How to inspect an apartment

Searching for the right property can be a tiring process if it stretches from weeks into months. Cutting corners on how thoroughly you look at it is understandable as a sense of despair sets in. But that’s a grave error.

If an apartment grabs your attention, then double-down on a basic inspection before you get too far down the track. A more detailed assessment should be made by your own building inspector before money exchanges hands.

Here’s a short list of general checks you can conduct at a private viewing.

  1. Check for cracks in walls, as these might signify a structural compromise. Inspect the ceilings for any signs of flooding and, with a ground floor apartment, take a look around the skirtings of each room for signs of rising damp.
  2. Notice if there are signs of insect or rodent infestation. Droppings and chew marks on cupboard doors and skirtings are obvious giveaways.
  3. Check if the electricity works properly, as dodgy wiring can land you with a large bill. Plug in a phone charger for a simple test to see if the electricity flows in good working order. Across the apartment, turn on and off each light switch.
  4. See if the building has proper fire safety equipment installed, including smoke alarms in the apartments – that’s a legal requirement. See if there is a fire escape plan pinned to the door. If it isn’t, enquire whether such a plan even exists.
  5. Test all the doors and windows to ensure they open and close properly. Assess the state of flyscreens and any blinds. Make sure the vendor or their agent has all the correct keys for the doors and windows. Watch out for any lock or doorknob that is not securely fitted.
  6. Flush every toilet, using both the full- and half-flush buttons. Check to see if there is any leaking at the base, or water seeping from the cistern and into the bowl.
  7. Turn on the taps and wait for the hot water to run through. Watch for whether the water runs clear and the pressure is acceptable. Check the tap seals to ensure they are in good working order. Give the bath, showerhead and their taps a similar work-out.
  8. Fill up all the sinks to make sure they hold water and do not leak. Signs of leakage will quickly appear underneath.
  9. In the kitchen, turn on every appliance to see if they work.
    1. If the stove is gas, make sure the burners light up quickly and easily.
    2. Notice if the flooring in the kitchen is in good order, or will need replacing.
    3. Give the air-conditioning a blow-through on both the hot and cold settings. Listen for dodgy mechanical noises and notice odd odours it might emit, as these will surely be a sign it’s on its last legs.
    4. Make independent inquiries about the quality of internet access that is available, as this can be a deal-breaker for many households.

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