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The nuts and bolts of buying a home

10 October 2016

Whether you're new to home buying or an old hand, it's a good idea to check a property from top to bottom for any issues that could haunt you later. Based on our experience with common home claims, our experts have put together some things to look out for.

1. Roof – Depending on how old the house is, it’s best to find out when the roof was last resurfaced, and check how many things are set into it, such as vent pipes, chimneys, and skylights. These require flashings, which need to be maintained regularly, otherwise leaks can occur.

2. Water pipes – If the house you’re looking at was built in the 70s, 80s and early 90s, then check the type of water piping it has. Some brands during these decades have a limited life span of up to 30 years, including the joints. This means, if the same type of piping was used throughout the entire house, and you get just one leak, then it will all need to be replaced - this can be a rather expensive task!

3. Retaining Walls – Retaining walls are generally expensive and require maintenance; they can also cause issues (such as slips) if they are close to your house. Check with your insurer on the financial limit they have in the policy for replacing or repairing them - you may have to contribute from your own pocket should something more extensive, and expensive, happens.

4. Fences – Boundary fences are owned equally between two neighbours, as per the Fencing Act 1978. It doesn’t matter if the fence is on your property or theirs – you are both responsible for it. When purchasing a property, check out the condition of your fences, especially the boundary, and ask about the neighbours. You don’t want to move in and find yourself splitting the cost of a broken fence with an unreasonable co-owner. It’s also important to remember that if a fence is poorly maintained and falls down, it may not be covered by insurance.

5. Renovations – If renovations have been made to the property then find out how long ago, if Council consent was gained (if it was necessary), and the quality of the work and materials. Many sellers renovate a property, such a laminating a floor or retiling a bathroom or shower, in order to make a profit. However, in some case the renovations may not be up to scratch, leaving the buyer with issues three or four years down the track.

While a building inspector may not be able to check if the tiling was correctly done, there could be other tell-tale signs, such as mould, soft flooring, poor quality workmanship or materials such as tiles chipping or lifting etc.

6. Drainage –This needs to be checked, particularly if your house is on a downward slope, as water can flow into your property. This can be an issue if there is a lack of drainage or waterproofing to the house, making it prone to flooding during big, or even small, downpours.

7. Leaky building – Leaky homes are a major problem in New Zealand, and while most have plaster cladding and no soffit, there are exceptions to the rule. So, check the paint is in good condition, and there’s no obvious sign of water getting into the building, through nails holes etc. Check around windows and doors for signs of leaking, and take a look at how the deck has been attached to the house, and what flashing is in place.

8.  Find out more – It pays to bring in the professionals to get a full picture of the house you’re considering purchasing, in the form of a builder’s report/property inspection. You’re also entitled to ask the real estate agent anything you want to know about the property, so don’t hold back – they can’t withhold any information from you. The agent may also provide the Land Information Memorandum (LIM) from the council and a title search from Land Information New Zealand. If they don’t, your lawyer can help with these.

Other things worth a check include weather tightness, condition of the property’s wiring and plumbing, as well as possible drug contamination. Find out more from the Real Estate Agents Authority.

Finally, keep in mind that a house is probably your biggest asset, so it pays to take the time to do some research before committing financially. And if there’s any doubt, then get it checked out. It could save you hidden costs, and a huge headache, further down the track.

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