Don’t get screwed.
11 tips to avoid an unpleasant surprise in your building inspection
Check out these 11 tips to avoid an unpleasant surprise in your building inspection
You have prepared your home for sale and it’s on the market. Now the buyers are circling and you have been made an acceptable offer. What’s next? Well, it’s usual that many offers will be made subject to building and pest inspections these days and after years of observing Buyers go about getting their inspections, I have noticed a few things that consistently cause concern for them.
Their reaction? Run for the hills! Renegotiate! Accept that the property is what it is. Now, as an owner, this can be unnerving for you!
Let me preface this by stating the obvious. I am NOT a building inspector so this is a laypersons perspective on things I see as I go about doing my job for my clients. I will focus on the things that pop up here in Brisbane whereas there may be elements relevant to other cities and architectural styles that we don’t see here as often. We can become a bit blasé to things in and around our own homes that we have ‘not seen’ or just gotten used to. Here are some of the items that can cause my buyers (and subsequently my owners) to get nervous and a sale to wobble a bit. This may help you look at your place through different eyes if you are contemplating a sale and consider getting them attended to.
Now the question you are likely to ask is ‘How much do you do?” That is a great question as I feel there should be a limit to what you want to spend. If you have an older style established home, then it is unreasonable to suggest you go about fixing some things that could well be part of a new owners plan to substantially renovate. As I said above, you home is what it is!
Use this Building Inspection Checklist to Save that Great Offer
1. A great place to start is downstairs – with the stumps! The best example here is stumps. I frequently encounter older homes whose building inspections throw up something called concrete cancer in their stumps and this can be apparent in anything as far back as a 1950’s style of home. Or, even in older Queenslanders, Colonials and the like where the timber stumps have rotted out at the bottom or been munched upon by white ants, stumps can be wonky.
If one or two have deteriorated severely but the rest are solid, then possibly replacing those few could be a good idea. If the numbers are large and potentially a total re-stump is required, then one has to weigh up whether the buyer would contemplate a lift and redevelopment underneath your home. We can’t presume that will definitely happen so sometimes it is better to acknowledge the issue and price your home accordingly. In my experience buyers will respond better if they are aware upfront that the house has an issue and that you have adjusted you expectations to take that into consideration. Buyers don’t always adhere to our thinking and will take on board what we have said only to change their mind once they receive their actual report. Seems a little like they are doubtful about those facts until they have it from someone they have engaged to advise them!
2. What about up on top? Is your roof old or has it been replaced? Buyers again have concerns if the roof is in poor repair with lots of rust. This can be a large expense on top of their purchase price and it is preferable that if you are not going to replace it just to sell, once again price your home accordingly. I don’t recommend replacing a roof for the same reason as mentioned previously that a buyer may intend extending or renovating in a way that requires roof work and the roof can be rectified at that time. However, you do need to be prepared for their reaction to this.
3. Gutters can be an issue. Some mild rust holes are often accepted by buyers but this can vary on the degree of damage obviously. Check for trees that over hang as they will exacerbate any such problem. At least having your gutters cleaned of leaves and overhanging branches cut back will minimize the perception of a problem.
4. Our old friends, white ants. Some of the tips I can pass on are:
Do not leave ANY timber lying on the bare earth. This includes left over timber from any handy work of the home renovator. Old fence posts, old packing pallets, cardboard boxes, old furniture.
Place any timber furniture and accessories that must be kept, up off the ground on cement chocks where you can see underneath very easily. In a recent situation, an old cupboard was stored against a wall and sitting on the ground. White ants were detected in a post on the other side of the wall and once the cupboard was moved, it was hiding the biggest white ant party to be seen in a while!
Check the vertical timber battens around your home. Do they touch the ground anywhere? I understand the recommendation is about a 75mm clearance. Check with your local pest person. In any case, this is a bit of a guide for you to compare with if you have timber battening around your house. Make sure garden beds have not been built up against these areas of your home.
Old timber stumps used as landscaping features can be another site for the munchers to be found in. If they are not important it could be worth dumping them. The reason for suggesting this onslaught against potential white ant domiciles is that it will ‘help’ allay any buyer concerns if they have been banished from your property.
5. Hot water systems: I understand the most sought after territory for white ants is in dark, moist and often airless spaces. So, another spot to check is where your hot water system has its overflow outlet. I have seen situations where it is draining in under the house instead of away from it. These little critters move fast so minimize their opportunities. Have available all documentation of treatments you have had done in recent years.
6. Water! Now that has been top of mind here in Brisbane for the past 15 months and of course, continues as we deal with a soggy summer in 2012. Check where water flows around your home. Buyers seem paranoid right now and if you make sure every drain or pathway directs water flow away from the house as best you can, you will again minimize a current objection. This is all good in principal and not always achievable but at least you awareness of these issues will ease buyer feedback for you.
7. Another thing to check up on are your steps. How are your external stairways? Are the treads in good order? Or are there a few a little worse for wear? Are the railings firm? Safety particularly for children has become a major concern. If your stringers are steel, are they solid or suffering from rust and corrosion? Rotten stair treads are a good thing to have replaced and handrails re-bolted so they are firm.
8. Take a walk around your garden. Are the trees and shrubs wild and woolly? Or could they do with a trim? Paved areas even? No spots where people can trip easily? Neat and tidy minimizes the perception of requiring maintenance. Are there pickets hanging off the fence which will make Buyers think the whole thing needs replacing?
9. Recently a couple of seemingly minor things reared their heads as problems. Now, I might have said ‘Why worry about that?’ but it is part and parcel of the current approach which sees these minor things adding to the expenses a Buyer will seriously take into consideration. You do not want something so minor to actually cause a contract to crash! Thus, inside, how are the door handles? Hinges? The windows? Do they open and close easily? Handles firm? Locks working? Do all of the light fittings work? The fans? The air conditioners? The smoke detectors? Do you have a safety switch installed? Are all your power points securely screwed to the walls? Are all appliances that are to be included in working order? Remote controls for garage doors etc in working order?
10. Improvements and extensions: Do you have the approvals in place for your improvements? With an infinite amount of information available to buyers, they are now more worldly and wary if something is not done with the appropriate approvals. I often find owners have done it all bar the final inspection and kick themselves when the compliance period has lapsed.
11. Verandahs and decking timbers: Check that there are no rotten boards, that railings are intact.
This is by no means everything and I have not spoken about pools as the current requirements in Queensland for Buyers and Sellers means that they are ‘top of mind’ issues for pool owners.
I hope this simple review offers you some food for thought. It’s easy enough to ask questions, call in a professional and get your own building inspection. Just keep in mind, buyers will most likely want their own inspection because they can trust the source. However, if you want to have a heads up on what may be picked up, then getting your own report is an option.
Want to Know More? Check out Our Home Sellers Checklist for getting the best result on the Sale of your home.