

Did you know that one way to identify a mould problem in your home is watching your water bill? Leaks and damp surfaces are primed for mould growth, especially in areas that are prone to collection surfaces and warmth—think your bathrooms, kitchen and basement.

In addition to leaky pipes, many people don’t realize that mould can form in other disguised areas of your home such as on your mattress. Whether you sleep in a damp room, spill a glass of water that is absorbed into your mattress, or sweat a lot at night, your mattress may be primed for mould growth. Mattresses can include soft, porous materials such as cotton covers or foam comfort layers, any of which can absorb moisture both inside and outside of your mattress.

So, while you may know to check your pipes or understand that your basement, kitchen, and bathrooms are often culprits of leaks and potential areas of mould growth, keep in mind that places such as your bedroom may hide a serious mould problem.

Here are five ways indoor mould causes sleep loss

Sleep Loss

Mould impacts the air quality in your house by releasing glucans which can cause an inflammatory response to your respiratory system. In turn, it affects your ability to breathe effectively by prompting your body to go into a fix-it mode such as an increase in mucus production which builds up and makes it difficult to breathe.

Sleep Apnea

It is estimated that nearly 22-million people are affected by sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a dangerous and potentially deadly problem wherein a person momentarily stops breathing. The result is gasping or snoring as the person’s brain tries to readjust breathing. Sleep apnea is caused by the blockage or narrowing of the airways that is often the result of congestion associated with mould.


There are many reasons that lead to snoring and guess what? Mould is one of them. Snoring is the result of a problem in breathing. The problem can be a result of congestion, obstruction or an irritation. Not only can snoring disrupt your sleep, but can be an indication of a much bigger problem.


Insomnia due to mould growth can carry similar symptoms to a cold or allergies (also caused by mould). When your body is impacted by watery eyes, a runny nose, sneezing, coughing and congestion it is likely that you will have trouble falling asleep.

Daytime Fatigue

A reaction to mould while you are sleeping—or trying to sleep—can cause several sleep-deprived consequences which ultimately lead to daytime fatigue. Many people who suffer from sleep loss and insomnia also suffer from daytime fatigue which is easily identified by being tired throughout the day, lacking energy and motivation. You may also feel moody, anxious and short-tempered.

Mould in your home can have severe consequences that affect your comfort level and can have serious consequences, but you do have the ability to control it. Per advice from the CDC you can prevent mould in your home by doing the following:

  • Control humidity levels;
  • Promptly fixing leaky roofs, windows and pipes;
  • Thoroughly cleaning and drying after flooding;
  • Ventilating shower, laundry and cooking areas.

Article by Lisa Smalls, a freelance writer from North Carolina, USA.

Lisa has suffered from insomnia most of her life and, as a result, is fascinated by how our environment affects our sleep. She has kindly contributed this article to make me and you aware of the many reasons why we may be suffering from the lack of sleep.

Lisa will be contributing more articles on sleep loss, so watch this space!

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THE HOME DETECTIVE » home inspection blog » Page 2

Damp In Freestanding Walls

Do Your Boundary Walls Look Like This?

damp in walls

This photo I took during a client’s comprehensive buyers inspection had rising damp, falling damp and penetrating damp. In addition, the white marks on the wall were caused by efflorescence.

Often the maintenance of the walls that are attached to or which do not form part of our houses is neglected. These are our boundary, garden and courtyard walls.

These walls are very important in that they protect our privacy and security and are our first line of defence against intruders. Unfortunately, we sometimes do not make enough effort to protect them!

The greatest enemy of these walls is damp which penetrates into the wall from below, above and from the sides of the walls.

Rising Damp

Rising damp occurs as a result of capillary action at and below ground level into porous masonry building materials. These material are mainly concrete, bricks and mortar. The moisture rises up the wall in this way. It usually occurs where there is no damp proof course (DPC). Freestanding walls such as boundary and garden walls do not normally have DPC built into the walls because it would make the wall unstable. A layer of DPC would break the bond between the wall and its foundation.

The height to which the moisture will rise is determined by the evaporation rate and the nature of the wall. The normal limit for rising damp is generally about one metre above ground level.

Rising damp may show as a stain on the plastered and painted wall, the blistering of paint and loss of plaster. A damp area may be evident at the base of walls and in extreme situations, may cause the structure of the wall to wear away and crumble.

Falling Damp

Falling damp is caused by downward water penetration from the top of porous masonry walls. This is as a result of the top of a boundary wall not being:

      • adequately waterproofed, if at all;
      • properly sealed at vertical expansion joints;
      • repaired at copings that have cracked or deteriorating mortar joints;
      • cleaned to prevent the build-up of dirt and moss on upper surfaces of stone or brickwork.

Leaves, bird manure, moss and dirt on top of the walls contain weak acids and salts which can promote decay of the masonry if absorbed.

Penetrating Damp

Penetrating damp is a common form of damp. It occurs as a result of the horizontal ingress of water through gaps, cracks and joints in the wall’s structure. Penetrating or horizontal damp can be due to your or your neighbour’s irrigation system spraying against the boundary wall or foliage growing against the wall (bushes and trees). Other causes are deteriorating paint finishes and inadequately ruled joints which allows moisture intrusion into faced brick or stone walls.

Penetrating damp tends to produce localised patches of dampness and decay, whereas rising damp may affect the base of the wall.


Efflorescence is where an appreciable quantity of soluble salts is present in the masonry. It routinely occurs in masonry construction, particularly in brick and concrete. It typically occurs during the initial curing of the cementitious product. Moisture carries these salts to the face of the masonry or concrete where the moisture evaporates.

As the water evaporates, it leaves the salts behind as a white fluffy deposit. This deposit can normally be brushed off when dry. It usually disappears with time after rains or washing with water.

Efflorescence is generally an aesthetic concern and not a structural one. However, where there is excessive efflorescence, the crystallizing salts within the pores of the masonry can disrupt even the strongest material. As a result, this can lead to the breaking up and crumbling of the structure.

How to maintain your freestanding walls

Rising Damp

Rising damp is not easy to resolve in freestanding, boundary or garden walls because of the lack of DPC.  However, you can do the following:

      1. Make sure that there is no ponding of water against the wall. Good drainage away from the walls is essential. If you have a low point in your garden against your boundary walls you will need to create a hole in the wall at the lowest point for the stormwater to drain away. Your neighbours have to accept a certain amount of your stormwater by law.
      2. Try not to overwater your gardens against boundary and garden walls. overwatering will result in sodden earth around the walls and, as a result, rising damp in the wall.
      3. Keep leaves and other debris on the ground which may retain water away from the walls.

Falling Damp

      1. You should waterproof the tops of all freestanding walls with a layer of an acrylic waterproofing system or any other system to prevent moisture intrusion into the top of your boundary and yard walls.
      2. If there is a concrete or brick coping on top of the wall you must ensure that the joints form a water-resistant seal. You should seal all deteriorated joints or porous joints between the bricks and copings.
      3. Seal the top of expansion joints to prevent water from entering the joint with a silicone sealer.

Penetrating Damp

      1. If your freestanding walls are plastered, check the paint finish regularly. It may be time to repaint if the finish is chalky.
      2. If you have a sprinkler system make sure that you are not watering your boundary walls. Sprinklers heads are normally adjustable. If yours are not, change them.
      3. Trim bushes and shrubs so that there is a gap between the foliage, branches and the walls.
      4. If it appears that the moisture is from your neighbours’ sides, you will need to talk to them about the problem.
      5. Clean out and seal vertical expansion joints with a good silicone sealer. Any cracks should be sealed as well. Furthermore, if your plastered walls are covered in crazing cracking wash the wall down. Thereafter, when the wall is dry, seal the wall with a sealer and repaint the wall.


Efflorescence is caused by moisture absorbed in the wall evaporating and leaving behind salts in the form of a white powder. Therefore, if you repair and maintain your walls as suggested above you should have very little or no efflorescence appearing on your walls.

I am not promoting Prominent Paints as all the well-known paint manufacturers have the paints and sealers that you can use to repair and maintain your freestanding walls.

However, there is very good advice in the following video by Prominent Paints on how to repair boundary and garden walls if they look like the photo above!



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THE HOME DETECTIVE » home inspection blog » Page 2

High Water Bills



Your high water bill could be due to either a temporary increase in water usage or a leak. To find out if it’s a leak, first shut off all your water-using fixtures in the house.

Take the cover off your water meter box and flip open the protective cover plate on the meter dial. Normally, your metre box will be somewhere along the front property line, often near a corner. You may have to dig down a little in the dirt to find it.

The meter may be a newer one that has a small round or diamond-shaped low-flow indicator near the centre. The low flow indicator may be red or black like in the photo above. It should not be turning. But if it is, there’s a leak somewhere in your plumbing system. At a meter without a low-flow indicator, note the meter reading or take a picture with your cellphone. Check back in an hour or so and see if it has changed.

There are a number of places to check if the meter says you have water flow indicating a leak:

  • Leaking Taps

Not just the at the sinks. Also check the taps at the washing machine hookup, water heater, tub/shower, and the outside hose taps.

  • Leaking Toilet Cisterns (tanks)

A flapper valve that doesn’t seat properly at the bottom of the cistern will cause a leak. Check the ballcock arm and overflow tube as well, it may also be defective. Drop a dye tablet (available in most hardware stores specifically for toilet testing) in the tank. Do not flush, and wait for 15-minutes. If the colour shows up in the bowl, the toilet needs repair.

  • TPR Valve at the Geyser

The small valve with a flip-up handle at the top or side of the geyser called a Temperature and Pressure Release valve. This important valve is designed to open if the water gets too hot, to keep the tank from exploding. These valves sometimes fail by opening slightly and letting loose a slow trickle of hot water. The water normally runs in a steel or copper pipe to a location at the exterior wall. Find the termination of the TPR valve and check for a drip. NEVER work on these valves yourself! Only a suitably trained and experienced plumber should!

  • A Leaking Water Pressure Regulator

You will usually find this valve where your water supply enters your house. Alternatively, it may be before the geyser on the cold water supply. A certain amount of water is discharged from the drip of the pressure regulator during the course of normal operation. This discharge is normally directed away from the foundation of your home with discharge pipe. It should discharge either into a gulley close by or directly into a sewage pipe. If the pressure regulator is in your roof a copper or steel pipe should run to the outside of an exterior wall. It may discharge into the gutter if your home has gutters.

If a pressure valve is leaking excessively, it is possible that the pressure valve is faulty. It means the pressure in the geyser and its pipes may be too high. Additionally, an excessive leaking pressure valve can lead to large increases in water usage. Put a bucket under the discharge. If its leaking more than 5 litres per day replace it!

  • Geyser Tray Discharge

If water is dripping out of the geyser tray PVC pipe It could mean your geyser has sprung a leak. The leak could be at the geyser drain valve or the geyser itself. For whatever reason, it does mean you have a problem that requires the attention of a suitably qualified plumber.

  • A Leak Under the Floor Slab

These are the hardest to detect until they get really bad. Walk around the perimeter of the home and look for any muddy areas at the base of the walls. Also look for any areas where the soil has washed away at the wall or paving, creating a hollow. Wet spots in the floor and moist, discoloured skirtings are another clues.

  • Leaks Between the Water Meter and the House

Again, leaks here are difficult to detect until they become gushers and water starts bubbling up out of the ground. But some homes have a secondary water shut-off valve in the ground, usually where the water supply enters the house. If your house has one. If the meter continues to show water flow then your problem, or part of it, is underground in the yard.

Galvanised waterpipes tend to fail prematurely because they eventually rust. Although fine for underground and cold water installation, Polycop fails fairly quickly if used for hot water systems. Also, copper pipes can deteriorate early when the water is especially acidic. Furthermore, copper pipes are easily damaged. So also take into consideration the type of piping you have. And, when all else fails, call a good plumber.

Lastly, it can be a combination of small leaks that are sending your bill so high!

When I do your Maintenance Inspection I will check your water system as well!

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