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7 things buyers should look for when inspecting a property

TV personality and professional buyer’s advocate, Frank Valentic, has three golden rules for buying real estate: “location, location, location”.

“You can change the house, but you can’t change its location,” he says. “It’s not something you want to get wrong.”

Valentic, who is a regular judge and buyer’s advocate on the hit TV seriesThe Block, advises buyers to inspect the neighbourhood as well as the house to make sure the area “matches your lifestyle”.

1. Location and lifestyle 

“You want to be close to lifestyle attractions such shops and cafes, parks and transport. But you don’t want to be too close to ugly, potentially dangerous or noisy things like petrol stations, industrial buildings, train tracks or busy roads,” he says.

2. Liveability

Valentic advises people to test how long it takes to walk from the property to various services such as the train station or shops. “You can add about 20 per cent to the price of a property if it’s within a short walk of the local shopping strip. And, if it takes more than 15 or 20 minutes to walk to the nearest train station, it detracts from the value of the property,” he says.

He also advises checking with the local council to see if there are any plans for development or re-zoning in the immediate area. “If there’s a plan to build 45 townhouses next door, you want to know about it before you buy.”

3. Aspect: let there be light!

“Aspect is crucial,” says Valentic. “You want your living room and your back garden to face north or north-west so you get plenty of natural light year-round. Get your compass out and check the aspect and turn the lights off to see how much natural light enters the home. I made the mistake once of buying a home with a south aspect; it was dark and gloomy.

“The other aspect is outlook or view. A house with a view over water or parkland will obviously attract a premium. It’s also valuable and adds to your enjoyment if your living room has a lovely garden aspect.”

4. Noise

He suggests inspecting the property at different times of the day, and at least once at night, so you can assess noise (and lighting) at various times of the day.

5. Functional floor plan

“Most people like open-plan living and a floor plan that’s well suited for entertaining,” says Valentic. “Sometimes it’s not easy to change a floor plan, and you don’t want to be stuck with something you don’t like and can’t change. If you can reconfigure the floor plan without any structural change, it can be okay. For example, one of our clients came to us because he couldn’t sell his house for the price he wanted. It was a three-bedroom, one-bathroom home with a seriously over-sized living room. We advised him to add a fourth bedroom and second bathroom in the existing space. The renovation only cost $45,000 and he sold it last week for $2.12 million. Just 18 months ago, he couldn’t get $1.8 million for it.”

6. Major faults and illegal building work

Homebuyers should act like developers to avoid being “caught with a lemon” says Ian Agnew from Archicentre.

Agnew says developers take a pragmatic approach to buying, carefully assessing the condition of the building. He says 30 per cent of all homes inspected by Archicentre have faults including water damage, illegal building works, or problems with the wiring, plumbing, footings or roof structure.

Buyers should look for faults, or hire a building inspector to look for them, and find out what it would cost to repair the faults before making an offer.

“Unbudgeted costs for repairs such as restumping, plumbing and wiring can run into tens of thousands of dollars,” he says.

Illegal building works, such as work undertaken without the required permits or work done by someone who is not qualified or registered to do the job, can be costly.

Agnew says you could be forced to remove the structure; pay to have a job re-done or worse, face hefty legal bills.

7. Be business-like 

Real Estate Institute of Australia president, Neville Sanders, advises prospective buyers to adopt a business-like view. “Take someone along to the inspection who won’t have an emotional view of the property. They’ll throw caution to the wind and point things out to you like the busy road or other things that you need to consider with a cool head.”

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