Pre-purchase Checklist - 5 Critical Problem Areas to Watch Out for in a Property Inspection

Posted: Jun 3 2019Last Updated: Jun 3 2019
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What should a buyer look for during a home inspection?

5 September 2019 - When looking to buy a property in Hong Kong, it’s easy to judge based on first impressions alone.  Upon stepping into the potential property of your dreams, chances are you’ll be swept off your feet by the sense of excitement, either from the stunning décor or the freshness of an empty space, full of potential to create your unique home. 

Adrenaline rush aside, it’s extremely important to thoroughly inspect the property before making a decision, regardless of whether you are a first-time buyer or veteran investor. There are critical structural and practical areas to check before buying the property. Feeling overwhelmed? Stress no more, OKAY.com has compiled this pre-purchase inspection checklist of the most important things for to watch for when buying property in Hong Kong.
 

1. Water
The effects of water-related problems can be far-reaching. Water leakage and seepage can lead to astronomical repair or maintenance costs which impact the value of your investment. Cracks, watermarks and discolouration on walls and/or ceilings imply water seepage. If water damage is severe enough it could threaten the structural integrity of the unit – an enormous liability and cost.  Double checking those areas on a rainy day, when leaks might be more obvious, can provide extra insights into the unit’s condition.

 
Check all water outlets in the kitchens and bathrooms - leakage is common around sinks and toilet bowls. Splash water or hose down the bottom of the sinks, bathtubs and showers to check their waterproofing and determine how well and thoroughly the silicon sealant gel has been applied (and if it is peeling off).  Don’t worry – these are often simple to fix with fresh sealant that you can apply yourself or hire a contractor for (at low cost).
 
Also check if the water drains are clogged - running water through them for a few minutes should give you an idea. If you find a clog, it might be easily addressed with liquid cleaner or be a sign of a much bigger problem with the piping system, so be sure to have the seller try to clear the pipe first to avoid having to pay for re-piping later.
home inspection checklist for buyers
 
 
2. Wall/floor/ceiling

Cracks on walls and ceilings may suggest water-related problems which could be structural (see above). In addition to the cost of potential erosion over time, if chunks and flakes of them fall off, residents can easily get hurt. Some cracks are visible to the naked eye, while the less noticeable ones (bulging areas under the paint) can usually be spotted by tapping the surfaces with a metal rod.

 
Wear and tear causes pipes to leak or even burst and it is difficult to notice brewing troubles when the pipes are hidden in a false ceiling. Open the ceilings one by one to take a closer look, and if you see damp areas or dripping pipes, investigate further with a contractor.
 
Floors are another area to check - a lever can help make sure the floor is even. A difference of 0.5mm or more between different areas of the floor is considered uneven and warping could get worse over time. Also, gaps or cracking between floorboards and the concrete slab could mean the floor was poorly installed or has simply shifted over the years because of the seasonal changes in temperature and humidity.  This may already be factored into the price or may be something you negotiate with the seller. 
 

3. Doors/windows/pipes/glass

Opening and closing windows and doors a few times gives you an idea how well the hinges work, and whether the screws are in position. Areas that are often omitted are door locks (which tend to become too tight or too loose with time) and the gap between the door and the frame. A gap too big would hinder the door’s function in shutting out noise or allow warm air to enter the room when the air-conditioner is switched on. These are easily fixed with new hinges or a new door.

 
Indoor pipes are relatively easy to check, but outdoor ones probably need more attention as they are exposed to different weather conditions throughout the year. Carefully look out the windows to examine external water pipes for serious rust or damage – both should be inspected by a contractor. Also check air-conditioner tubes and pay special attention to where weather stripping is installed to see if there is any gap around the frames. These can be addressed with spackle or rubber sealant.
 
With glass windows and doors, look out for cracks and air bubbles. Those imperfections may mean the glass is weak and may need to be replaced in the future.
 

4. Building structure

Use a tape or laser measure to ensure the size of the unit is consistent with the description in the sales brochure. On the outside, check if the external walls are well-maintained, if rebars (steel reinforcement) are exposed, and whether the railings are coming loose. There’s no harm double checking building records to identify any illegal structures. These are common in Hong Kong properties and buyers often accept them – but should know about them before purchasing and be willing to accept the risk of a building order to remove any illegal structure in the future. 

 

5. Electricity

Electrical problems caused by loose outlets and/or malfunctioning appliances pose safety risks or potential rewiring costs. Spending a little time in examining all the appliances help troubleshoot common problems such as leaking washing machines, unresponsive switches, gas outages and leaks etc. These should be checked thoroughly before purchasing to know if they are easy repairs of the outlets or more serious problems with the internal wiring.

buying property inspection checklist
 

Conclusion: Don’t be alarmed, just be aware

Fortunately, most properties in Hong Kong have been well constructed and are unlikely to have major structural issues. Nonetheless, these five areas are still essential to check during house inspections.  It may seem daunting but most problems can be fixed relatively easily by the seller, either before you purchase or as part of the terms of the transaction. It’s also common for a buyer to accept certain problems if they plan to renovate the property anyway, but you still want to be aware of any issues so they are factored into construction costs.
 
Spotted a problem? Inform the seller immediately and bring your own contractor to conduct an expert inspection to determine if it’s a serious issue or a cosmetic fix.  Finally, since most properties in Hong Kong are sold “as-is”, with the purchaser assuming full responsibility for the property, factor serious problems into the price you choose to offer.  Scrutinise the property and take plenty photos to document the state of the property. Simply going through this process will not only protect you but, just as importantly, give you peace of mind that you’ve done the due diligence before buying your property.
 
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