Monday, 14 December 2015

Buying a house - A checklist to help home buyers make informed decisions

Buying a house is the biggest investment most

of us make, so it is important to get it right.

Home buyers need to remember that the seller’s

real estate agent works for the seller. However,

they also need to be aware that real estate

agents licensed under the Real Estate Agents

Act, and their salespeople, are also bound by

a number of statutory and ethical obligations

which require them to provide the buyer with

information of material importance, and to

fully answer buyers’ questions. Information of

material importance is any information about

the property that could impact on your decision

about buying it. Buyers and sellers alike should

know that sellers of real estate who are not

covered by the Real Estate Agents Act are not

bound by the same requirements.

Friends and family are often keen to offer free

advice, but spending money on professional

advice before you buy may save you spending

a lot more money in future fixing problems you

didn’t know about.

Knowing the right questions to ask and engaging

expert advice will help you make a sound

investment for your future – whether you’re

buying a home to live in with your family or to

rent to tenants.


Is the seller or their agent aware of any

problems with the property?


Ask both the real estate agent and the

seller if there is anything a buyer should be

aware of with the house, particularly around

weathertightness concerns if it’s a modern

design or had additions done since the early

1990s. Write down what you are told.


Buying a house

A checklist to help home buyers

make informed decisions


Most apartments and townhouses are unit title

properties, with a body corporate governing the

use of common areas and administering the body

corporate rules. Always ask the seller to authorise

the body corporate secretary to provide full

records, such as meeting minutes and financial

reports, to identify any financial liabilities you

need to know about, or problems such as leaks or



What needs to be checked?


For all properties, regardless of age and design,

basic checks should include:

• the condition of the roof (rust, broken tiles,


• plumbing, including water pressure – check all

taps and showers

• the condition of drainage systems – are there

any signs of flooding from a partially blocked

sewer or storm water drain?

• electrical wiring – check the switchboard

and power points for any discolouration

• the condition of the piles (under floor supports)

• insulation – in the ceiling space, in the walls,

under the floor

• the condition of fences, paving and driveways

• evidence of house movement, such as cracked

window sills and doors that don’t close properly

• any alterations that do not appear on the plan

(plans usually can be obtained from the local

council for a small fee).


Is a pre-purchase building inspection



A pre-purchase building inspection is

advisable for all properties, but essential for

homes that may be at risk of leaking. If the

property has any potential signs of leaking,

engage an experienced building expert with

weather tightness expertise to inspect it. If the

house you are thinking of buying has any obvious

weather tightness risks, ask the building expert

to report specifically on this. If the property

is an apartment or in a townhouse complex,

ensure the whole complex is inspected for

weather tightness and not just the unit you are

interested in. If other parts of the complex are

leaking then you will be liable for a share of their

repair, even if your own unit is weather tight.


Can you check if a house has had

weathertightness problems?


Weathertight Services, Department of

Building and Housing, can let you know if the

property is or has been subject to a claim –

call 0800 324 477. In Land Information

Memorandum (LIM) reports councils are

obliged to identify properties that are or have

been subject to Weather tight Services claims.

However properties that have been subject to

Weather tightness claims through the courts

or private actions do not have to be identified.

Homes requiring re-cladding require a building

consent from your local council.

All houses are capable of leaking if not built

correctly. However, if a house was built or had

major renovations after the early 1990s, some

features are known to increase the risk of leaking,


• monolithic claddings, including texture coated

fibre-cement, EIFS (polystyrene boards

with a plaster and paint finish), and stucco

• more than one cladding system used

on the house

• lack of roof overhang or eaves

• complicated roof design

• balconies, particularly above rooms

• internal gutters

• wall claddings in contact with the ground

• lack of flashings (waterproofing strips)

to windows, doors and chimneys

• parapets without sloped tops or adequate

cap flashings.

Check the property yourself for potential signs

of leaking, including: visible water damage;

cracks in the external cladding; mould on

ceilings and internal walls; walls and skirtings

showing signs of bulging and staining. Check any

balconies on upper floors where water cannot

freely drain away.

Ask for furniture, floor rugs and pot plants on

balconies to be moved, if necessary, to ensure

you can thoroughly check for signs of potential

leaks and rot.

Older homes can have weather tightness

problems if additions or renovations have

been undertaken since the early 1990s,

or if maintenance of roofs and walls has not

been carried out.


What about newly built houses?


People planning to build a new house should

discuss weather tightness matters with the

architects, designers and builders involved.

If any concerns arise, seek advice from

an experienced, qualified consultant with

weather tightness expertise. Money spent at

the planning stage can avoid costly problems in

the future. Visit for

detailed information about what you need to be

aware of when buying or building a home.


What can the council tell you about

the house?


For a small fee you can view the property file

on any house, including original specifications

and drawings. You can also obtain a Land

Information Memorandum (LIM) report, which

provides information your local council holds

about a property. While a LIM is more expensive

than viewing the property file and can take up

to 10 working days to obtain, it is a valuable

pre-purchase check to protect your investment.

The LIM outlines any permitted alterations that

have been made to the house and any proposed

local authority zoning or other changes to the

area or the property. Make sure you allow for

time to get a LIM when putting in an offer on

a property.


A LIM report will show whether existing works

have received council consent and whether

the council requires any remedial work. Any

house built or modified since 1992 should have

a code compliance certificate or a certificate

of acceptance issued by the local council. If it

hasn’t, you need to find out why. The LIM will

also give you information about matters such

as soil contamination, possibility of flooding,

and zoning details.


Remember, however, that the LIM provides

information only about those things reported

to the council. Check with your lawyer that the

LIM covers everything you need to know.


Are there any problems with the

property title?


Seek legal advice about the property title.

In particular you need to know about easements,

including rights of way. Buyers should make their

offers conditional on a title search to identify any

problems ahead of actual purchase.


If you don’t have a lawyer, will help you

find one or you can call 0800 745 754.


Getting the contract right


Ask your legal adviser to use a contract like

the Auckland District Law Society’s or Real

Estate Institute of New Zealand’s standard sale

and purchase contract, which includes useful

warranty clauses. For your protection you should

seek a warranty for weather tightness in the sale

and purchase agreement.


Buyers wanting a builder’s or engineer’s report

should include an appropriate condition in their

offer, allowing them to cancel the contract if the

report is not satisfactory.


Make sure that whatever you sign is right for you

before you sign it.


Will there be any maintenance?


A lot of modern houses are described as

‘low maintenance’, but this does not mean

‘no maintenance’ – there is no such thing

as a maintenance-free house.


Check that you will have easy access to areas

of your house that need regular maintenance,

like gutters. Also check that landscaping features

will not present problems, for example wall

claddings that are likely to come into contact

with the ground or garden debris.


Remember, fibre-cement cladding or other

speciality exterior cladding will usually need

more and professional maintenance than a

weatherboard house.


See reverse for summary checklist.


Checklist summary


Ask the agent and the seller about any issues

with the house.


Thoroughly check the house yourself, including:

the roof plumbing, including water pressure

electrical wiring the piles insulation (especially  

above ceilings where most heat escapes)

fences, paving and driveways evidence of house  

movement any alterations that do not appear

on the plan.

Check the property for potential signs of leaking,


visible water damage

cracks in the external cladding

mould on ceilings and internal walls

bulging or stained walls and skirtings

balconies on upper floors without good


Make sure you:

view the property file at the local council, or

obtain a LIM from the local council

engage an experienced building surveyor to

report on the property seek legal advice about
any issues that arise in the LIM or property report

obtain legal advice before you sign the contract

don’t sign the contract until you are confident

it is right for you.

For reliable, practical advice on buying,

building, renovating and maintaining

homes visit

– a joint website of the Consumers’

Institute and the Department of Building

and Housing.




Kind regards,

Duane Turner
Territory Owner and Inspector
Office: 09 811 8018
Mobile: 027 376 4806

Waitakere & Surrounding Areas

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