How to Find the Hidden Flaws in Older Apartments

Because many property buyers have been put off by all the news about defects in new building developments, there is now a renewed interest in older-style apartments. 

Previously, we discussed the kind of information you should seek out when you buy a new apartment. But what about older apartments?

It’s not as if apartments built more than 10years ago were immune from defects. Long-term issues could just be coming to a head for all you know.

If you are serious about making an offer or bidding at auction, we recommend you get a professional to take a look at the apartment and the whole building, prior to bidding. But to save money, you can get started with a bit of your own detective work.

Inside the unit, look for signs of damp or water stains and painted repairs from previous drips, floods or event burst pipe.

Older electrical wiring and smoke alarms are issues that you will want to address, even if the previous wasn’t concerned about them.

Windows and balcony doors should be thoroughly checked, especially in buildings more than 20 years old as they could be mean another big bill heading in your direction.

Either way, they could mean costly future expenses for you – if all the common property windows in the block are rattling and leaking, you’re going to end up paying hand over fist pretty quickly anyway.

Key areas to check

On the bathroom floor and balcony, have a look  for raised tiles and in concrete walls – check for cracks and bursts.

Noisy lifts that don’t quite stop where they’re supposed to in buildings are another sign that the building is not as well-maintained as it should be.

Broken windows, squeekly hinges and locks on the front door and vandalised or unlocked letterboxes are all signs of neglect that you’d be silly to ignore.

The community notice board, especially in older buildings, can be revealing – especially when disputes between the strata committee and residents are played out.

Which takes us to the strata search. You want this done by an expert who will look for signs that the community is less than pleasant, that some problems have been covered up, ignored or neglected, and that other issues are still to be played out, possibly with new, restrictive by-laws.

An amateurish and underfunded capital works or maintenance plan could be a warning sign that repairs have been delayed, probably in the hope that subsequent owners will pick up the inevitable tab.

Inspect the minutes

Minutes that are squeaky clean should also be a major flag to prospective purchasers. No building more than 10 years old will have had zero problems, so you have to wonder what’s missing.

You want to see evidence that problems have been solved, not the fiction that there were no problems.

And finally, your surveyor should get underneath the block and see what’s going on in terms of things like damp, rot, termites and subsidence.

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