These days most buyers are using online property portals when house hunting due to the convenience, up-to-date information and the variety on offer.
“The property portals have revolutionised the way buyers shop, but they do need to be cautious - viewing photos online is no replacement for viewing the property in person,” says Bruce Swain, CEO of Leapfrog Property Group.
Relying on photos and video alone can be tempting, especially when relocating to another province, but Swain notes that there have been many cases where properties have been mispresented by misleading, or even digitally-altered photos.
“When it comes to deciding on where to live, which has massive implications in terms of finances and quality of life, it’s very important to know exactly what you’re buying,” says Swain.
What to look out for
Take special notice of any neglected maintenance while touring the property: small things like grout that needs to be replaced could indicate that other regular maintenance has also been neglected.
“One of the biggest tips we can share with buyers is to ask the agent showing the property specific questions, especially if there seems to be cause for concern - get as much information as possible before making an offer,” says Swain.
“While sellers have to be forthcoming with problems, the ‘voetstoots’ clause does protect them to a large degree, and buyers would be well advised to be thorough when vetting a property.”
Swain highlights 4 areas to inspect carefully when viewing a property:
- The kitchen
“The kitchen is always a must-see as renovating this area, and the bathroom, tends to be the most expensive. Buyers need to have a look at the finishes in the kitchen, as well as opening cupboards and looking at the ceiling to see if there are any damp spots,” says Swain.
A musty smell, warped paint and mould are all signs that there could be problems with the insulation or plumbing. It’s also important to inspect the built-in appliances, should they be included in the sale.
- The bathroom
“Key elements to check off in the bathroom include the finishes, opening the taps to see what the water pressure is like, and ask about the state of the geyser and the plumbing,” Swain says.
Another tip is to test the hot water to ensure that the geyser is working properly.
- Common areas
When walking around, lift up area rugs where possible to ensure that they’re not covering damaged flooring. In coastal areas this could help to identify damage caused by wood-boring beetles.
- The outside
It’s important to take a walk, not just through the property, but around it as well. “Most properties will have small cracks in the plaster which are not a problem, however, any large cracks need to be queried as these could point to problems with the actual structure,” says Swain.
A walk around the property will also allow buyers to examine the roof, if possible. If not, ask detailed questions about leaks and if there’s concern, include a suspensive condition in this regard, subject to a professional inspection.
Look at the state of the gutters, window frames, checking for rot if they’re wooden and rust if they’re metal, and the landscaping. “A well-tended garden shows a level of care, and the chances are good that the rest of the property is well cared for too,” notes Swain.
While it’s impossible to identify all potential issues during a viewing, ticking off this checklist will go a long way to ensuring that the buyer knows what they’re getting and can negotiate with the seller to correct and patent defects as part of the sales agreement.