Inspection: It's Not the Bank’s Job

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

Although one might assume that a bank that is willing to mortgage a home would do its homework and ensure that the property they are financing is in tip top condition, this is not the case. While an obviously rundown property with numerous patent defects may be valued at a lower price, the banks themselves are not actually there to perform a detailed home inspection.

When a bank sends a valuer out to a home you have offered to buy, the aim of the visit is to establish whether there is sufficient value in the property to secure your home loan - not to identify possible defects. What's more, many valuations these days are performed electronically so the bank valuer may not even visit the property, says Berry Everitt, MD of the Chas Everitt International property group.

"The purpose of a home inspection, on the other hand, is to protect the potential buyer against the high cost of repairing unforeseen or unknown problems. Such inspections are particularly recommended for senior buyers living on fixed incomes, parents with young children and inexperienced buyers - and should be conducted before any offer to purchase is made."

The importance of having a home inspected before it is bought cannot be over emphasised. Everitt notes that home inspectors can also helps buyers decide between newly-built or pre-owned homes. This is particularly important as the age of the home is not necessarily a good gauge of quality.

"With new homes, there is the advantage of having the builder's warranty, as well as the fact that new constructions must comply with current standards for safety and structural stability."

However, even with these safeguards in place, getting defects repaired after the property has been bought may be time consuming as well as frustrating. A negative home inspection could well sway a buying decision and convince the buyer to invest in a better built home.

"With pre-owned homes, there are more variables. But in all areas of home construction, there have been those that reflect quality workmanship and those that do not. And all homes, new or old, harbour some defects not apparent to the untrained eye," he says.

He suggests that buyers taking a first look around a home they are interested in purchasing should look out for the following problems - the top four found on most home inspectors' lists:

  • Electrical hazards and deficiencies, including amateur wiring jobs and old distribution boards.

  • Roof problems such as rust, loose or missing tiles, leaks and rotted timbers.

  • Water leakage and damp from interior sources such as bath or toilet surrounds or pipe-joints in the walls.

  • Poor site drainage or clay conditions, which can cause foundations to swell or crack.

Buying a home is always going to be a major investment and discovering that your ’dream home' is actually a bit of a dud is an incredibly painful experience. At this stage it can be safely said that most homes are sold without being inspected. The adage once bitten, twice shy unfortunately generally appears to be the driving force with those who utilise the services of home inspectors. It is highly unlikely that anyone who has made what has turned out to be a bad buying decision is ever going to run the risk of repeating that particular mistake.

It may well become compulsory in the future for homes to be inspected before a sale can be concluded but until that happens, buyers are urged to the sensible thing and make sure that everything really is as good as it looks.

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