Open house red flags – Sunday Times Neighbourhood has the low-down

Open house red flags – Sunday Times Neighbourhood has the low-down

When we buy residential property, we are not merely making a financial investment, we are also choosing our home for the foreseeable future; our haven from the world and the heart of the family.

It’s therefore understandable that at show houses, most people focus on factors like the layout, room size, storage space and working out where they would place their furniture.When we buy residential property, we are not merely making a financial investment, we are also choosing our home for the foreseeable future; our haven from the world and the heart of the family. It’s therefore understandable that at show houses, most people focus on factors like the layout, room size, storage space and working out where they would place their furniture.

However, savvy investors know that it is more important to first thoroughly inspect the home for telltale signs that could indicate that the property is a potentially risky investment; one that could have significant financial repercussions if not addressed before signing on the dotted line.So says Sandy Geffen, Executive Director of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty in South Africa, who advises: “There are a number of issues that cannot be overlooked and should never be ignored and if you are unsure you are well within your rights to have the property professionally inspected before you make your decision.”

1. Water damage

Check walls and ceilings for water marks as they could be caused by leaking or burst pipes. Never ignore a musty odour that could indicate hidden water damage and don’t forget to look at accessible piping under kitchen sinks and in laundry rooms.

2. Poor Drainage

Poor drainage is not always easily detected but it can cause serious problems later on if ignored. The most obvious sign of poor drainage is pooling water or a bouncy bathroom floor that can be evidence of hidden damage such as leaking shower drain. Also take a walk through the garden and be on the look-out for seemingly random puddles of water or muddy patches. Other signs of poor drainage can include overflowing gutters, migrating mulch in the flower beds, water stains on basement walls, and cracking in the foundation. And don’t forget to ask about the ages of the roof and the geyser.

3. Foundation/structural faults

Not only is the foundation arguably the most important part of the entire structure, it is also one of the most expensive home repairs. Most older homes have a couple of minor cracks but large cracks can be a sign of serious structural problems and must thoroughly checked out. And if door and windows don’t close properly it’s possible that the home has structural problems.  If you’re unsure, ask for a structural survey before proceeding.

4. Electrical wiring

This is especially important in older homes which might not have as many electrical outlets as a newer home and piling on double adapters with multiple extension cords could be hazardous, especially with faulty wiring. Also look for exposed electrical wires which are often the result of DIY repairs.

5. Random cosmetic repairs

If only one wall or one part of a surface has been painted it could have been done to hide a flaw like water damage. It’s also a good idea to look under rugs to check the flooring beneath.

6. The immediate neighbourhood

You are not buying a house and plot in isolation – you are investing in a neighbourhood and if the suburb is run down or has been experiencing increased criminal activity, it could significantly impact your return on investment in the future when you decide to sell. Take a drive and look out for signs such as boarded up properties and vacant homes or shops in the area.

Geffen concludes: “In a subdued market it’s imperative that sellers do their utmost to avoid giving prospective buyers any excuse to find problems with the house, because this is likely to reduce the sale price or it could even cost them the sale so they should endeavor to sort out any problems before putting their properties on the market.“However, buyers should also try and be objective, especially if they fall in love with a home that has minor cosmetic issues which can be easily fixed once they have moved in. Haggling over minutia will not only be stressful and a waste of time, it could end up costing them their dream home.”

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* Picture courtesy Sunday Times Neighbourhood