Category Archives: Building and Pest Inspections

DEATH TRAPS

I’ve written about the dangers of living in a property that’s been used (abused) as a drug lab but there are more subtle dangers out there, just as deadly.  I’ve watched a lot of dodgy builders and renovators over the years create modern day death traps for the buyers and renters of their properties.  These people just don’t care.  Well-meaning renovators care (I guess) but in their ignorance, also create death traps.

And, blokes with their sheds are the worst offenders, especially old blokes who’ve come off farms and retired to the ‘burbs.

Here then, in no particular order, are my things to watch out for.

If there’s been a renovation of a pre-1987 property, asbestos may well have been disturbed.  This nasty substance, if contained and solid, coated in heavy paint is sort of okay to have around (sorry, for me and my child – no asbestos please) but if it’s on the loose, it will kill you.  Not right away, but you, your children and visitors, may just get a dose big enough to ensure you endure a long and painful death sometime down the track. This shitty substance was used in fence panels, roofing, insulation, behind tiles, in old stoves, as lagging around pipes.  I’ve seen in buried in gardens, and also just under the lawn where every time you mow the lawn that cloud of dust is not dirt but ultra-fine asbestos fibres – charming!  If the ceiling space is filled with asbestos insulation that is spalling particles, every time the wind whistles through the roof space, the fibres are pouring into your home and out through the eaves and onto every outdoor surface.  That rippled asbestos fencing that Councils tell you is safe as long as it’s painted, isn’t!  Is the neighbour’s side painted and in excellent, fully sealed condition?  Is your fence absolutely free of chips and scrapes so that no asbestos is getting loose?  How about this then? If you have grass growing up against the fence, what happens every time a whipper snipper cord smashes into it at 300 miles an hour?  No kidding there aren’t asbestos fibres flying everywhere!

Lead.  There is old lead everywhere. New lead is not better for you than old lead – it’s all bad! Again, authorities tell you that old lead based paint is okay as long as it’s sealed and in good condition.  RUBBISH.  Young kids always have their hands on and into everything, followed by those same little hands being thrust into their mouths. (If you suspect you have a lead problem in and around your home, please go and have blood lead level checks done – it’s an easy test, as long as you don’t mind the needle!).  Think about old wood framed windows, painted with lead paint – every time you open and close the window, or it rattles in the wind and rain, where paint rubs on paint, or painted surface against wood or metal runner, lead dust is being liberated.  Lead paint, in fact any paint, can crack and craze and if that’s happening 10 feet above you head, you’re not going to notice it.  Lead dust will fall from those cracks and all over your skin, carpet, furniture, food and glass of water.

The Man Cave, otherwise known as a SHED.  More than likely a toxic waste dump, chock full of carcinogens. Moving on to free range chickens, egg laying and growing your own vegetables. Nothing more satisfying is there?  Or is it?  Could it be incredibly dangerous to your health? The old guy, Farmer Joe, who moved into the house years ago and filled his shed out the back with all sorts of leftovers from the farm.  He also had a range of nasty, polluting hobbies that involved acids, welding, chemicals, weed sprays long since banned and goodness knows what.  He threw waste into the weed strewn fence-lines, poured who-knows-what on the grass and hung up chemical laden clothing in the laundry to “air”, filling the house with fumes from who-knows-what – traces are still clinging to paintwork and window furnishings, not to forget the carpet, all through the house.

If you want to have your Farm declared “organic” and “pesticide free” it is a very long and arduous process.  there are no rules really for putting up a Chook Pen, or digging up your back yard and throwing some seedlings in the ground and yet, people do, often encouraged by the dozens of Home Maker Shows on TV.

Well, here’s Gordon’s Caveat!  STOP.  Do NOT do any of this unless and until you’ve had the soil tested.  There are laboratories that do this kind of thing and you’d be mad to eat lettuce grown in a garden bed full of toxic waste – Imagine feeding your innocently home-grown produce to your children and have them develop some nasty, life threatening illness?  You’d never forgive yourself.

Be careful.  Be aware. Do your homework.  Seek professional advice and DO NOT PROCEED until the road ahead is clear.

 

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MARKET INTELLIGENCE – SURVEY

Oh dear.  People DO get excited about buying land to build on, or an existing house to renovate or move straight into.  They engage a law firm or conveyancer to assist them with the settlement process.  Searches are done to make sure its not flood prone, going to have a free-way or railway line built next door, is set for full or partial resumption or major power-lines nearby now or in the future.

When I was actively selling I’d always advise buyers to obtain a boundary survey even if the property was brand new. Not one of the hundreds of buyers I’ve advised over the years has ever spent the $700.00 – $1,200.00 to obtain a brand new, sparkling boundary survey. Continue reading

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PROVENCE, S’IL VOUS PLAIT?

Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azure?  or Providence Rhode Island?

Neither!  Provenance… which is from the French provenir, “to come from”.  The word refers to the chronology of the ownership or location of a historical object, but I like to think it can be applied to residential housing of any age.  Allow me to explain how proper “provenance” can add tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to the final selling price of your home.

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ACE #4

Aspect, Contour and elevation continues.  I also used to an ACE in the Air Force!  Seriously.  Airspace Coordinating Element. A part of my role as a military air traffic controller was to ensure that Navy, Army, Air Force, “other” forces and units didn’t bomb, strafe or shoot each other, or civilians, out of the sky.  That’s about all I can say about that… Now, back to real estate, and again, in no particular order…

When considering a purchase there are hundreds of things to keep in mind, and I’ve mentioned quite a few already.  The list continues…

Poo.  Or more particularly, things to do with poo.  On your walk, cycle and/or drive around the area you’re thinking about buying in, look for sewerage pumping plant, breather pipes and other sewer infrastructure.  The local Council will also tell you where these things are.  Some of this plant can emit terrible smells either very occasionally, on a regular basis or 24/7.

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ACE #3

Welcome to ACE #3, an ongoing ramble of my experiences.

Easements.  Most people don’t understand them and ignore them at their peril. Again ASK your legal representative to explain what easements burden the land or property you’re considering or, in some cases, ADD an area to your land that you don’t own but are free to use.

I’ve inspected a house where the owner, oblivious to the presence of an easement burdening the land, had constructed an enormous and very thick, steel reinforced concrete slab topped with a substantial 25m2 metal shed. Trouble was that the shed was right on top of a 3 metre easement that ran along the entire back fence of the property. He was very lucky that the authorities hadn’t required access to the storm water drain that ran beneath the easement as they would’ve pulled down the shed, ripped up the concrete and sent the owner a bill for their trouble.

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ACE #2

Now, where was I?

Following on from ACE #1 I’d like open the match with Canal, Lake and Riverfront homes.  Years ago I had a call from a builder I knew telling me to come to such n such an address and check out what he’d been called in to inspect.  Once there I found a solid home of 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, triple garage, far from new but very well maintained.  On the canal side, however, lay a disaster.

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ACE #1

ACE (Aspect, Contour and Elevation)…amongst other things!

This post will be broken into 2, 3 or more parts and is a rambling recollection of issues I’ve encountered over the years.

Many of the points I’ll raise are still the cause of much grief as people fail to ask, heed or properly interpret professional advice and rely far too much on advertising, promotional blurb and spin.

Talk to your future neighbours.  Don’t be shy. They know what’s going on.

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