As the winter chill begins to thaw and we move towards the warmer Spring months, listings will begin to ramp up for what is typically the busiest selling season of the year.
That obviously increases opportunities for buyers, but it also multiplies the number of properties they’ll need to inspect. That can become quite overwhelming, especially when several open for inspections for promising homes are being held on the same day.
The key to avoiding wasting time or missed opportunities is knowing what to look for to inspect properties efficiently and diligently.
There are many factors to take into account when inspecting a property, and they can vary significantly from property to property. A high rise apartment will need a different inspection approach compared to an inner suburban detached dwelling for example.
In regards to apartments, Wakelin focuses on period and older style homes, as opposed to new apartment blocks and high rise apartments.
Everyone has a different process for inspecting properties. It’s important to develop a system that works best for you, so that you are efficient, diligent and focussed.
Founder of Wakelin Property Advisory, Richard Wakelin for example, likes to look at the external features of the block first, and have a good walk around the outside. This gives him an initial idea of proximity and the character of the complex, before he moves on to assess the apartment itself.
Whereas, I prefer to make my way to the apartment first. That way I know exactly where it lies within the block, and how many staircases needed to be climbed along the journey. Once inside the apartment I can check for any adjoining property issues that may block natural light, as well as any privacy issues.
The floor plan is a major consideration, particularly for an apartment. How does the layout work? How large are the rooms? Does it have a direct entrance? Is there an entrance hall? Where does the balcony sit?
Then I look for cracking. Is it minor/ hairline cracks, which can be expected, particularly in solid brick buildings, or are they larger and point to more serious structural issues?
Has there been shoddy alterations made to the property? Or conversely, have the alterations actually improved the property? Further to that, are there any opportunities to add value to the property going forward?
With ground floor apartments, I tend to look at the lower wall areas, particularly solid brick properties, to see if there’s any rising damp that could present an issue.
From there, I head outside the building and start assessing the common areas of the block. That includes the stairwell. How well has it been maintained? Gardens; are they attractive and being regularly attended to? This can give an indication of the level of owners corporation diligence. This includes other common property externals, such as windows, fascia boards and spouting.
Driveways and pathways need to be assessed. Are they in good condition or need significant repairs? Is the car park under cover or open air? How accessible and large is the car space?
Once you have a list of concerns, it’s worth speaking to the owners corporation to gain some further clarity on the issues. While they might be warning signs during inspection, they may currently be being addressed, which can help take them out of the purchasing equation.
There’s a lot of similarities when inspecting a villa unit. Again, I start with the internals. I have a major focus on the floor plan. Ideally there should be an entrance hall, with rooms leading off it, it should almost feel like a small house.
Natural light and privacy need to be assessed in relation to the proximity of neighbouring properties. Cracking is also something to keep an eye on in brick work, but also in plaster work.
On a more positive note, there can be some great opportunities to add value to villa units, which are important to spot during inspections. These include new refurbishments and opening up the space by joining rooms.
A key draw card for people buying villa units is having an outdoor space, so it’s important to clarify with the agent whether or not the courtyards/outdoor area is actually on title and therefore part of the property purchase – because they often aren’t. The type of land title is also important. Is it stratum or strata? Like apartments, the accessibility and size of the garage needs to be assessed, as do the upkeep of the common gardens.
Externally, the number of units in the complex is an important factor. Villa units often have different owners corporation structures to apartments, with more responsibility falling on each individual owner to maintain their unit. If you notice one or two in the block are letting the team down, it can be a real negative to the overall feel of the block. Much better to have everyone actively house proud.
At Wakelin, we look at a large quantity of period houses. Each time I inspect one, I walk the external walls of each room. This indicates whether or not there’s any sloping, soft spots or spongy areas in the floors, which could lead to major repairs.
Take notice if there are different floorboards within a property. They may have been replaced to address issues, such as pests, moisture or re-stumping. Also, look out for concrete slabs that have been retrofitted into period homes, some are substandard installations that can lead to moisture issues.
In solid brick period homes, looking at the lower walls, can indicate whether there’s any paint flake or bubbling. That may be from rising damp, or a leak somewhere in the house.
It’s also helpful to notice whether furniture has been intentionally placed in unconventional places. They may have been moved there to hide something. A cabinet may be put over a dead spot in the floor or a couch placed in front of a wall with peeling paint.
Room size is a major importance, particularly with lounge rooms and bedrooms. Bear in mind that beds that home stylists use for inspections, are not always of a standard size. While it might look like a bedroom fits a double bed, that’s not necessarily the case. If in doubt you can always measure it yourself.
Do previous extensions fit in with the character of the period home? Some can enhance the look and feel of a home, but others can definitely detract if they are not in keeping with the home and surrounding neighbourhood.
It’s also important to take a look around the immediate neighborhood. Surrounding uses need to be considered. An old knock down job next door, sold and developed into a block of apartments, could reduce the appeal and feel of your initial purchase. However if the former dwelling was in poor condition, the development may also improve the quality of housing in the street.
The consistency of a streetscape is an important factor when stepping back from the home in and of itself. In some suburbs a variety of styles in the street is to be expected.
Whereas other suburbs will favour a consistency of style and property type, such as terrace homes in Carlton. Understanding these area-specific expectations can help assess where a prospective home’s value lies within a neighbourhood.