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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Let the house buyers beware!

A file photo shows a house for sale in Alexandria, Virginia, outside Washington DC. In countries like the United Stat es and Canada, home inspections are a standard practice in the purchasing process. — EPA

To not educate yourself and learn from the mistakes of others only sets you up to be at best, disappointed and at worst, being house poor'

FOR many people, the purchase of a home is the most important financial decision of their lives. Therefore, it makes sense to approach the decision carefully.

The purchase of a home is unlike any other consumer product as it covers a lot of ground including legal, financial, technical and emotional considerations. To not educate yourself and learn from the mistakes of others only sets you up to be at best, disappointed and at worst, being “house poor”.

Caveat emptor! Let the buyer beware! The idea is that buyers take responsibility for the condition of the items they purchase, and should examine them before purchase. How true is this for the property buyers? It works well for buyers of completed units but not if you are buying an abandoned house to call it a home.

What happens if you have paid for your house and discover defects later which cost thousands of ringgit to repair? This would not have happened if you had used the services of a building inspector. His duty and responsibility is to give you a report on the condition of the house, and to check for permitted renovations, against shoddy renovations, before you buy.

The report would have given you room for negotiation with the seller too.

Most people are under the mistaken belief that the local council issuing the Certificate of Fitness for Occupation (CFO) will discover problems such as defects and shoddy workmanship when they issue it. They do not. Their job is strictly to ensure that there are no by-law violations or safety issues. They are not quality assurance officers and nor do they have that authority.

Furthermore, there could be problems with the house that are not necessarily related to by-law violations, yet have serious consequences for the new owner.

We believe that it takes three types of know-how to make a wise decision on a purchase: financial know-how; legal know-how and technical/engineering know-how.

In the first two, consultations with financial or legal experts are not a problem as those professionals, namely “buildings/home inspectors” are already in the market.

However, when it comes to the technical part, there is a lot of tension from the layman's point of view and the vendor's as getting a professional home inspection report has yet to be practiced by house buyers as one important process of the purchase. These building/home inspectors are themselves professionals like architects, engineers and surveyors.

The layman is only guided by his untrained eyes (to inspect), naivety assumptions. When it comes to quality and workmanship, new homeowners' problems are compounded by the fact that there is no degree of benchmark on buildings and its components for the layman to rely on.

In countries like the United States and Canada, home inspections are a standard practice in the purchasing process. Home inspectors conduct inspections of newly built or previously owned homes. Prospective home buyers hire home inspectors to inspect and report the condition of a home's systems, components, and structure.

They typically are hired either immediately prior to a purchase offer on a home, or as a contingency to a sales contract.

In addition to structural quality, home inspectors inspect all home systems and features, including roofing as well as plumbing, electrical, and heating or cooling systems.

After you have known what you are purchasing, the legal issue of sale and purchase contracts are the usual conveyancing routine in buying and selling transactions.

Checks will be made by the lawyers as to the arrears of quit rent and assessments rates at the land office and local council, respectively.

The potential buyers could also made checks at the utilities companies as to outstanding charges for service provided to the property.

Chang Kim Loong is the honorary secretary-general of The National House Buyers Association, a non-profit, non-governmental, non-political organisation manned by volunteers. For more information, check or e-mail

By The Star

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