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Home Inspections 101 – What to Look for when Buying a Home



Home inspections serve as an integral step in home buying journey, providing potential buyers with vital information regarding the structural integrity, electrical systems, plumbing and water supply, heating and cooling systems, roof and exterior conditions, as well as safety and code compliance.

This article aims to equip first time homeowners with essential knowledge on what to look for when engaging in such inspections, employing an academic style that is objective, impersonal, detail-oriented, and tailored towards an innovative audience.

Structural Integrity

The assessment of the structural integrity of a home is a critical aspect to consider during the process of purchasing a property. A thorough inspection should focus on identifying any potential issues related to the foundation and load-bearing walls.

Foundation cracks can indicate underlying problems that may compromise the stability of the entire structure. These cracks can be caused by various factors, such as soil settlement, poor construction practices, or water damage. Inspectors should carefully examine these cracks to determine their severity and whether they require immediate attention or future monitoring.

Load-bearing walls are another crucial element to assess when evaluating a home’s structural integrity. These walls play a vital role in supporting the weight of the structure above them, ensuring its stability and safety. During an inspection, it is essential to identify any signs of damage or improper construction that could affect their load-bearing capacity. This includes checking for cracks, sagging floors, uneven settlements, or evidence of previous repairs.

Electrical Systems

When evaluating a property, inspecting the electrical systems is crucial to ensure safety and functionality. One important aspect to consider is outlet functionality. It is essential to check if all outlets are in good working condition and properly grounded. This can be done by using a receptacle tester, which will indicate any faults or wiring issues.

Additionally, it is necessary to inspect the wiring throughout the property. The inspection should include checking for outdated or damaged wiring, loose connections, and improper installations. It is also important to ensure that the electrical panel is up-to-date and has sufficient capacity for the property’s needs.

A thorough inspection of the electrical systems will help identify potential hazards such as faulty wiring that could lead to electrical fires or electrocution risks. Moreover, it ensures that all electrical components are functioning correctly, which promotes efficiency and reduces energy waste.

Innovative technology can aid in conducting these inspections more efficiently. For instance, thermal imaging cameras can detect hidden problems by visualizing temperature differences caused by faulty connections or overloaded circuits.

Overall, when conducting a home inspection, paying close attention to outlet functionality and thoroughly inspecting the wiring system ensures both safety and functionality within the property’s electrical systems.

Plumbing and Water Supply

Plumbing and water supply play a crucial role in ensuring the functionality and efficiency of a property’s infrastructure. It is essential to inspect these systems thoroughly when buying a home to identify any potential issues or problems that may arise. Common plumbing issues can include leaky faucets, clogged drains, running toilets, and faulty water heaters. These issues not only affect the convenience and comfort of daily living but can also lead to significant water wastage and higher utility bills.

Another critical aspect to consider is water pressure problems. Low water pressure can be caused by various factors such as pipe blockages, sediment buildup, or even municipal supply issues. On the other hand, high water pressure can damage pipes and fixtures over time if left unaddressed.

During a home inspection, it is important to check for visible signs of leaks or moisture damage around pipes, faucets, and toilet bases. Additionally, inspecting the main shut-off valve and its accessibility is crucial for emergency situations.

Innovations in plumbing technology have led to advancements such as low-flow fixtures that conserve water without sacrificing performance. Inspecting these innovative fixtures during a home inspection ensures that they are properly installed and functioning correctly.

Heating and Cooling Systems

System maintenance is crucial to ensure the longevity and optimal performance of these systems. It involves regular cleaning, inspection, and servicing of various components such as filters, coils, and ducts.

Additionally, energy efficiency considerations are important in order to minimize environmental impact and reduce energy costs associated with heating and cooling. This includes selecting high-efficiency equipment, proper insulation, and effective control strategies.

System Maintenance Tips

Regular maintenance of household systems is essential for ensuring their optimal functioning and longevity. When it comes to system maintenance tips, there are several key considerations to keep in mind, particularly in terms of energy efficiency.

First and foremost, regular cleaning and filter replacement is crucial for HVAC systems to maintain proper airflow and prevent dust accumulation that can reduce efficiency.

Additionally, sealing any air leaks around windows, doors, and ductwork can greatly improve energy efficiency by preventing heat or cool air from escaping the home.

Another tip is to schedule professional inspections and tune-ups for heating and cooling systems at least once a year. This can help identify any potential issues early on and ensure that the system is running efficiently.

Finally, considering upgrading to smart thermostats can provide more control over energy usage by allowing homeowners to program temperature settings based on their needs throughout the day.

Energy Efficiency Considerations

Energy efficiency considerations play a significant role in maintaining optimal functioning and prolonging the lifespan of household systems. When buying a home, it is important to assess its energy efficiency ratings and inspect the insulation to ensure maximum energy conservation.

Energy efficiency ratings provide valuable information about the overall energy performance of a household system, such as heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) units or appliances. These ratings help homeowners make informed decisions regarding energy consumption and cost savings.

Insulation inspection is another crucial aspect of assessing a home’s energy efficiency. Proper insulation minimizes heat transfer and reduces the need for excessive heating or cooling, resulting in lower energy bills. It also enhances indoor comfort by maintaining consistent temperatures throughout the house.

Roof and Exterior

The condition of the roof is an important aspect to consider when evaluating the overall condition of a property. Several indicators can help determine the state of the roof, such as missing or damaged shingles, sagging or uneven areas, and signs of water damage.

Along with assessing the roof, it is crucial to examine the exterior for any red flags that may indicate potential maintenance issues. This includes cracks in the foundation, rotting wood, or deteriorating siding.

Additionally, conducting a weatherproofing assessment can provide insights into how well the property is protected from external elements. This assessment involves examining factors like caulking around windows and doors, proper drainage systems, and adequate insulation.

Roof Condition Indicators

One important aspect to consider when evaluating a potential home purchase is the presence of visible signs of damage or deterioration on the roof. Roof maintenance and repair costs can be significant, so it is crucial to assess the condition of the roof before making a decision.

Visible indicators such as missing or broken shingles, sagging areas, water stains, or mold growth may suggest underlying issues that require attention. Additionally, inspecting the attic for signs of leaks or water damage can provide further insight into the overall roof condition.

Hiring a professional inspector with expertise in roofing systems can help identify any hidden problems and estimate potential repair costs accurately. Taking these precautions during a home inspection ensures that buyers have a comprehensive understanding of the roof’s condition and helps avoid costly surprises in the future.

Exterior Maintenance Red Flags

Exterior maintenance red flags can serve as warning signs for potential issues that may require attention and additional expenses in the future. When conducting a home inspection, it is important to pay close attention to the condition of the exterior paint and any landscaping concerns.

The exterior paint serves as a protective barrier against weather elements and also enhances the aesthetic appeal of the property. Signs of peeling or cracking paint may indicate poor maintenance or underlying issues such as water damage or wood rot.

Similarly, landscaping concerns like overgrown trees, dying plants, or inadequate drainage can lead to costly repairs if left unaddressed.

Weatherproofing Assessment Tips

Weatherproofing assessment requires a careful examination of the property’s ability to withstand weather elements and prevent moisture intrusion. A thorough weatherproofing inspection is crucial in identifying potential issues that could lead to moisture damage and costly repairs in the future.

During the assessment, it is essential to inspect the exterior walls, windows, doors, and roof for any signs of water penetration or deteriorating materials. Special attention should be given to areas prone to leakage such as around windowsills, door frames, and roof flashing. Additionally, checking for proper drainage systems and evaluating the condition of gutters and downspouts is important in preventing water accumulation near the foundation.

Moisture damage assessment involves examining any visible signs of mold growth or dampness on interior surfaces as well as assessing the functionality of ventilation systems.

Safety and Code Compliance

To ensure safety and code compliance during a home inspection, it is important to examine the electrical system, checking for any outdated or faulty wiring. Outdated or faulty wiring poses a significant risk of fire hazards in residential properties. The electrical system should be inspected thoroughly, including the main panel, circuit breakers, outlets, and switches. Any signs of wear and tear, loose connections, or exposed wires should be addressed promptly to mitigate potential risks.

In addition to the electrical system, home inspectors should also pay close attention to foundation issues during the inspection process. A compromised foundation can lead to structural problems within the property. Signs of foundation issues may include cracks in the walls or floors, unevenness in flooring surfaces, sticking doors or windows, or gaps around door frames.

Inspectors should use innovative tools and techniques such as infrared cameras or moisture meters to detect hidden issues that may not be visible to the naked eye. These advanced methods help identify potential dangers accurately and effectively.

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Real Estate

First-Home Buyer Scheme at Risk: Greens Concerned About Impact



A long-awaited federal government scheme that would allow first-home buyers to enter the market with a 2 per cent deposit and co-own their property with the government is stuck in the trenches following threats by the Greens to sink it in the Senate.

The Help to Buy scheme is the newest proposed form of federal aid for first-home buyers. It would allow home buyers to co-own their property with the government by sharing the equity ( up to 30 per cent for existing dwellings and 40 per cent for new ones ), which would effectively make mortgage repayments more affordable.

The buyer wouldn’t need to pay rent on the stake owned by the government. If the property was sold before the equity was bought back, then the government would also have a share in the profit based on the amount of equity it owned.

However, the Greens currently oppose the proposed bill, claiming it would only help a small pool of Australians (40,000 over four years), that it may push up property prices even further, and that it will not fix the current lack-of-supply crisis.

“Unless Labor is prepared to work with the Greens to fix negative gearing and capital gains tax handouts, cap rents and build public housing, the Greens will vote against Labor’s housing lottery bill in the House, and we reserve our position in the Senate,” Greens leader Adam Bandt said last week.

AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver agrees that the scheme will not “solve the underlying problem” of undersupply.

“We really need to see more social housing, more affordable housing overall, and perhaps a reduction in red tape to really help speed up getting this supply to market,” she says.

Entry prices, houses


Dec-23 Dec-22 YoY 5-year change
Canberra $800,000 $800,000 0.0% 42.6%
Adelaide $595,000 $517,000 15.1% 61.7%
Brisbane $635,000 $560,000 13.4% 51.2%
Darwin $460,750 $450,000 2.4% 15.2%
Hobart $530,000 $550,000 -3.6% 55.3%
Melbourne $678,000 $670,000 1.2% 16.9%
Perth $505,000 $435,000 16.1% 31.6%
Sydney $927,250 $870,000 6.6% 38.0%
Australia $545,000 $492,000 10.8% 47.3%


Source: Domain First Home Buyer Report, Feb 2024. Note: Entry price is based on 25th percentile for the 3 months to Dec 2023.

“There are many state-based incentives, and there are shared equity schemes in certain parts of Australia,” she says. “There are state-based incentives out there that are designed to help, such as first-home buyer grants.”

Oliver adds this isn’t the first time the Greens have pushed back against a proposed housing policy, and he expects the parties will reach a compromise as they have in the past.

“If it is blocked, we’ll just move on to the next thing,” he says.

Will Help to Buy make properties more expensive?

“Anything that activates and brings people to market when it’s not complemented with high levels of supply pushes prices up,” Powell says.

Domain’s latest First Home Buyer Report found that the median entry-price house for an Australian couple aged 25-34 increased by 10.8 per cent in the past year, and entry-price units increased by 9.1 per cent.

The price of an entry-level home in Brisbane skyrocketed from $560,000 in December 2022 to $635,000 in December 2023, in Adelaide by 15.1 per cent from $517,000 to $595,000, and in Perth by 16.1 per cent from $435,000 to $505,000.

While it’s possible the proposed scheme could push entry-level prices further up, Oliver believes the impact would be “relatively minor” due to recently low first-home buyer activity as a result of higher interest rates.

According to Australian Bureau of Statistics data, first-home buyers committed to 110,000 new loans in 2023 – much lower than 118,000 in 2022, 163,000 in 2021, and 136,000 in 2020.

Oliver says the predicted interest rate cuts later this year are more likely to “put upward pressure on prices” because they would allow people to borrow and spend more money.

Help to Buy alternatives for first-home buyers

If the Help to Buy sinks, first-home buyers still have several grants and schemes available to access.

“It is a difficult market for first-home buyers, and the federal and state governments have recognised this,” says Mozo banking and rates expert Peter Marshall. “There are a range of schemes that prospective home owners can tap into from one-off grants, or reduced or no stamp-duty to deposit savings schemes like the super saver scheme that allows you save money for your first home in your super fund.

“But in addition to the grants and schemes available, first-home buyers need to do their due diligence on their choice of home loan as this is going to have by far the largest long-term financial impact on them.”

Grants and schemes available to first-home buyers include:

  • First Home Guarantee (or First Home Loan Deposit Scheme ). You can buy property with just a 5 per cent deposit without paying lender’s mortgage insurance.  Property caps apply depending on the city and region.
  • First Home Super Saver Scheme. You can make voluntary contributions to your super (up to $15,000 every financial year) and withdraw up to $30,000 to later use as a home deposit.
  • Family Home Guarantee. Single parents can buy a property with a 2 per cent deposit without paying lender’s mortgage insurance.
  • Regional First Home Buyer Support Scheme. You can buy a property in regional Australia with just a 5 per cent deposit without paying lender’s mortgage insurance.
  • First Home Owner Grant. You receive a monetary grant towards buying a newly built property. The amount received varies from state to state and property caps apply depending on the state.
  • Stamp duty waivers and concessions. These vary from state to state and are generally capped to the purchase price.
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Real Estate

Aintree and Balwyn North Among Top-Growing Suburbs in Melbourne



A mix of middle and outer Melbourne suburbs can be revealed as the city’s best performing over the past five years, after the house price medians grew as much as 40 per cent in some locales.

South-eastern Narre Warren North recorded the largest jump, up 38.4 per cent to the end of December, to a median of $1,693,000 on Domain data. It was followed by growth suburb Aintree (up 34.8 per cent to $755,000) and inner-eastern Balwyn North (33.4 per cent to $2,375,000).

Unit prices grew the most in Mitcham, where they jumped 21.3 per cent over the five years to $752,000. It was followed by Highett (19.6 per cent to $658,000) and Brighton (17.9 per cent to $1.2 million).

Melbourne’s overall median house price rose 22.1 per cent in the same period. Although it remains below its peak, the market has somewhat improved in recent weeks as clearance rates point to modest price rises and home buyers show renewed activity in expectation of a Reserve Bank rate cut later in the year.

The analysis excludes the Mornington Peninsula, but growth was even stronger in popular sea-change destinations that swelled during lockdowns such as Blairgowrie, Sorrento and Rye, which were up 66.3 per cent, 52.9 per cent and 52.8 per cent, respectively.

KPMG planning and infrastructure economics director Terry Rawnsley said strong results in suburbs further from the city reflected entrenched affordability issues and lockdown-era preferences for larger homes.

“There’s definitely a ripple effect coming through those middle-ring suburbs,” he said. “They’ve been priced out of the [more inner] inner suburbs and are heading out along the train lines by a couple of stops.

“There’s definitely places in the middle-ring suburbs where people wanted to get out of the inner city. The two-bedroom townhouse was less appealing than the detached four-bedroom house.”

Narre Warren North in particular reflected this trend; recent buyer Edward Hao said he saw great value in the leafy suburb.

“I moved from Bentleigh East … we loved [Narre Warren North] because the price is affordable. When you pay the same price you can’t buy your dream house anywhere in Melbourne, but you can buy your dream house there,” he said. “We love the animals, you can see kangaroos. The mountains are visible and there’s no traffic.

“We never asked our friends to come [visit in Bentleigh East] because the streets are too narrow, and the streets are packed up. There’s no room for them to come and park.”

Belle Property Berwick director Anne Haynes sold Hao his new home in Fontaine Terrace, Narre Warren North for $3,388,888. She said other buyers were replicating Hao’s move out from smaller inner suburbs.

“We’re getting international buyers, but we’re also getting buyers from inner suburbs, say Bentleigh, Oakleigh, and everywhere in between who are living on cramped smaller blocks,” she said. “If you move out to Narre Warren North, it’s tranquil and peaceful.”

Haynes said a diverse mix of properties meant buyers of most budgets had options in the acreage suburb.

Ray White Berwick director Debbie Brettoner said it had also benefited from the opening of a new mosque which had proved attractive to the Islamic community.

“The mosque has brought a lot of people out of Dandenong and Hallam, and they want the bigger blocks of land, closer to the mosque,” she said. “And then COVID. People said, ‘I can work from home, I want the peace and tranquillity of the big block’.”

Brettoner said it was common for homeowners to try to stay in the area after selling.

“I sold a house for someone who looked to see if they could find something for 12 months,” she said. Those buyers ended up buying in nearby Berwick after giving up on their first choice of suburb, Brettoner said.

Rawnsley said a strong five-year result in a growth suburb like Aintree reflected a maturing of a greenfield market, as developers began shifting away from building entry-level homes to cater for local upgraders.

“The suburbs out towards Melton is reflecting a fuller build out of the community,” he said. “As those markets pick up [developers] try to pick up the margins a bit.”

Harcourts West Realty listing agent Matthew Farrugia said newer stages of the suburb’s development that were more expensive had been popular with previously entry-level buyers.

Farrugia said the opening of a new private school had also proved to be a drawcard, even drawing interest from overseas.

“There’s a fair bit of multicultural people there. It’s a very strong Indian community,” he said. “A lot of [growth] came once the school [Bacchus Marsh Grammar] came through. It just boosted it by heaps and then the lockdown came through, it was like a double effect.”

Farrugia said properties tended to be larger to accommodate multigenerational families, which also kept prices high.

“If you drive through Aintree, they’re predominantly double-storey houses,” he said. “There’s a lot of million dollar homes there because they’re all big.”

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Sydney House Prices Surge: Leppington Tops Growth List with a 112.9% Rise



House prices in every Sydney suburb are more expensive than five years ago, new data reveals.

In Leppington, a stone’s throw away from Sydney’s upcoming second airport, house prices more than doubled. The median of the fast-developing suburb jumped by 112.9 per cent to $1,162,500 in the five years ending December 2023 on Domain data.

A string of nearby suburbs also made it onto the top 20 list of the strongest growing suburbs in the same period, including Denham Court (up 66.7 per cent), Harrington Park (up 62.8 per cent) and Gledswood Hills (up 59.1 per cent).

Blue chip suburbs near beaches and in the inner city also recorded some of the strongest growth in Sydney in the past five years. Bronte jumped 78.2 per cent to a median of $5.8 million, Glebe grew 72.8 per cent to a median of $2.73 million and North Bondi increased 67 per cent to $4,275,000.

Sydney’s overall median house price has risen 49.5 per cent since December 2018.

St George chief economist Besa Deda said Sydney house price growth would likely continue in the next year, albeit at a slower pace.

“During COVID, the Reserve Bank cut back to a historically low level and that did encourage economic activity and buyer activity, particularly once we reopened the economy and borders,” Deda said.

This was happening against a backdrop of lower building approvals and less housing construction – all pointing to a chronic shortage of homes in the face of ongoing demand.

“There’s a housing shortage. There is a very large increase in the population that’s coming through, and the labour markets remain tight as well. That is helping support dwelling prices,” she said.

While Deda expects house price growth to continue, it will slow down thanks to higher interest rates, which has stretched affordability.

“We expect price growth to continue in Sydney but not at the same pace as last year. The rate of growth would moderate,” she said, adding that rate cuts would contribute to fresh pressures.

North Bondi sellers Yvonne Strasser and Cary Fraser hope to capitalise on the house price growth of the suburb to downsize in the postcode they bought into in 2018.

“We’ve done a renovation on the property and the home is beautiful. We absolutely love the home. Once you’re up in the tree house, you’re away from everything and feel like you’re on holiday,” Strasser said. “Hopefully, we can capitalise on the growth and stay in North Bondi.”

She said the suburb was perhaps once undervalued and has only burgeoned in recent years.

“Before it could maybe be seen as a little bit rundown, but now it’s becoming a bit more gentrified,” she said.

“With all of the new developments, not necessarily the houses, but just places to go, even down the promenade. They’re doing the pavilion up. They’re making it more of an area people want to go to, it’s brought more people to the area.”

Their selling agent Warren Ginsburg of Ray White Double Bay, who is guiding $6 million on the North Bondi property, said blue chip suburbs soared to new heights during COVID.

“It’s due to people wanting better lifestyles, they want proximity to beaches and to cafes and restaurants,” Ginsburg said.

He said young families, successful business owners and cashed-up downsizers were propelling house price growth in the eastern suburbs.

“It’s definitely young families who have had success in business in the past few years and are upgrading and there are a lot of downsizers who have sold their properties for significantly more than they expected are now downsizing into that market and are cashed up and driving the prices up.”

Ginsburg said these areas will continue to rise as the combination of lifestyle and proximity to amenities remains desirable.

Meanwhile, house prices in far-flung suburbs on the outskirts of the city recorded impressive jumps in the past five years due to their relative affordability, as many sit well below the citywide median of $1,595,310, as well as their proximity to fast-growing infrastructure and amenities.

“Denham Court, Gledswood Hills. They’re all within a kilometre radius of Leppington. We’ve got the railway station, you’ve got the airport coming. You can see that being built, and it’s a realisation,” said Michael Cavagnino of LJ Hooker Leppington.

“It’s all about accessibility and affordability. We’ve had a lot of people moving out from the inner suburbs because the station is there as well as the flexible working arrangements.

“We’re finding a lot of first home buyers and people who are upsizing are driving the growth,” he said, as well as investors. “Leppington as well is the strategic centre of the south-west. I can see it being like Parramatta, like Sydney’s third city.”

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