Property investment tip 15: Seven things people forget to inspect when buying a property

When new buyers inspect a property, it’s easier to take more notice of larger features such as the kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms, flooring, interior design, etc, given that time is limited at each viewing.

However, it’s almost more important to inspect the less noticeable parts of the building, seven of which I have listed below with accompanying tips. This is because problems which are seeming less noticeable can often be a telltale sign of larger, more expensive, underlying problems.

Tip 1: Check that the parapets on the edge of the roof are covered

Parapets are a low protective wall which look like a continuation of the external foundation walls, but they are built along the edge of the roof. You can see the parapets more clearly if you look at a property from across the street.

Parapets should have a slanted cover on top of them as this helps the rainwater flow away from the foundation walls.

If the parapets are missing or are not covered, then the foundation walls are likely to be partially damp. This not only weakens the structure of the building but may cause yellow stains to eventually appear on the interior walls and ceilings – this is what happened in my home.

If you live in an attached house or townhall, you could ask your neighbour to split the cost of repairing any damaged parapets on the shared walls.

Tip 2: Check the gutters are not damaged

Gutters can run along the edge of a roof or a balcony, or they can run vertically, for example, from the top floor to the ground floor. The gutters should be enclosed so it looks like a pipe, or have a cover to prevent leaves and debris getting trapped inside.

In taller buildings, it’s hard to tell if gutters are in good condition as you cannot inspect them without a ladder. However, one tip is to look for water stains on the exteriors walls along where the gutters are positioned. If stains are present, there could be a hole in the gutter, or the gutter has been tilted in the wrong position.

Continuous water leakage will weaken the exterior walls and cause damp marks to appear on the interior walls over a long period.

Tip 3: Check for large cracks on the walls

A large crack on the interior or exterior wall could mean the foundation of the building is slowly moving; this is more common in older properties. A structural engineer should examine the crack(s) further. Regardless, make sure your insurance covers for repairs if the crack starts to destabilise the wall.

Don’t assume that you can simply plaster and paint over these cracks and they will disappear forever; I’ve stupidly tried this twice and eventually the cracks reappeared.

Tip 4: Look for bed bugs

Bed bugs are extremely hard and expensive to get rid of. We purchased an infected home and I’d bought countless bed bug remedies and called the pest controller twice. Despite this, the infestation remained and almost drove me to insanity. Finally, the solution was to throw all the bedroom furniture out the second floor window.

You should always inspect the bed sheets, skirting boards and door frames for groups of dark brown spots – a strong indicator of bed bugs – especially if the property was a large shared house. Remember, councils may offer discounted pest control services.

Tip 5: Check if there is a blockage in the water pipes

I turn on every tap and flush every toilet when I inspect a property. If the water is draining slowly or makes strange noises, then there could be a plumbing issue.

Also check the humidity level of cupboards where the pipes are installed, for example, below the sink. Dampness or a bad smell could be a sign of water leakages.

Tip 6: Examine if freshly painted walls are concealing an existing problem 

Landlords often repaint the bathroom to give the illusion that it is in a good state. This is fine, however, you need to look closely to see if the new paint is concealing damp and mould, or hiding cracked or peeling paint. Damp issues can only to be fixed by identifying the root cause; painting only masks the issue.

If possible, you should ask the tenants about any damp or mound issues as they are more likely to give you an honest answer.

Tip 7: Question why there are random gas pipes

We buy old properties and, in reflection, two of our properties had thin copper pipes running down the walls and into the flooring. I assumed they were gas pipes for the radiators – and they were – except these old pipes were no longer in use.

Old properties often have redundant gas pipes running through the walls and floors as a result of the gas system or appliances being added or upgraded over the years.

This could be a fire safety issue but it’s at your discretion as to whether you want to remove the old pipes. But remember, as a landlord you are responsible for providing your tenants a safe property to live in.

Please note, though I own a few properties, I am not a legal, financial or professional property expert. I’ve written this post to share my personal experiences and would love to hear your opinions and views.

So, have you got any tips on how to effectively inspect a property?

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