You wouldn’t buy a used car just on its appearance alone – you would check its interior, engine performance, and take it out for a test drive before agreeing to buy it. So why rush to buy a resale or landed property that costs 5X – 20X that of a used car without evaluating its condition first?
Unless you’ve got the savings and the intention of spending thousands of extra dollars to fix the property’s structural, functional, or aesthetic issues, don’t just take a 5 minute walk around the property – snoop around like Sherlock Holmes to find any home-buying deal breakers!
Before you seal the deal on any resale property purchase, make sure you keep an eye out for the following:
1. Structural/Foundation Problems
Singapore’s climate is perfect for a lot of people – if you don’t mind sweating at night from the humidity and the “occasional” 50-year flood. Unfortunately, some buildings don’t fare any better, because heavy rains and poor drainage can cause settling and subsistence – leading to structural/foundation problems that are costly to repair.
Structural problems often come in the form of cracks or bulges in the property’s foundation or walls. Foundation repair is an expensive process that a property’s seller might try to pass on to you.
Here are some common structural/foundation problems to watch out for:
- Sinking/Settling Foundation: Look for lateral zigzagging cracks near the door, windows and walls (especially if they’re made with sheetrock). Keep an eye out for bulges in the wall that look funny – it might be a plaster and paint-over job to “cover” the problem.
- Bowing/Leaning Walls (Basement): If the property has a basement, make sure you check the walls for any bulging or cracking. This is a sign that outside pressure from either the soil or even a tree root is causing the damage.
2. Ageing Electrical System
If the building is twice as old as you are, you should definitely check out the property’s electrical system during your walkthrough. Otherwise, you might end up in the embarrassing situation of having your state of the art entertainment system plugged in only to… trip the system (because it couldn’t handle the awesomeness of your electricity sucking A/V equipment), or worse, it might start a fire.
If there are already appliances within the property, ask to turn them on to test the electrical system. And if sellers avoid your questions about a property’s electrical system, they might be planning to pass the repair/replacement cost to you.
Keep an eye out for the following telltale signs of an ageing electrical system:
- If the fuses or breakers trip when any of the property’s appliances are turned on.
- If a burning smell starts filling the room after the appliance is turned on (yeah, keep an eye out for the exit).
- If the electrical outlets look old, discolored, and make a buzzing sound.
- If the light switch plates feel warm to the touch.
Ageing Plumbing System
A property’s electrical and plumbing systems share three things in common: 1) they both age about as dreadfully as Mickey Rourke, 2) they are both equally overlooked by buyers when they make their initial walkthroughs, and 3) they are VERY expensive to repair/replace.
But unlike the electrical system, the plumbing system is much more complicated (and sometimes hidden), controlling the flow of water for drinking, showering, and waste disposal. And just like the electrical system, the older it is, the more likely it will have problems.
Unless you’re a plumbing enthusiast who enjoys fixing “dirty” problems DIY, check the following on your walkthrough (oh, and if the water is intentionally turned off during your walkthrough, ask the seller to turn it on!):
- Look for leaking pipes: One leaking pipe might not be too much, but if you see multiple leaking pipes, that’s a good sign that corrosion has set in and they’ll need replacement. Keep in mind that depending on the type of piping the property has, the lifespan only ranges from 40 – 80+ years.
- Look for clogging of drains or toilets: Clogged drains or toilets mean that the property’s water pipes are blocked by debris (hair, grease, waste, etc.) that have accumulated over many years. Because of the amount of accumulation over time, there’s a good chance the pipes are in poor shape and need replacement.
There’s an Easier Way
It’s not impossible for you to spot these deal breakers if you know what to look for. But if you want someone to inspect the property with the same thoroughness that a team doctor inspects a newly traded football player – hire a home inspection agency.
It’ll set you back a few hundred dollars to about a thousand, but look at the downside – you could end up with a property that cost you more than you bargained for. In the unfortunate event that you do end up needing to do a facelift more intricate than Korean plastic surgery, you still help yourself by finding the best renovation loan at MoneySmart.
Have you ever run into a home buying deal breaker? Share your experience with us on Facebook!
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