Older properties can be beautiful and unique, but they’re not without their problems. In return for an enviable block size and historic attraction, you’re likely to be met with defects – some of which you will be able to chalk up to the charm of the place, while others will be more problematic. So, what can you do after falling in love with an older house with known issues? – Or worse, what are your options if you’ve already bought it?
There is a big difference between a dilapidated property and one that has a few defects. While the former might more obviously require work, the latter has a degree of nuance – including the ability to go relatively unnoticed. While your love for a property might lead you to walk-through with rose-coloured glasses, there are a few common defects to inspect for before signing the dotted line.
Common property defects in older properties:
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It can be difficult to find any sort of grievance process when you’ve bought a house but later discovered major issues. Unfortunately, in most cases, you will simply have to wear the cost.
However, while it’s always best to be thorough with all necessary inspections and checks before buying the property, depending on the scenario – and where you live – there might be recourse options available.
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Once a settlement has gone through and property ownership has changed hands, it can be difficult for the buyer to make the vendor responsible for repair costs. In fact, many contracts will contain a clause stating that all defects (latent or patent) are the responsibility of the buyer.
If a cooling-off period is available it is possible for the buyer to get out of the contract before a settlement is finalised, however, it may involve a large fee. Click here to learn more about cooling-off periods and to see if it could apply to your contract.
If the property was inspected but the inspector missed existing issues, it may be possible to gain the repair costs through the building inspector’s professional indemnity insurance.
So long as the foundation has been repaired, there should be no issue going ahead with the purchase.
If worried, in addition to organising an independent building inspection, the buyer could have the home’s foundation inspected by a structural engineer. The buyer could also ask the vendor for documentation detailing the identification of the problem and date of the repair, to help ensure it was completed.
If the home needs structural repair, the issue could be used as a bargaining chip. However, depending on the extent of the damage and repairs, needed some lenders may be hesitant to lend. The opinion of a structural engineer might also be needed.
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No fixes are strictly mandatory for the vendor to make however, it can make the buyer more inclined to go ahead with the sale. Of course, the exception to this is if fixes are stipulated in the contract of sale – then these must be completed before settlement. It’s always best for the buyer to double check repairs have in fact been done before settlement is finalised.
Most experts recommend a home and pest inspection be independently done before finalising the purchase of any property. Through carrying out an inspection, you may be able to negotiate repairs with the vendor – leading to possible savings. Else, it may arm you with the knowledge to throw in the towel on the property altogether. Inspections can be especially important for older houses which are likely to have issues.
When choosing someone to conduct the building inspection, ensure they are suitably qualified and provide a professional building inspection report. For both the building and pest inspection, it is important that they have professional indemnity insurance in case of fault.
A housing inspection report will generally include property details including your name, address of the property, the reason for the inspection, date of the inspection as well as the scope. It will also include a summary of the overall condition of the property, major faults, and any significant problems needing fixing. It may also include a note of any areas that weren’t inspected or a recommendation for further inspection or assessment.
The following areas are generally included in the report:
While the report might note termite damage, the inspector will not be able to detect pests. This should be done by a pest inspector.
While helpful to give you clues on the property’s condition before making an offer, it is not recommended to use any building report conducted by the vendor. Instead, this should be independently sourced.
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Words by Kathryn Lee
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