How to spot cosmetic vs structural fixes

When buying a home, whether with the aim of settling right in or renovating, it’s essential to look beyond the façade into the nitty gritty of any works required to achieve your ultimate aim.

Whether easy, relatively inexpensive fixes – like filling cracks, re-painting, replacing cracked tiles and re-grouting – or big-ticket structural repairs, being able to spot them allows you to tailor your decisions, budget and timing accordingly.

Once you’ve assessed a suitable property for its location, size, age, style and access to facilities, look for signs of structural problems. For instance:

  • Sloping, uneven or bouncy floors suggest stumps may need replacing.
  • Cracked walls indicate the house may be sinking and needs re-stumping. If cracks are large, seek advice from a structural engineer.
  • Damp brick walls may suggest rising damp or salt damp.
  • Mouldy walls, lifting tiles, areas of peeling paint, or pools of water in wet areas can mean excessive moisture.
  • Blisters or bubbles on paintwork, or weak timber that breaks easily, especially in skirting boards, can indicate termite activity.
  • Fretting, or where mortar between the brickwork falls out, can suggest major structural problems.
  • A sagging roof, or cracked or broken roof tiles, may require costly roof repairs or replacement.

While one should aim to be thorough, the process need not be daunting, especially with the support of specified professionals, and with laws in place to protect buyers.

Buyers, before signing a contract, should always arrange to have a professional building inspection completed, the fee comparatively small compared to the cost of expensive unexpected repairs.

While including any faults in the property, their potential for repair, and their estimated cost, the independent report will also highlight any unsafe or unauthorised renovations and/or extensions, while allowing buyers to better negotiate both the price and conditions of the sale. You can find a registered building practitioner on the Victorian Building Authority website, or talk to your local Noel Jones professional.

Prospective buyers should also have a professional pest inspection conducted to check for termites or other infestations, which can prove very costly. Please see further important information. 

Also, be sure to pick up a Due Diligence Checklist at open for inspections, which may include other important information about the property. For more about this important document, which vendors, or their representing agent, must legally provide, please visit the Consumer Affairs website.

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