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Open for Inspection checklist: 10 things to check before buying a house

By Emma Smith
26 AUG 2019

Attending an open for inspection can be a daunting task for anyone, no matter how experienced they are.

But one thing you always need to remember is there’s more to a home than its interior design. Try not to let the stunning L-shaped couch or sweeping staircase influence your decision too much.

Remember to take into account the building’s state of repair as much as you judge the layout of the kitchen, or the second bedroom’s en-suite.

If you’re serious about buying the propertyit pays to be thorough. A few simple maintenance checks can sometimes be the difference between buying your dream home and stepping into a costly nightmare.

With that in mind, here are ten things to look for at your next open for inspection.

There’s more to a home than its interior design. Picture: Unsplash

1. Check for water stains, corrosion and mould

Try to look at the walls for any signs of moisture penetration or water leaks, especially near showers and baths. This is not a structural defect but can be costly to repair.

2. Assess ceilings for sagging

Look at the ceilings to see if they have a ‘parachute’ appearance. This can be done by shining a torch across the ceilings, which will show up all deflections and defects in the ceiling sheets.

3. Look inside the cabinets in all wet areas

All cabinets should be opened to see if there is a smell of damp, mould or mildew. Any damp smells can be an indication of water leaks or even rising damp.

4. Check the walls for large cracks

The internal and external walls should be checked to see if there are any large cracks.

Properties with a large number of cracks greater than 2.0mm in width are cause for concern and should be further inspected by a qualified building inspector.

Always check the walls for large cracks when inspecting a home you’re interested in buying. Picture: Unsplash

5. Check for mould in bathrooms and bedrooms

Mould can look like harmless clouds on the walls and ceilings, if they’ve recently been cleaned. But finding it should set your alarm bells ringing. Firstly, mould’s bad for your health – by releasing allergens into the air, it can cause allergic reactions and aggravate respiratory health issues, such as asthma – and secondly, it could be the result of a larger issue.

It needs to be cleaned by professional mould remediation companies, who often charge a hefty fee.

6. Check the internal wall plastering for fine cracks

The internal wall plastering can be easily checked for fine hairline cracks (map cracking, as they take on the appearance of a map). These cracks are caused by the incorrect application of the wall plastering at the time of construction.

If they’re found in one area of the property, they’re usually found elsewhere. The plaster can crack further and even come loose, especially when wall fixings for paintings are installed.

7. Look at the external roof lines

Look at the lines of the roof to check if they are straight and free from deflections.

Always check the external lines on the roof of the house you’re inspecting. Picture: Unsplash

8. Check the roof gutters for rust

The roof gutters may look great from ground level, but checking them from their top side may reveal them to be corroded and in need of replacement.

9. Check the roof downpipes run to storm water drains

Do a quick walk around the external perimeter of the home to check that all roof downpipes are discharging into stormwater soak wells and not just onto the ground.

You should also look for any signs of past flooding or excess water flow around the roof downpipe bases, as this often indicates that the soak wells are not suitably sized or require cleaning out, which can cost an arm and a leg.

Installing stormwater soak wells on an established property can be very expensive, as paving, concrete and garden beds may need to be excavated to install the drains.

10. Look for drain holes on the external perimeter walls

This is particularly important for multi-storey properties. There should be small holes evident above and below window and door frames and along the suspended slab levels. The holes will usually be spaced approximately 1200mm apart. These holes allow water to escape from the cavity walls. Without these holes, water can penetrate the internal walls of the home and cause ongoing and expensive maintenance.

If you’re ever in doubt, ask a professional to assess the property and write a detailed report on its state of repair.

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