The defects you should look out for before buying a property.


2/28/20224 min read


What is a Defect?

A residential property purchase is always a big financial decision, whether you’re a first timer buyer or a seasoned BTL landlord. You may well have a good eye for property in that you can spot a great location when you see one or a building with bags of value-add potential. But without the assistance of a professional surveyor to literally cast his eyes over the bricks and mortar, how do you know that you’re not about to buy a pile of problems?

Buying a house or flat is governed by the principle of caveat emptor (buyer beware), so it is absolutely your responsibility to check out every potential issue. Unless you know exactly what you’re dealing with, what may seem like a trifling matter can quickly escalate into a costly repair, turning your dream home into a nightmare scenario and a savvy investment into a never ending money pit.

A “Defect” is a fault with the property that becomes apparent after the completion of that property due to poor workmanship, design or materials.

An independent surveyor would have checked the property prior to completion and certified that the quality was acceptable. Please note that upon accepting the property you are accepting the condition it is currently in.

The dictionary defines the adjective "material" as "relevant and consequential," and it is this definition that applies to Residential Standard. A material defect is a specific issue with a system or component of a residential property that may have a significant, adverse impact on the value of the property, or that poses an unreasonable risk to people. The fact that a system or component is near, at or beyond the end of its normal useful life is not, in itself, a material defect

Whether it is a first-time buyer purchasing their first home or a property investor looking to purchase an additional investment to add to their portfolio, buying property is a big investment, says Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.

 Therefore, he says, it is important for buyers to be able to look past the aesthetic appeal of a home at the integrity of the components that make up the property to ensure that the purchase won’t end up costing more in the long run.

With the introduction of the Consumer Protection Act many buyers are requesting a list of defects from the seller, however, there are a few things to look out for when viewing a property, says Goslett.

1. Rotten wood

Goslett says that in certain areas in the home that are exposed to moisture, such as the kitchen and bathroom, wooden components may have begun to rot over time and should be checked. These elements must be treated and protected with a paint or finish that is specifically designed for this purpose. Exterior features such as decks or trims that are made from wood should also be checked as these will be exposed to the elements.

2. Unsafe or loose railings

Other elements to check while inspecting the exterior decks are that all railings are fastened securely and that none are missing. This applies to any staircases or balconies as well – unstable or insecure railings are not safe.

3. Adequate ventilation

Make sure that the home has adequate ventilation. According to Goslett, if a home does not have proper ventilation, the moisture in the home will not be able to evaporate, which will cause problems. It is also important that the ceiling space under the roof is well ventilated to ensure that the roof has a long life span. Ventilation ducts will allow the intense heat in that space to escape, which will promote evaporation of the moisture and ensure that interior walls and structural elements stay dry.

4. Amateur repairs

They may not be easy to spot, says Goslett, but often homeowners who have lived in a home for an extended period of time will have attempted to make some repairs themselves. Check the plumbing and electrical areas as these are the areas where DIY repairs are most commonly seen.

5. Plumbing problems

While checking the plumbing areas, look under the sinks for pipes that are leaking or need repairs. Goslett says that it is important to have all plumbing issues addressed before the purchase of the home as this will save the buyer a lot of money in costly repairs.

6. Electrical issues

Outdated or faulty electrical systems can be extremely dangerous and cause breaker tripping or fire. He advises buyers to look out for faulty wiring in the electrical panels as well as elsewhere in the home. “Even though an electrical certificate that certifies that the electrical systems in the home are within code is issued during the sale process, buyers should still double check the wiring.”

7. Drainage and water control

Poor drainage systems around the exterior of the home can lead to water and damp problems in lower level areas of the property. This could cause mould as well as compromise the foundation of the structure if it persists. Water intrusion can be one of the most destructive and expensive problems. Make sure all drainage areas are properly graded and direct water away from the home. Buyers should also check that water control elements such as gutters and downspouts are well-maintained.

8. Roof problems

Goslett says that buyers should look out for old, broken or missing tiles on the roof that need to be replaced. If the roof is in bad repair, it should not be ignorgb(255, 0, 0) as a leaky or damaged roof can cause other costly problems elsewhere in the home.

Goslett says that if homebuyers are in doubt, before they sign on the dotted line they should get a trained, certified inspector who can help them look for defects and guide them to a smart buying decision.


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