Renovator's nightmare! What are the right Qs to ask?

Discussion in 'The Buying/Selling Process' started by islandfaerie, 5th Apr, 2009.

  1. islandfaerie

    islandfaerie Member

    5th Apr, 2009
    Melbourne, Vic
    Hello folks,

    This is my first post…I’ve followed this forum on and off for a couple of years, and am in awe of the collective knowledge and experience here! Having never been in a position to buy a property and/or found the right one, I haven’t had anything to contribute…until now.

    It’s a house on an little itty-bity inner-city block, knocked together by the previous owner in the 1950s. Apparently the vendors (who have inherited it), just want it gone.

    I would like to find out what questions I need to ask the local council and my building/pest/structural inspectors when I get assessments done. The agent’s building and pest reports describe past pest damage, water damage to both the roof support beams and front landing (interior and exterior), cracks in the supporting walls (it was build on besser blocks) and a dangerous verandah. I’m assuming that it will need to be completely rewired, based on the age and history.

    I will initially live in it, but need to make sure that I can rent it in the future, renovate and/or demolish and rebuild.

    The questions I’ve brainstormed are:

    Local council
    Is it heritage listed or caught up under any character rules? Do I have to keep the façade if I rebuild?
    What can I build on this size of block (i.e. size of houses, multi-dwelling buildings)?
    Would there be any restrictions on demolishing and digging in new foundations if the current foundations are unsafe?
    Does it meet the current local council building codes?
    What is the maximum building height?
    Is it at risk of flooding?
    Are there any drainage problems and/or rules around excavation due to drains/causeways?

    Do you use an x-ray machine to examine walls?
    What is causing the water damage?
    What will it cost to have the water damage repaired and the causes fixed?
    Is the building safe to live in?
    How long before other problems need to be repaired?
    How much to pull down the verandah and/or secure it?
    Which interior walls can I knock down?
    Is there rising damp? Where is it coming from?

    What is the cost of protecting against pests (i.e. there is wood in contact with dirt; base concrete isn’t capped)?
    Have them identify all the current spots with past pest damage.

    Structural engineer
    Are the cracks to the supporting walls structural damage?
    Are the foundations sound?
    Can I just restump it to raise it, or will I have to dig in new foundations?
    Is the building currently safe?

    Should I be at the site with the people doing the inspections to make sure that they crawl into all the nooks and crannies, or will that just get them angry?
    What are reasonable prices for me to pay for detailed inspections in the inner city?

    Thanks so much for getting through my little essay. I want to make sure I have all the relevant information when I make a decision…without really knowing what might be relevant and what’s not.

    Many thanks.
  2. Propertunity

    Propertunity Real Estate Buyers Agent

    1st Jul, 2008
    NSW Central Coast, Sydney, Newcastle and Lower Hunter
    In the CBD?:)

    Now that made me smile.:p

    If you have the time, I'd go, yes. That way you can see what they are looking at and reporting on. Sometimes the spoken word conveys a completely different meaning to the written word in reports.
  3. keithj

    keithj Member

    29th Sep, 2002
    Blue Mountains
    Definitely. What they write down on their report is covered by their public liability insurance. Consequently they only write down v. conservative stuff. If you're wandering around with them then they can talk to you about the state of the place without any comeback on them. Ask 'em 'What would they do if it was their place ?'. Ask 'em if it's normal for the walls to be a bit out of alignment or the cracks in the foundation to have settled 30 years ago & not moved since. And also how many $$$ to fix the problems they come across.

    eg Most building reports I've had done say it's going to need a new roof within a couple of years.... maybe I've been lucky, but I haven't replaced one yet.
  4. islandfaerie

    islandfaerie Member

    5th Apr, 2009
    Melbourne, Vic
    Many thanks!

    ...and I'm sorry if some of the questions I thought of seemed silly (esp. 'rising' damp!). But I appreciate your thoughts-particularly re: spending time with the builder.

    Would love any further thoughts folks may have...especially if I've missed anything major.
  5. RumpledElf

    RumpledElf all fun in the big city!

    28th Apr, 2008
    Pft. Sounds a tiddler.

    You can spot a lot of the really dodgy stuff yourself too. Go around with something pointy (screwdriver, 4" nail, whatever) and poke all the skirtings and architraves yourself. If it goes through and little white things come running out, that's bad. Had this happen in one of my bedrooms the other year when one of the kids stuck her foot through the skirting. Take care in jumping up and down on dodgy wooden floors to see how badly they squeak - the one we bought last year had the joists kinda missing (termites) so they were at 3m spacings not 600mm spacings. Its also fun to put a marble on the floor and see how fast it goes flying off to one side. Good way to test if the floor is level.

    Stains on the ceilings, really badly cracked cornices, obvious rust in the roof, well, you're asking for a reroof there. If its just loose sheets where the nails have come out and no obvious rust you can probably just repair it. Gutters are the same - they clog up, and they rust out where they're clogged, and then water goes running down the walls instead of down the downpipes and trashes the walls and rots your fascias.

    As to damp, back in the day they didn't have foundations to speak of or damp course, so the damp just comes up and pops off your paint or plaster. Very expensive to fix properly, so it is extremely common for very old houses with only minor salt damp to have dado panels. Too much damp and fun things happen, like major cracking and the occasional entire wall falling off.

    And old wiring? Scarey stuff. Its just bits of wire, like fencing wire, with cloth wrapped around it, stuck in bits of wood. Sound flammable? Someone was telling me a story yesterday about just sitting in the local museum where the wires just spontaneously caught fire. I've had all 3 of my houses - 1920, 1870 and 1900 vintage - rewired.

    That said, I still like old houses, preferably REALLY old houses, and if I can manage to sell mine for a decent amount I have my eye on another one in the next street that looks *particularly* dodgy. Even the real estate agent said so. Problem with that one is it's tagged as a historical landmark of some sort so demolition would be a no-no.