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FAQ: What are some common property problems buyers should look out for?

By Michael Walkden


When you are buying at auction, it’s always wise to make the most of the open home stage of the process. Spread your net wide, and you’re far more likely to find a property that you like. However, before you fall in love with that perfect piece of real estate, it always pays to keep an eye out for these common problems. They could easily turn that dream home for sale into a property nightmare.


Termites are a staple of the Australasian landscape. Occurring nearly everywhere, from the most remote rural real estate to metropolitan apartments, you should be sure to keep an eye out for these little critters. Besides the obvious aesthetic damage that they cause, termites can cause major damage to wooden structures within the home – quite a problem if they get into load-bearing walls, for example.

According to a paper from the United Nations Environment Programme, there are a number of ways of detecting termites if you know what to look for. Blistering wood, dry termite pellets or weak wood that breaks away easily are all clear indicators that you may have some unwelcome guests in your potential new home. Unscrupulous vendors may try to hide these indicators through new paint jobs or other cover-ups, so be cautious if you see an unusually fresh make-over.


This can be part and parcel of the termite issue as the little critters are attracted to moist conditions. Rising damp occurs when the base of the wall begins to suck up the surrounding water in the ground, spreading it through capillary action through the rest of the structure. Much like termites, this dampness reduces structural integrity and can encourage mould growth in the home, creating an unhealthy environment.

So it’s best to catch it before you put in your bid!

According to the Office of Environment and Heritage in New South Wales, rising damp can be identified in many of the same ways as termites: primarily, blistering wallpaper or paint. There also tends to be a musty smell. If there is salt in the rising damp, you will also find that the walls remain moist even in warm weather – and the salt contributes to even worse wall decay.


Both of these issues can be avoided through the use of a building inspection. While it’s all very well to trust your eyes and your nose, if you are particularly interested in a property, have a building inspection done. Remember, auctions are unconditional, so you can’t ask for these after you win!

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