Monday, 22 November 2010 11:10
As rising interest rates, spiralling energy and water costs hone in on household budgets, the last thing home buyers need to cope with are the extra costs of unbudgeted expensive repairs to the home they have just purchased.
Archicentre, the property and building services division of the Australian Institute of Architects, said with the vast majority of Australian property transactions, an estimated 80% take place with purchasers failing to protect their financial position by not having the property inspected for structural or termite problems.
David Hallett, Victoria State Manager of Archicentre said, "buying a property is a complex exercise and if people purchased a lemon, or a property they could not afford, or which had major faults, it could lead to a major personal and financial crisis.
"Interest rate rises are also being compounded by massive increases in the cost of water and energy prices, which are cutting into household budgets around Australia by hundreds of dollars a year."
Archicentre often receives calls from home buyers, after they have moved in, to carry out an inspection to determine the extent of the problem, provide cost estimates and solutions to repair their home.
Mr Hallett said with the current housing affordability crisis and rising interest rates, home buyers need to be far more methodical and realistic in purchasing a home, as the room for making a mistake without serious consequences has disappeared.
"To limit the risk of financial stress in purchasing a home prior to making an offer, arrange a pre-purchase inspection to ensure the house is safe and sound from an independent professional and trained person such as an engineer, architect or registered builder".
"A professional inspection of the home will assist buyers in determining the condition of the property and the cost of repairs providing them with a bargaining tool to factor in repair or maintenance costs into their budgets."
According to Archicentre's research, health and safety risks exist in about one quarter of older Australian homes, and expensive hidden defects exist in about one in three properties.
As part of its consumer awareness program Archicentre publishes a free quarterly cost guide on its website - http://www.archicentre.com.au/pdf/Spring-Cost-Guide-2010.pdf to assist home buyers assess the repair costs.
The Top Five Most Expensive Repairs
People interested in purchasing a home can get some inkling of this fault if they hear glasses rattle in the sideboard or flowers shake on the table when they walk through the home. Without a proper inspection of the sub-floor area it is impossible to obtain a clear indication of the state of the stumps.
Archicentre inspectors when inspecting the sub-floor areas have found a range of approaches to try and cover up shonky stumps, including wedging pieces of scrap wood between stumps and bearers, temporary props wedged under bearers sitting on bricks, and stacks of bricks under bearers.
The roof is one the most important parts of the home which receives scant attention from most home buyers despite roof faults costing tens of thousands of dollars to repair. With heavy rain, a leaking roof or poorly fitted guttering can have a major impact on the interior of a home, and also on safety when water penetrates the electrical wiring.
Archicentre inspectors have reported a number of roof cover ups. The most common being a quick fix for the rusty roof with the roof painted to cover up the rust, often with the rust re-appearing after the sale. An inspection inside the roof cavity is a good indication of the structural soundness and to observe probable leaks, especially through holes in the roof, which may be temporarily plugged up with silicon.
Blackened areas on power points are one of the first give-away signs that all is not well with a home's wiring as it is evidence of fuses blowing. Wiring is a vital part of the home and must be installed by professional qualified licensed electricians who are registered to ensure the installation is carried out to correct standards and is safe.
Unfortunately some home owners carry out illegal wiring in the belief they can cut costs. Often the work is carried out in roof spaces or under the floor areas where home buyers, who do not have an inspection, are not able assess the issue. Apart from illegal wiring, buyers of older homes may face the issue of renewing all wiring and switchboards adding safety switches.
When some home owners are confronted with the realisation that their home is infested by termites and that the eradication and damage cost could be expensive, they decide instead to sell their homes and in some cases take steps to conceal the problem.
The following is a summary of some of the traps facing prospective home buyers:
Plumbing can be a major cost, especially in older homes, which can see the total replacement of old rusted pipes with costs, especially where drainage is faulty, added to the equation. People inspecting homes should test the water pressure by turning on a couple of taps at once to see what water pressure is available.
Plumbing needs to be undertaken by a qualified licensed plumber to ensure it is safe and properly installed, however, again often there are many homes where illegal work has been carried out.
Archicentre architects during pre-purchase inspections have found temporary make-shift drains, or leaking pipes under homes, that have resulted in damp areas forming a magnet for termites, which can cause major expensive damage to the buildings structure if not detected.
Ron Smith, Corporate Media Communications, Archicentre - Mobile: 0417 329 201