Would you have picked up on these defects?

Today I finished a home inspection for an engineer who was looking to buy a house. I didn’t know he was an engineer until the estate agent who got me the job told me. When I had asked my client, the engineer, if there was anything he was concerned about that he would like me to give extra attention to, he replied that he was more concerned about the annoying little things, like the kitchen drawer that doesn’t roll closed properly or the toilet that doesn’t flush properly.

Well we found a number of things wrong with the property. It is worth pointing out that one of them was quite obvious as the ceiling was quite distorted and it would probably have collapsed during the next rains.  The total estimated repair value exceeded R35 000.00. Not a huge bill when we consider that the purchase price was in the region of R1,6 million but nevertheless quite a bit when you don’t expect it.

What struck me was that we have an engineer, more qualified than most buyers and estate agents, to pick out these sorts of problems, who wasn’t expecting a problem even after viewing the house and putting in an offer.

And that’s why HouseCheck has this problem with the current practice of asking buyers to fill in an offer to purchase form containing a voetstoots clause before ascertaining the true condition of the property.

Many estate agents feel they are qualified to determine what is a “good house” and what isn’t in terms of condition. They choose which houses to recommend for inspections on that basis. However the truth is, it is seldom obvious. In this case not even an engineer picked up some major problems and I doubt if the estate agent did. In fact I’ll put money on it.

As it turned out in this case the buyer had already made an offer, was committed to the purchase and accepted that the price he paid for the house in a cash deal was fair value even with the defects.

But this could have been very different with another buyer, who didn’t commission a home inspection and who upon moving in would be faced with a section of the ceiling collapsing from a failed box gutter. I’m sure the estate agent would not have liked to be in the middle of that scenario.

HouseCheck is getting more and more referrals from estate agents throughout South Africa. However these referrals are predominantly where the agent has a feeling that all is not well. But many houses look perfect and show no obvious signs of defects. Like the example above. Not even an engineer picked up on it.

To protect buyers and estate agents in the South African market ALL homes should be inspected prior to transfer.

HouseCheck suggests adding the following clause into the offer to purchase:

“This property is sold subject to the buyer being satisfied with a home inspection report arranged for and paid for by the buyer within seven days of acceptance by the seller of the offer to purchase.

Blog posted by Mike Hendrikse, HouseCheck inspector – mikeh@housecheck.co.za

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