Home buying horror tales

When buying a second-hand car most people will have it checked by the AA or a mechanic to make sure it is in good working order. This is however not always the case when buying a property; one of the most expensive purchases you can make.

So what can all go wrong once you've moved into your new property?

The most common defects in residential homes are found in the roof structure and the foundations. Eric Bell of Inspect-a-Home says that many of these structural defects are severe, but are patched cosmetically and so to the untrained eye do not look serious.

"I recently inspected a 35-year old home where there were serious roof problems. The owner had put a layer of sawdust in the ceiling to prevent leaking when it rained and, of course, when the sun came out the sawdust dried up and no one would be the wiser," he says.

Wall cracks

Often the structural beams in roofs are rotten and need extensive repair, he says.

Cracks in walls are also a common problem and it is often caused by blocked drainage which affects the foundations. Many sellers then simply use polyfiller to cosmetically repair these cracks when in actual fact the foundations need to be underpinned.

Underpinning a home is a fairly expensive process where the weight of the building on the foundations needs to be transferred to special pads to stabilise the crack. The plaster then needs to be taken off the walls so that 90 degree grooves can be cut across the crack. The cracks are further stabilised by metal stitching. The crack is then filled with epoxy and mortar, and further strengthened with chicken mesh before it can be replastered and painted.

Too trusting

The main fault of any property buyer is to be too trusting.

Bell says, "Buyers should not take what the seller says about the condition of the house at face value."

For example, a house in Pietermaritzburg was recently found to have huge problems with cracks and the whole kitchen had shifted by 45mm. The engineering report had found nothing wrong with this home before the owner purchased. Now, however, the new owner is facing some R370 000 worth of damages that he has to repair.

The outbuildings were also said to be in a sound condition — according to the engineering report. However, the outbuildings were in fact badly damaged and had been cosmetically repaired by using gap filler and attaching wooden quadrants to cover defects and cracks among other things.

Buying 'voetstoots'

The swimming pool area was also of concern as no expansive joints around the pool edge or between the pool and the house were installed during construction. Due to normal expansion and contraction the ceramic tiles laid were guaranteed to crack and de-bond without any expansion joints being installed.

Bell warns that the 'voetstoets' clause in many sales agreements protects the seller exclusively and that often, whether maliciously or unintentionally, the seller and/or the agent don't disclose the defects.

Bell says that if the buyer can prove latent defects then the seller could still be held liable for any damages or cost of repairs.

He adds: "All those who are looking to buy a property should ensure that the offer to purchase is subject to a favourable report by a qualified inspector. Once any defects have been disclosed to the owner/seller, it is fraud if it is not disclosed to the buyer."

Article by: w ww.iafrica.com