Home and Garden

Hidden Hindrances - What Problems to Look Out For When Purchasing a Property

Falling in love with a property is a lot like falling in love in general. We look at everything through rose coloured glasses and we are loathe to look too deep for fear of finding something which we won’t like - knowing that we will want it no matter what.


Unlike falling in love with a scoundrel however, there are a number of ways in which we can check the background of a property prior to purchase. We don’t want to be paying out to get professional inspections every time we find a candidate.


Arming ourselves with some basic knowledge surrounding the most common and costly red flags to look for, can quickly identify when we need to move on to the next prospect. Knowing the bad news about a home, may not be a deal breaker but it does give us a platform from which we can negotiate a better price - forewarned is forearmed.


Uninvited guests


After a recent house inspection I thought I had finally found the home of my dreams. Knowing that Melbourne’s south-east suburbs are notorious for termites and other destructive critters I called in my usual go to pest control in Berwick and got a full report on the property.


There had been signs of termite activity including:


  • A hollow sound and papery texture when I pressed around window frames

  • Some of the doors and windows were difficult to open

  • There was evidence of termite frass (droppings)

  • Visually, I noticed tunneling in wood trims


Other indicators of trouble may be:


  • Noise like a soft crunching

  • Flying termites and visible white ants


The report allowed me to assess the structural and cosmetic damage, get a quote from a builder and armed with this information, negotiate a substantially reduced purchase price plus my pest control experts resolved the infestation - perfect!


Papering over the cracks


When inspecting a house, look past the pretty facade which may have been painted or papered to appear fresh and new. Take a walk around the outside where substantial cracks may give an indication of what is really going on with a property.


Major structural cracks are generally caused by subsidence; where the house is literally sinking into the ground. The earth beneath every house shrinks and swells depending on the weather but other causes can be tree roots or leaking drains.


A few cracks in older homes are natural so it can be tricky to tell when the alarm bells should be ringing. Things to check for include:


  • Cracks which go all the way through from the outside to the inside

  • Cracks which run diagonally across a wall

  • Cracks which are narrower at one end

  • Cracks which are found around windows and doors

  • Jamming of doors and windows

  • Gaps and cracks where extensions join to the house


Major appliances


Whilst you are out checking for cracks, take a look at the heating and cooling system;. these are big ticket items, costing a fortune to replace. Test that any air conditioners work and that the heating system is functioning properly.


If there is a swimming pool, test the pump and filtration system and if there is heating look for signs of rust and leaks. If the pump is making strange noises, this can be a warning that it is not operating correctly.




Issues with plumbing can result in, not only costly repairs, but undermining the houses structure along with flourishing mould which is both smelly and a health hazard.


Indications that all may be not well with a home’s plumbing can be:


  • Reduced water pressure

  • Musty smell

  • Signs of rising damp around the home




One of the most dangerous and therefore important areas to assess when inspecting a property, is the electrical wiring. Not only can it be a huge cost to repair but it presents a fire risk and and faults can be life endangering.


Things to look out for include:


  • Exposed or dangerous looking wires

  • Outdated power boxes with no safety switches

  • Flickering lights

  • Non-functioning lights


A true assessment of a home’s wiring can only be done by a qualified electrician but the above may be signs that further investigation by an expert should be undertaken.


If you have fallen in love with a home and think it may be ‘the one’ but it is exhibiting any of the above signs, call in a professional to assess the risks. They can do a thorough inspection and produce a report outlining damage, causes and costs of repair - saving you the long term heartache of wedding yourself to the wrong house.




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