What if you decided to buy an existing house or apartment on the secondary market? Not a flashy new one, which was designed and built 100% to your taste, but a decent existing property, which is a just few years old? You found a good deal, something that you really like and are ready to go for it!
Older apartments or houses have many advantages. They are often more spacious. Many of them have higher ceilings and larger windows. At the same time, some of them may require renovation and upgrade to make them the home of your dreams.
So, to avoid surprises and troubles down the road, when assessing a used property, pay attention to the following important points.
Be Renovative Tip: The basic rule of every inspection is to observe, check and test!
Plan enough time and do the assessment during the day, so that there is time to look at everything. Evaluate whether the problems you found are worth an investment in renovation and upgrade, which will turn the existing property into one you really like!
And, visit the property at different times of the day, so that you can see if that quiet morning street gets too noisy at night or if it gets too windy, or the sun does not show up during the day.
Assessing a used property – an outside look
Talk to the commune
Talk to the local commune or the property management company. This is the best way to know if the street floods, if there is a lack of light, if there are problems of infiltration or if the building has structural problems or other problems that happen often. Also, do not forget to spend a bit of time talking to your potential new neighbors. Neighbors may have less “official” information to share with you.
Original house/apartment plan
See if the owner or trustee has the original plan of the apartment. Compare the property to the plan to see if there have been any changes.
Also, check if the surface of the property on the plan corresponds to the real surface of the property. The living (internal) surface area is certainly in the documentation. You can use simple measurement equipment to calculate or take measurements on the spot, during your visit.
Dedicated parking space
See if you have a dedicated parking space to leave your car when you go on vacation. Is it assigned to the property or is it “who comes first” type?
State and quality of the building
Observe and make a mental note if there are problems such as cracks and leaks in the building.
State and quality of utilities
Inquire whether hot and cold water pipes are new, or old. You can replace pipes inside your house or apartment (and not always). If such work needs to be done for all apartments in the building, the cost will need to be prorated among all residents.
Assessing a used property – a look inside
Cracks on the walls
Check all walls for cracks. If they are only on the surface (only on the painting) or if they are deep cracks that can indicate structural problems in the building. Notice the direction of these cracks. If they are diagonal they can be more dangerous.
How the building was built
Note if the property was built as structural masonry. Masonry is a construction in which the walls work as a structure without pillars. If this is the case, you will not be able to make changes, unless you ask for advice and approval of a professional (engineer or architect). Masonry construction may require reinforcements in the structure. And you most certainly, will not be able to make those yourself.
If the building is not built as structural masonry – great news! You can plan to have an American kitchen or to demolish a wall, as long as your re-planning preserves the structure of the building (pillars and beams). Remember, any structural change needs a professional advisor.
Take a look at the number of outlets and switches. Older houses and apartments have not been prepared for so many electronic/electric appliances that we tend to use now. Open the switchboard and take a look at the circuit breakers. They all must be identified.
Check for overheating residue: dark spots, twisted or damaged insulation. You may need to do a general electrical overhaul and install a new switchboard. You may need to ask an electrician to give you a quote for this work.
Read also: Check out our Electricity Guide if you would like to know more (to be linked shortly).
Leakages and moisture
Observe if there is moisture on the floor, ceiling or walls. Look for dark spots and notice if there is a moldy smell. Moisture may indicate infiltration or a broken pipe somewhere in the wall.
Check the state of all windows. Look for rusted or broken ones. Open all windows and make sure they are not stuck and all open and close well.
Floors and built-in closets
Check the floor surface in detail. Check built-in cabinets and doors. If there is an accumulation of dust, especially wood, it could be an indication of termites.
Faucets and siphons
Open all faucets and see if the water is flowing well. With the faucet open, look under the counter. See if there is no leakage in the siphon or flexible pipes (which carry water to the faucets). If you see that the water is reddish or cloudy, it probably means that it is coming from the old pipe. Or that there has been a lack of maintenance of the water tank.
Check that they are in good condition, without splinters and scratches. If you are going to be using hot water (and, in most cases, you would), make sure you have the right pipes installed in the apartment.
Pour water into the tub and see if the sink is not clogged and water drains out well. A clogged sink could mean poor maintenance of the grease box!
Also, see if the sink bench has been installed horizontally or if it is crooked and accumulates water in some corner.
Activate the discharge of each toilet and see if everything works well and there are no leaks. Wait for the water to stop flowing when the toilet tank is full.
Floors and tiles
Check that the floor and tiles are well placed. Verify that there are no cracked tiles and that the grout is well done. Check for empty spaces below tiles, both on the floor and on the walls. Lightly tap parts of the wall and walk carefully on the floor. How to know if the floor has been done well?
What will stay and what will go
Finally, agree with the current owner on everything that will be left in the apartment or house.