Buying a house is the biggest investment most of us make, so it is important to get it right.
Home buyers need to remember that the seller’s real estate agent works for the seller. However, they also need to be aware that licensed real estate agencies, and their salespeople, are also bound by a number of statutory and ethical obligations which require them to provide the buyer with information of material importance, and to fully answer buyers’ questions. Information of material importance is any information about the property that could impact on your decision about buying it. Buyers and sellers alike should know that sellers of real estate who are not licensed are not bound by the same requirements.
Friends and family are often keen to offer free advice, but spending money on professional advice before you buy may save you spending a lot more money in future fixing problems you didn’t know about.
Knowing the right questions to ask and engaging expert advice will help you make a sound investment for your future – whether you’re buying a home to live in with your family or to rent to tenants.
Is the seller or their agent aware of any problems with the property?
Ask both the real estate agent and the seller if there is anything a buyer should be aware of with the house, particularly around weathertightness concerns if it’s a modern design or had additions done since the early 1990s. Write down what you are told.
Most apartments and townhouses are unit title properties, with a body corporate governing the use of common areas and administering the body corporate rules. Always ask the seller to authorise the body corporate secretary to provide full records, such as meeting minutes and financial reports, to identify any financial liabilities you need to know about, or problems such as leaks or subsidence.
What needs to be checked?
For all properties, regardless of age and design, basic checks should include:
- the condition of the roof (rust, broken tiles, patching)
- plumbing, including water pressure – check all taps and showers
- the condition of drainage systems – are there any signs of flooding from a partially blocked sewer or stormwater drain?
- electrical wiring – check the switchboard and powerpoints for any discolouration
- the condition of the piles (underfloor supports)
- insulation – in the ceiling space, in the walls, under the floor
- the condition of fences, paving and driveways
- evidence of house movement, such as cracked window sills and doors that don’t close properly
- any alterations that do not appear on the plan (plans usually can be obtained from the local council for a small fee).