What you will need: Camera, flashlight, ladder, tape measure, paper and pencil.
When inspecting the interior of a potential property you should keep a photo record as for the exterior inspection, this will help when comparing properties and for the later recall of the condition of the rooms and the special period features such as leadlight windows, fireplaces, ceiling decorations, even appliances and plumbing fittings. Draw a quick floor plan showing position of rooms and approximate sizes, and then add ideas as you look around the house. Check for any previous renovations; always double-check any work for shoddy or illegal workmanship. If in any doubt, have it checked out by an appropriate tradesperson. You can also point out these problem areas when putting in your first offer. After a few such inspections, your knowledge and confidence will grow.
Walls – The walls can be in any condition from normal wear and tear, to holed and ruined plaster sheet, or hard plaster falling away from cracked brickwork. It is usually easier to strip out old horse hare plaster, and replace with plaster sheet/drywall, than to patch and refinish it; the job will take the same amount of time and look a lot better. Wallpaper can be a real pain to remove, and although not an expensive job, it can be messy and time consuming. Check for any signs of water damage on walls that might contain pipes such as bedrooms & living rooms that back onto laundries, bathroom, or kitchen. Look for swellings or hollows in the surface that could contain nests for mice, rats or wasps. Tiled walls, that have cracked or broken tiles, or missing grout, can have water damage behind tiles like rot or moulds, this can extend to the rooms backing onto these walls. Cracks or repairs in plaster sheet can mean movement, check this out under the floor. Re-plastering a home isn’t a huge expense and should be considered if enough walls are in poor condition. The expense will be offset by the speed and ease of painting when finishing, stripping out the old plaster and hanging the new plaster yourself is easy and will save money.
Ceilings – Check for water damage and stains. If the ceiling droops between joists, or nails have pulled through, there can be a build up of dust and other debris that has overloaded the plaster. From the floor, in homes with very high ceilings, it can be hard to see how much the ceiling droops. Period ceiling decorations or ornamental cornice can be hard to repair although you can have them duplicated for a price. If you are contemplating removing walls, the ceilings may have to be re-sheeted to hide the alteration. Reasonable looking Ceilings, will present well with flat paint, as the viewer will not be close.
Living Areas-The relationship of lounge rooms, kitchens, and dining rooms to each other is important. Orientation, to allow winter sun to penetrate the main living area, will improve livability as well as heating and cooling costs. A common improvement, for old homes with separate rooms for each function, is to remove walls and create large openings to combine these areas. In these times of energy use awareness it may be appropriate to consider keeping these areas separate, heating, and cooling rooms, as you use them. Also smaller houses should become more popular as energy costs rise and people find it harder to meet these costs. If you can find a house with the living area on the winter sun side of the home it is an advantage. Even better would be to link an outdoor living area, by putting in glass doors. Check power and communication outlet positions. Take window views and privacy issues into account. Imagine furniture in place and the movement of people within the space.
Bedrooms – Check for ensuite potential in main bedrooms, built in or walk in robes add value for little cost, big rooms are best. Check for power outlet position, keeping in mind, clock radios, electric blankets, televisions, and chargers for portable gear.
Kitchens – The most expensive part of renovating a kitchen, is appliances and cabinetry, if these are in good condition it is advisable to keep them and clean them up, if not allow for their replacement in your estimates (often good used kitchens can be found in the for sale section of local newspapers). Look under sinks for water damage. Factor in a plumber if moving gas, water, or waste pipes to accommodate appliances. Check if power outlets are in appropriate places. If a chimney exists, it may need to be removed to open up the room, Check if it is holding up the roof, if so allow for a substantial beam to carry the roof load. Hearths are hard to remove and often need a jackhammer for this. You will also have to repair the floor where the hearth is and this will affect polishing floors.
Bathrooms – The bathroom can become a money pit. Have a clear idea of what you need, and want, in a bathroom before you look at potential houses. Make sure the room is big enough to accommodate all you need. The bathroom is often the room that sells a house, clean neat and new is always a good look. Unless the bath, shower and vanity area is less than ten years old, I would consider replacing them. I like to replace wall and floor tiles if I have any doubt about there look, or if they are waterproof. Modern taps, exhaust fans and lighting are also on top of my list for replacement. I don’t know how many houses I have sold because a person loved the bathroom. The size of the room is the most important aspect, everything else can be redone. Allow for plumbers costs if you are considering moving fittings, and electricians cost for power outlets and lights.
Timber Floors – Carpets, Vinyl’s, and tiles can hide many potential problems when the proposed property has a timber floor. If your idea is to replace damaged floor coverings with a similar product, then a walk over the entire floor checking for movement should be enough. If the plan is to polish the floorboards then a much more thorough search is needed, in this case, you may need to get a carpet layer to lift and relay the floor coverings to check the floorboards are suitable for polishing. You will need the owners/agent’s permission for this. There can be staining, rot, insect damage, or previous coatings that could make polishing a very unsatisfying solution. Tile floors that have grout missing or broken and loose tiles need close inspection, the substrate or waterproof barrier may be compromised and damage to the floorboards may be present. A thorough under floor inspection in these areas will be necessary. Under laundry sink, bath, vanity, and kitchen sink areas need close inspection for water damage.
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