Buying A House?
Look Out For These 3 Things.

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I am absolutely in love with learning and sharing all things real estate. I’m an agent for Jacaranda Real Estate In Harare, Zimbabwe. This blog will be the ultimate resource for all things real estate so subscribe and stay tuned.

Table of Contents

  1. In-house state of the property.
  2. Out-of-house state of the property.
  3. In-neighbourhood state of the property.

Unless you’re looking to buy a piece of land without property on it, all house evaluations come down to being able to find and accurately score the above 3 categories.

To be completely honest, the process of buying any property let alone a house can be extremely daunting and confusing. If you’re going to push through all hurdles of paperwork, approvals, negotiations and mortgage payments that it takes to get a home – you should at least make sure it’s the home you want.

As a house buyer, at the end of the day; the property is yours alone and you can’t place all the responsibility of getting the home of your dreams to an agent who isn’t you.

As a house seller, the below list of “what to look out for” is useful to you as well to prioritize the necessary actions to get the sale and not have negotiated the sales price down.

This is how you score a house you want to buy.

Most new and seasoned home buyers make the mistake of overplaying what they like about a house while looking at all the red flags through rose-colored glasses.

For that reason, I’ll be focusing on how to score the potential threats of defects when you’re buying a home a new home. The threat of defects can be classed in 1 of 2 ways:  

1. Immediate Threats.

Any defect that requires instant action to resolve to establish functionality is an immediate threat. This can be as small light switches not turning on the light or as severe as a gaping hole in the roof not providing shelter during a storm.  

2. Progressive Threats.

Any defect that presents a level of failure or inadequacy in functionality is a progressive threat. A light the consistently flickers before turning on or a crack in the wall that’s not currently doing any harm.

What to look for in a house before buying?

In-House Items:Out-Of-House Items:In-neighborhood Items:
Behind the furnitureGutterSecurity
RoofTrees and flowersVicinity to essential amenities
PlumbingPestsRoad
roomsBonus structures 
CeilingsBoundaries 
Electricals  

In-House Items To Look At When Buying A Home.

1. Behind the furniture.

Immediate threat: Mold development, developed cracks, severely damaged tiling or carpet.

Progressive threats: Filling chipped walls, drill holes, developing cracks.

No one likes to show off their flaws let alone the flaws of their home. Homeowners will both intentionally window dress their home to hide as many blatant property flaws for a prospective buyer as well as to just generally do their best to make their home look nice with no ill intent.

Remember, unless you’re buying a property as-is; how you see it; won’t be how it looks when you buy it. Photos hiding cracks or holes in the walls and couches hiding steins or carpet defects are all a possibility you must be wary of.

Just remember to not be rude about it, always ask for permission to move anything around. Explain your reasoning and ensure that you’ll return things to the way you found them when you’re done.

2. Electricals.

Immediate threat: lights not working, old wiring (past code), non-functioning sockets.

Progressive threats: flickering lights, unstable sockets.

Knowing what you’re supposed to look out for doesn’t mean you have to test everything yourself. Asking is almost always just as effective and far less intimidating means to the same result.

This particularly true for testing out the electricals of a property. You can conveniently test out whether or not lights turn on or not but making sure all the electrical sockets are working wouldn’t be as easy.

Knowing the last time the electrical wiring was renovated and what can and what can’t be plugged into which sockets are also crucial.

3. rooms(walls and attached furniture).

Immediate threat: Mold development, developed cracks, termite damage, missing handles.

Progressive threats: Damaged attached furniture, cracked glass or mirrors, peeling paint.

Walls, wardrobes, fixed shelves, fixed mirrors, and window frames. Essentially everything in the house that you can’t just pick up and replace – these are aspects of a home you will most likely have to inherit from the previous owner.

There’s generally nothing too expensive in this area of a home. You’re looking at mostly just missing handles and the occasionally cracked window or mirror.

You should also make sure you know what you need concerning space and available rooms. Are the wardrobes sufficient for what you will need, is there enough room for all family members.

This is another deeper level of inspection that should not be done without asking for permission first. Especially if the home is still occupied by the owners.

4. Plumbing.

Immediate threat: leaking faucets, dripping pipes, blocked drainage.

Progressive threats: slow drainage showers, sinks, toilets (developing blockage).

Plumbing is another area of in-house evaluations where you can run some rudimentary testing of the basics but was for a more in-depth evaluation you would need to ask the current owner and potentially an expert.

You’ll be looking for leaking faucets or those that require excessive effort to open and shut, do all the bathroom water systems work properly and is the water coming out clean without signs of sludge or blockages?

5. Ceilings.

Immediate threat: wet patches, depressions, mold build-up.

Progressive threats: wet patches, depressions, mold build-up – (you never know how bad it is).

Plumbing and the ceiling occasionally go hand in hand when it comes to evaluations. This is with particular regard to ceiling stains or ceiling molds that are clues to the occurrence of water seepage through plumbing or roofing.

Depressions or cracks in the ceiling should also be paid attention to.

Most ceiling problems are inexpensive and non-threatening wear and tear situations but do you want to risk a potential outbreak of harmful mold?

6. Roof.

Immediate threat: Water dripping inside the home.

Progressive threats: Damaged roof tiles.

The roof is possibly the hardest and most important aspect of a property to evaluate on your own. You most likely won’t be on the roof to look at it properly and like most people; knowing what a damaged roof looks like won’t be your expertise.

This doesn’t take away from the fact that a damaged roof is a potentially very costly renovation to your wallet, time and safety.

Always ask about the roof; when it was last renovated, if there have been any issues like in house dripping water during a storm and how the roof was made, to begin with.

Out-Of-Home Items To Look At When Buying A House.

1. Trees and flowers.

Immediate threat: Standing dead and dried trees, presence of allergy-inducing plants.

Progressive threats: Trees showing signs of decay.

You might have fallen in love with the woodland like the environment of the property when you first took a look at the property but you might not feel that love when a tree falls through your roof or car.

Pre-emptively identifying dying or dead dried trees can save you from a disaster during the next storm. Look out for drying trees or those with noticeable breakages from the trunk.

If you are allergic to specific plants, it would be a good idea to note them down and have them removed.

2. Gutter.

Immediate threat: No drainage of water through the mainline. Overflowing gutter.

Progressive threats: Slow drainage of water through the mainline

You probably won’t be able to do a comprehensive gutter check up on the property but some tips to make some logical guesses on the state of the gutter is to watch out for how many trees are near the house above roof level.

If the owner states the gutter hasn’t been looked at in a while and trees are near, a blockage could likely result as leaves, seeds branches and twigs fall into the gutter lining. In some cases, you may even encounter some growing plants in there.

A badly damaged might not sound bad from the onset but it’s a slippery slope to losing control on pests, ruining your landscape and damaging your roof. All costs you’d rather avoid.  

3. Pests.

  • Immediate threat: Infestations in undesirable locations (termites at home and insects killing garden plant).
  • Progressive threats: Manageable presence of pests a small nest of termites.

You know how you fell in love with the property because it had incredible landscaping and you wanted to spend all the hours of the day sunbathing outside? What if the property had the most ruthless day and night time mosquitoes?

How about you want to start gardening and come to realize that the property is infested with mice, termites or seasonal plants killing insects?

Pest control is rarely ever an expensive problem to solve but it can be a very persistent unnecessary irritation for the home buyer. To understand the severity of the issue it is best to ask the owner.

4. Bonus Structures.

Immediate threat: Identical to immediate threats that can happen in-house.

Progressive threats: Identical to progressive threats that can happen in-house.

Sheds, cottages, pool-houses and staff quarters are all potential areas of property neglect for a current owner and potential hazard area for new property buyers.

Depending on the intricacy of the structure and the level of neglect either bonus structures can require as much evaluation as redoing an “In-house” evaluation.

As either a property buyer or seller; you could very well ignore outside bonus structures but doing so may give additional leverage to a prospect to charge or discount the sales price of the property.  

5. Boundaries.

Immediate threat: Rotten or termite-infested wooden fence, broken cement walls

Progressive threats: Cracks or chipped walls.

whether it’s a wall, metal or wooden fence or open yards; your property has a boundary to which you have ownership and responsibility.

Depending on where you live, boundaries may be essential for security, legal responsibilities or just for personal preference.

If there is a wall or fence of some type, checking its state is important and can range from simply needing a new coat of paint to rot or termite infestations that require full renovations.   

The type of property boundary you have is a direct factor to the level of privacy you will have on the property.

In-neighborhood Items To Look At When Buying A House.

1. Security.

Immediate threat: High crime rate area, unknown neighborhood security fees.

Progressive threats: Rising crime rate.

Crime rates, gated communities, neighborhood watch, and private road security.

The agent and owner of the property should be aware of the general crime rate and the necessary precautions of the area.

While living in a gated community is a passive benefit of buying a property in most areas; Neighbourhood watch and private road security can become additional expenses that are expected of residents living in a specific area.

2. Vicinity to essential amenities.

Immediate threat: Being far away in the case of an emergency.

Progressive threats: N/A

Hospitals or clinics, schools, shopping malls, and police stations are amenities that are important to any resident. Knowing where and how far you are from either one is an important consideration for action in emergency scenarios.

3. Roads.

Immediate threat: largely developed potholes or fully damaged road.

Progressive threats: Degrading quality of the road.

The state of the road, expected traffic and ease of access to essential amenities is something every homeowner should be aware of in their neighborhood.

The physical state of roads is an important consideration when it comes to accessibility and vehicle conditioning. Areas with particularly bad road infrastructure such as with potholes of a lack of tarred road or good drainage systems can lead to egress of a route during certain seasonal periods such as in times of rains.

Conclusion

When you are buying a property; you are almost as entitled as the owners to know the state of specific items around the home.

Most owners are not actively trying to cheat you and would happily comply with any questions you have; make sure you’re respectful of the property – you don’t own it yet.

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I am absolutely in love with learning and sharing all things real estate. I’m an agent for Jacaranda Real Estate In Harare, Zimbabwe. This blog will be the ultimate resource for all things real estate so subscribe and stay tuned.