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Don’t get caught out by a leaky home

Buying a house is a big investment, so it’s always important to protect your investment and be aware of any issues before you sign on the dotted line. That means keeping your eyes open and watching out for hidden problems – especially if you want to avoid buying a ‘leaky home’.

Unless you’re looking for an extensive renovation project, these tips may help you minimise the risk of buying an unsound property – and protect your long-term investment.  

The highest-risk homes

Leaky homes are not confined to one type of building, but there are certain building characteristics that can mean a home has a higher risk of leaking. It’s important to always look out for signs that a prospective home may not be weathertight.

Here’s a list of some (but not all) of the features to look out for:

  • Homes built between 1998 and 2004
  • Multi-storied homes
  • Homes with overhanging eaves
  • Houses with stucco plaster/textured fibre cement
  • Flat roofs
  • Roofs with parapets and/or skylights
  • Buildings with more than one storey and a flat roof or Mediterranean style
  • Pergola and/or handrail fixings
  • Decks over living areas.

Can you spot the signs?

During a property viewing, it’s important to put all senses to work – including your nose. Unusual smells in a home can be caused by rotting or damp.

Plus, keep your eyes open for unexplained damp areas, rotten carpet, swollen materials, or signs of fresh paintwork that could be hiding damage. You can also look out for cracks in external plaster walls or internal gib board, or any signs of rust.

How do you protect your purchase?

The best way to protect your purchase is to invest in a building inspection. Members of the New Zealand Institute of Building Surveyors can perform a thorough check on any building you are interested in buying, while moisture detectors and thermal imaging cameras can help identify issues that aren’t detected with the naked eye.

Please bear in mind that, if there’s been a spell of dry weather, you may not find signs of a leak in a building inspection. Ask the inspector to make sure they highlight any risk areas or tell-tale signs in your report.

And if you’re at all suspicious that a property may have problems, take action. There are a few things you can do, like introducing yourself to the neighbours and find out if they’re aware of any issues or recent repairs to the property; or requesting and reviewing a copy of the LIM report, to check that the consents are up-to-date.

Finally, Real Estate Agents are legally required to tell you about any issues with the property that they are aware of. Write a letter to both the agent and property owner requesting confirmation of whether there have been any issues with weathertightness or leaking. This may help protect you from a surprise in the future, or at least make it easier to claim for compensation.

An Adviser Disclosure Statement is available free and upon request.