HDB properties may require an official inspection before you move in, but considering that the minimum occupancy period of a HDB property is five years, if there are underlying issues you miss, you are stuck with them for a long time. Drainage problems are a major issue, for example. The Australian Institute of Architects says that 30 percent of homes inspected have a plumbing problem.
Here are some of the best ways to find out the true facts of each property and neighbourhood you look at:
1. Ask the Neighbours
One of the best things to do is talk to your potential new neighbours and ask them questions about the building or neighbourhood – Have they experienced any issues with their homes? Is there crime in the area? Is it safe to walk through at night? People will generally be happy to share this information with you and give you an honest opinion about a neighbourhood. It is a good opportunity to start building bonds with your new neighbours too.
2. Ask the Owner
When viewing properties, it is perfectly fine to ask the property agent or owner lots of questions about the property and any problems it has had in the past. In fact, it is recommended that you do. Do not be shy about asking for full details of the property and its history, plus any questions you have about the neighbourhood. Agents won’t necessarily dance around these questions; they will be honest with you. Some good things to ask are why the current owner is selling, how long they have lived there, and how long the property has been on the market. Asking about any recent repair work or refurbishment is also a good idea, as some buyers have been known to repaint walls to hide cracks or damp marks which are a sign of excessive water damage. It is also fine to look in all the nooks and crannies of a house, under the rugs, at the backs of cupboards, or in the attic. These are places where underlying problems can often be revealed.
3. Repeat Viewings
It is tempting to dive into the first suitable property you find to prevent it from being taken by someone else, particularly in high demand areas. The risk of this, however, is that it is almost impossible to fully assess a property in just one viewing. This is Money says that buyers spend an average of 25 minutes looking around a property before committing to buy. That is a very short time for such a large financial burden. If possible, see if you can arrange repeat viewings of the property and try to find new questions for the owners and estate agent each time. This gives you even more opportunity to find any potential issues with the property.
4. Look Around the Area
A simple walk or drive around the neighbourhood can tell you all you need to know about the surrounding area. You can see how close the supermarkets are and how long it takes to get there, if there are any bars or nightclubs which could become rowdy during the night when you are trying to sleep, and if there are any main roads or train tracks nearby that could cause excessive noise. It is also a good idea to check out what the local traffic is like, particularly during peak hours, and if there are any major road works planned, as the last thing you want after finding your dream home is to spend your entire daily commute in a traffic jam.
5. Ask for Documentation
A seller, agent, or landlord should be able to show you any documents about the building and its safety record, including a drainage diagram and anything related to gas or electricity. If they are willing and able to show you these, this is a good sign that the property is up to standard and has no major underlying issues that are being covered up.
By taking things carefully and asking lots of questions, it isn’t hard to find any issues that a property has, either ones that have happened in the past or could happen in the future. You can also find out a lot about a neighbourhood by just looking around and talking to the people who live there. This way, you will find a property that is safe, affordable, and ideal for you.