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Buyer beware: what to look for when you’re house hunting

It’s natural to feel overwhelmed when you’re in the market for a home. Let’s face it, the price tags have so many zeros attached these days, there’s little doubt this is the biggest investment of your life. But it’s also thrilling. As you walk through the front door at an open inspection, your heart might skip a beat as you wonder ‘is this the one?’. 

It’s easy to get caught up in the emotion of imagining what life might be like in a property that feels right, but it’s a good idea to do your due diligence before making an offer. 

What to look for when inspecting a home 

Get a second opinion

It’s wise to ask an independent building inspector to assess the property. According to Joseph Walton, president of the Real Estate Institute of Victoria (REIV), there are many possible defects that are difficult to detect. It’s worth spending a couple of hundred dollars at the outset which may save you thousands in the long run,’ he suggests. 

This also helps you to see what’s achievable once you have the keys. For example, if you’re planning to make your home as sustainable and green as possible, and want to install a natural gas hot water system and other gas appliances, a building inspector can help to ensure that it’s possible to make the switch. If you’re an entertainer at heart, consider the outdoor space and imagine the possibilities.

If you’re inspecting on your own, some things to look for include dampness, mould and large cracks in walls that indicate possible structural issues. Also, ask the agent about the age of the hot water service, heating and cooling units and other fixed appliances. Older stovetops, hotwater systems, heaters and air-conditioning units that don’t have an energy efficiency star rating may cost significantly more in running costs than the natural gas alternative. 

If you want to replace old appliances, you’ll need to factor this into your purchase budget. But, the initial outlay for natural gas cooking, heating and cooling will deliver significant long-term savings. 

Check the paperwork 

Walton says if you’re looking at a dwelling with an extension it’s important to ensure there is a Certificate of Final Inspection for the works issued by a registered building surveyor in Victoria, or relevant documentation in your state. ‘It’s also important for buyers to be aware of any overlays or caveats that apply to the home as these may impact on future development plans for the property,’ Walton adds. 

Review the Section 32

‘Vendors are required to disclose any caveats that apply to the property as well as any building defects they are aware of,’ Walton says. All of this information can be found in the Section 32. This document also includes information about rates, land tax and owners’ corporation fees. ‘It’s always a good idea to have a solicitor look over the contract of sale and Section 32 prior to making an offer or bidding at an auction,’ he says. 

What to do once you’ve placed the winning bid 

You will have the opportunity to complete a final inspection seven days prior to settlement. This is the time to have a detailed look at permanent fixtures and fittings including the oven, floors and window coverings. ‘These are contractual inclusions unless stated otherwise,’ Walton says. 

This is the time to check services like the gas hot water system, too. Test taps and showers to see how the water heats. If you have children, check to see if the hot water system is continuous flow, which will enable you to control water temperature with total peace of mind.     

This is also a good time to think about your existing furniture and where you’ll put things on moving day. Once you’re satisfied that everything’s in order, the countdown is on to settling in and making it your own.