Some more astute investors may tell you after the fact that you should have forked out the money and reached out to a qualified building inspector. But the fact of the matter is you can avoid losing your shirt on a dud property just by keeping your eye (and nose) out for a few tell-tale signs that all is not right. By training your senses just a little bit, you’ll be able to tell whether you’re inspecting the home of your dreams or a potential nightmare.
Stains should not be ignored or written off as likely the result of the previous tenant’s kids or someone getting clumsy with a wine glass—they could be the sign of bigger, far more serious issues with the property. Make note of common water stains in the bathrooms, as these can be a costly nuisance to address, but be particularly vigilant when it comes to damp stains on carpeting, walls in other areas of the house, and inside cabinets.
Use your nose as well as your eyes to see if there is a smell of mildew or mould. Damp smells could mean rising damp, leaks in the plumbing system, or even structural issues. Rule of thumb: make sure you always ask the realtor or tenant about any stains you notice.
Like stains, cracks can appear in different areas of the house and could be the result of an accident or the sign of more serious and urgent issues. Start by looking up—are there cracks in the ceilings? Are the cracks paired with a sagging appearance? This is sometimes known as “pillowing” and could mean another few hundred or even few thousand more you’ll need to invest into the home, depending on what the source of the problem is.
Next, check for cracks in the walls, both inside and outside. Serious cracks can be a sign of structural problems and should be checked by a professional inspector. Finally, check for small cracks in the corners of rooms and near windows. Cracked window sills not only affect the aesthetic of a room, they can considerably drive up heating and cooling costs and need to be repaired.
Every house has dust, especially if it’s been lived in before, but if you’re looking to invest in a property, you may want to give any dust you see a second look. Is it dust or is it something potentially more worrying, such as soot? If you’ve noticed the property appears to have black dust particles in some areas, it’s worth asking about it and following up with how the property is heated. Don’t take this issue lightly: soot is dangerous. Think of it as a pollutant in your home. Soot particles are considerably smaller and finer than dust particles and extremely toxic, causing serious health issues if breathed in.
Dust is not your friend either and can seriously affect your indoor air quality. Current tenants typically clean a property before an inspection and realtors often have professional cleaning crews come in, so seeing dust during an inspection is unusual and should raise questions. It is possible that the property simply wasn’t cleaned before inspection, but an abundance of dust in the house could also mean issues with the home’s duct work, which are crucial to fix. There are however measures you can take to keep your home dust and allergen free.
When looking at the overall cleanliness of the place, keep an eye out for ‘chips’. This doesn’t mean raiding the pantries for Doritos. Chipped-off pieces of wood or bits of paint that have flaked off the walls and ceilings are a cause for concern and should immediately raise some questions with the realtor or current tenant, as well as a closer look at walls, ceilings, and window sills.
Ask how recently the home was painted and take a closer look to see if you’ll need to give the place a paint job before you can live in it. Ask whether there are any cracks in the walls and ceilings that you should be aware of. Ask about the overall structure of the house and whether there’s a way to inspect what’s going on above the ceiling. Ask yourself whether you checked the fine details—the window sills and the corners of the home where you may find chipped bits of wood that means cracked sills and issues like rising damp.
It’s clear now that you should always be looking at what’s behind everything you see. What may at first appear to just be a collection of dust on the floor could be a serious risk to your health and wellbeing and that of your loved ones. But it’s also important to see the potential in any property you’re looking to invest in.
It’s important to be vigilant but not overly critical and certainly not unforgiving. Anybody who routinely flips houses will tell you that a place that may not look like much at first can be turned into a dream home with just a weekend or two’s worth of work. Gutters can be cleared, windows washed, and roofs and surfaces cleaned for very affordable prices and a coat of paint on sturdy walls can transform a room.
About the author:
Dylan Butler enjoys a classic smashed avo breakfast like many of his fellow millennials. But make no mistake about it, this second-generation window cleaner is committed to delivering quality window cleaning service across Melbourne.