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How to inspect a property

12:00 AEST Thu Dec 2 2010
How to inspect a property
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By Hannah Nicholas,
MSN NZ Money writer

So you've found your ideal home. If it ticks all the right boxes the next step is to conduct your own inspection before calling in the experts.

Where to start
Before engaging the services of a professional building inspector, carry out your own initial investigations. It might help you to rule out a property (that isn't right for you) before going too far with the purchase process. Remember, however, in no way is it recommended that you forego a professional opinion if you plan to go ahead with making an offer on a property.

Type of property
Whether a house is new or established doesn't mean it doesn't have its share of problems. You need to look into any maintenance or ongoing work issues that will affect you as the new owner. Importantly you need to work out whether your budget will allow for any work required.

What to look for

Inside your home is where you'll be doing most of your living so it's important that things are in the right working order.

  • Does the property get enough natural light?
  • When was the property last rewired and what condition are the electrics in?
  • Is there sufficient storage or will extra storage be needed?
  • Is the home adequately insulated?
  • Check out the layout of various rooms and their orientation to the sun. Look at the placement of power outlets, check light switches and inside of cupboards and wardrobes.
  • Check the plumbing, look for drips, leaks and check the water pressure.
  • Are windows and doors in good working order?
  • Watch for any signs of dampness or water leakage (eg: freshly painted walls, ceilings, stains on carpets).
  • Check for cracks or bulges in walls or creaky floors.
  • Are the fittings in the kitchen and bathroom in good working order?

Looking through these issues will give you a good idea of the house's condition and what work will be required down the track.

Outside the property it's important to look at the state of the building and any of the buildings attachments.

Look out for things such as:

  • rusting, staining or cracks on outside walls or windows;
  • any dampness especially around windows or doors;
  • gaps or cracks in weatherboard buildings;
  • fresh paint, cement or cladding which could be hiding problems underneath;
  • any cracks, rust or visible problems with the roof or guttering;
  • the condition of fences, decking, balconies, outbuildings etc; and
  • also look at the garden and any drainage or landscape issues.

If you can get under the house, look for:

  • floor problems;
  • evidence of borers;
  • dampness; and
  • check out the state of the house's piles; they could be missing, rotting or no longer supporting the building.

Obvious defects
These should stand out to you both inside and outside of the property. Here it's important to look for issues such as:

  • mould and dampness;
  • cracks in walls;
  • leaks and previous water damage; and
  • evidence of drainage issues.

If any of these issues or other problems are detected you should gain an expert opinion if you plan to take things further.

Always look for any signs of pest invasion both inside and outside the home.

Nearby surrounds
When doing your own inspection it pays to find out things regarding the nearby surrounds such as:

  • Are there protection orders over trees or buildings on the property?
  • What is the zoning of the property and those around it?
  • Have all building consents been sought?
  • Can the property be renovated or extended easily (if this is part of your future plan)?
  • Are there likely to be any noise issues?
  • Check out whether the property is subject to flooding.

Consumer NZ has a great downloadable inspection checklist, available from

And remember, it's always wise to seek an expert opinion before taking matters further.