Avoid the Property Lemon: How to Spot Hidden Problems Before Buying

Avoid the Property Lemon: How to Spot Hidden Problems Before Buying

Even the best-looking properties are hiding their problems…

That’s the problem with property problems: they’re either hidden under the house, in the walls, or are just too hard to see with the naked eye.

When you eventually find that perfect property, your new home, you’ll fall in love with it, the pretty décor, the light and airy spaces within, and you’ll buy it.

Then three months later, or maybe even a few years down the track, you’ll discover an active termite infestation or a serious case of rising damp.

Then you’ve got to dig deep into your pocket, reach for your wallet, and pay a hefty bill, because these problems are generally not cheap to fix.

But you don’t need to be an expert or a building and pest inspector to spot most of them.

Here are some of the main problems to keep an eye out for:


Weatherboard: If the property has weatherboard, check that the timber is not sagging or warped. Also check there is no damp rot, which is usually found at the joints in timber weatherboards.

Roof: If the roof is made of iron and it’s rusty, that’s not a good sign. The vendors may have tried to hide this by painting over it, in which case look out for patchy areas. If it’s a tiled roof, check there are no missing tiles or look at how faded they are, which could indicate new sealant is needed or there are leaks in the house. A sagging roof can also be a sign of structural issues.

Drainage: Make sure there is sufficient drainage directing water away from the house. You want to make sure pipes are delivering water towards drains, rather than just dumping it in the yard.

Electrics: Take some time to look at the fuse box. Does it look modern? An earth leakage safety switch is good news, but timber cable trays suggest the wiring may need updating.

Stumps: Check out the stumps (if the property has them, most will have brick). Press at the base of the stumps and if you feel it give a little or feel weakness in the material then the stumps may need to be replaced. In timber homes, stumps need to be replaced every 25 years, this is expensive!

Termites: Check for termite damage wherever any wood touches the ground. Don’t let termites turn your dream home into a nightmare. Learn how to prevent termite infestations with these expert tips from the NSW Department of Primary Industries.


Doors & Windows: Take some time to check all the doors and windows. Make sure the doors open and close properly without sticking, as this can be a sign of subsidence or movement. Check the windows have no cracks on them and are in good working order. If any stick and will not close or open properly they may have warped over time.

Walls: Inspect the internal walls thoroughly looking for signs of damp, which will result in cracking and buckling plasterwork, and, of course, damp and mould. Some vendors will have tried paint over it, so look for textured paintwork or uneven patches.

Bathroom: Look for signs of mould. If mould is present, it means poor ventilation and you will need to install an exhaust fan. Turn on the taps and check the hot water arrives quickly and the pressure is strong. Are there cracked or lifting tiles? This may indicate water damage. Check the plumbing and pipes for leaks, and tug at the plumbing under the sink to see if it is strong and secure.

Flooring: Lift up rugs or move furniture that seems to be placed strangely. Vendors can hide a multitude of sins with wall art or a strategically placed pot plant!

Before you make one of the biggest investments of your life, ensure you’re equipped with the essential knowledge. Use this home inspection checklist from Domain to thoroughly assess potential properties

And remember, the perfect property does not exist. The point is not to buy the perfect home, there is no such thing, but to understand what faults the property has and how much it will cost to fix them.

Now that you’re better armed with this information and our checklist (if you asked for it), it’s time to get out there and do some house hunting!

If you’d rather leave it all to the experts, get in touch with us at Parker Hadley Buyers Agents and we’ll take care of it all for you.

For comprehensive information on your rights and responsibilities when buying property in NSW, visit NSW Fair Trading’s official website.



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