You’ve finally found a property you like and you’ve fixed a date for inspection. But you don’t exactly know how to do it.

What is there to discover about the property that you don’t already know from its listing on websites or from your agent?

Let’s learn how to inspect a property and do proper due diligence before you decide to buy.

1. Many people, many minds

When it comes to deciding which property to buy, one mind is good, but many minds are better. People who think differently than you or who have different areas of expertise will see things you might miss.

For example, if you plan to have kids, asking someone who is already a parent to look at a home can be very insightful. Be careful, though. Other people may have strong opinions and you should listen to them, but, ultimately, you have to make the decision yourself.

Friends are sometimes slow to inspect a property. If you really like a place, then let them know it’s important that they check it out as soon as possible, so you don’t miss out.

2.Know your real-estate agent

First of all, make sure to be friendly towards your real-estate agent; remember their name and take their card. You’ll probably see the same agent at several properties and work with them. A good relationship will make them more likely to be open when you ask some questions.
Ask the agent selling the property what other buyers liked or didn’t like about it. Sometimes, they’ll point out something you’ve missed. If you tell them what you don’t like about a house, sometimes you’ll find they have thought of solutions to problems.

Make sure to ask:

  • Why is the owner selling?
  • How long has it been on the market?
  • Has there been much interest in the property?
  • How much is the owner hoping to sell for?

A good real-estate agent might not answer all of these questions but it doesn’t hurt to ask, as some agents will let you in on a secret or two.

It is important to be honest with them about whether you’re interested or not, so you don’t waste each other’s time. But even if you are interested, play it down and say you are interested but still considering other options.

3. Real estate inspection times

If a property is near a school, a park or a major road, sometimes it can be quite different at different times of day. Some properties could have neighbours that make a lot of noise at night.

Use your judgement and if there’s a potential issue, consider driving past the property at different times of day.

4. Property inspection checklist

Some people like to use an inspection checklist so they remember to consider different aspects of the property. This can be helpful to spot problems you otherwise might have ignored.

If you’re inspecting multiple properties in a day, it can be hard to remember what was good and bad about each one. To keep things simple, taking some notes and pictures is a good idea.

Most importantly, set your criteria and decide whether the property meets those criteria. Also try to visualise how you would use the property. There are lots of good checklists online if you’d like to use one. We have one available on our website.

A few things you must looking out for:

  • Bubbling paint or mold near the floor of walls can indicate rising dampness
  • If you see wood that looks damaged or feels like a sponge, that can be a sign of termites. Or you may see termite mud tubes if you walk around the property.
  • See whether the layout of the property fits the way you would want to use the house.

You must consider what the home could be, rather than just what it is. Ask yourself, “Can I see myself living here?”

5. Talk to your neighbours

If you see a neighbour on the street nearby, walk up to them and let them know you’re considering moving to the area. Then, proceed to ask them what living there is like.
If possible, it’s also a good idea to take a quick look around the street. A few things to look out for are:

  • Any neighbours that look like trouble
  • Any buildings with a development application on the front
  • Anything that looks undesirable

If you’re still unsure, the local police or cafe owners can also tell you more about the area.

If you see multiple homes up for sale right next to each other, it can mean some new facility may be replacing them. Look into what’s moving into the neighbourhood. In some cases, Google maps can show what’s coming. It may be something you’d like to live near or it could be something you’d like to avoid.

6. What is your competition?

If you like a property, then you’ll probably come back to inspect it a second time and you should bring a friend or family member.

Try hanging around outside until the second inspection ends. Notice if there is anyone you saw at the first inspection coming back.

In a hot market, this doesn’t help too much. But in a weak market, if you don’t see much competition, then it may mean you can make a lower offer.

7. Due diligence checklist

A good conveyancer or solicitor will help you with due diligence.If you like a property, send them a copy of the contract. They will check it and do searches and enquiries for due diligence.

Conveyancers often recommend pest and building inspections and can arrange these for you. It’s best to listen to their advice on what checks to carry out.

Sometimes the seller has a building report ready for you. It is best you don’t rely on it, as often the seller’s report looks great when your own report finds numerous problems.

It’s best to pay for your own inspector and go with them to the property. Wear old clothes on the day as you might be getting onto the roof or under the floor.

If you can’t go with them to inspect the property, then call them to discuss the report. You should ask questions like “How big a problem is this?” and “Do you have a ballpark figure for what this would cost to fix?”

If the property is strata title, usually an apartment or townhouse, then you should get a strata report as well. This is because some strata corporations are:

  • are out of money
  • in lengthy court cases
  • badly run
  • planning major repairs and about to give every owner a large special levy

Overall, you have to expect that you will run into some problems, especially if it’s an old house.

Most old houses in Australia have had termites and asbestos at some stage. However, often the termites aren’t currently active, and the damage is small. Asbestos isn’t always a problem, unless you are planning to renovate and need to remove it.

Many buyers skip checking for these. Let’s say you identify that there’s $50,000 of essential repairs. In this case, you may decide to offer $50,000 less. Often, someone else will offer more because they didn’t know about the problem.


Summary

In brief, to inspect the property for best purchasing decisions:

  • Inspect properties with people who think differently to you
  • Talk to the agent and ask lots of questions
  • Consider driving past the property at different times of day
  • Use an inspection checklist, take notes and pictures
  • Talk to neighbors, look around the street and use Google maps
  • Notice if there are other people interested
  • If you like a property, then get a pest and building report; if it’s an apartment or townhouse, get a strata report as well.

If you want to talk to a real estate agent for help with property inspection, call us on 1300 889 743 or fill in the free online enquiry form on our website.

Our upcoming Home Buyers Institute’s course will help you understand more about home buying. Look out for the launch on our website!

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