Buyer Beware – The Pitfalls of Properties with Structural Issues

3 December 2012
By Hamish Anderson

Things to be aware of when buying a new house or unit

So you’ve found your dream property (the same here applies for houses or homes or businesses). It’s everything you have been looking for; great location, the perfect size, nice and light and it is even cheaper than the price you were willing to pay. Before you buy though you’re savvy enough to know that you need to do a building and pest report.

The pest report comes back clean, however, the building inspection has one note against it; structurally sound, except for signs of concrete spalling indicating potential corroding reinforcement. What does this mean you think and therefore ask the inspector. They explain that elements of the building have signs of concrete cancer, or spalled concrete. That is, areas where the concrete is flaking away from the surface causing aesthetic eyesores and potential safety issues. It’s not anything which is an immediate cause for alarm however, it is just something you want to keep your eye on.

Sadly this is a story we hear from clients all too often. Sadly, this advice is not always the most sage.

Concrete cancer is something that should ring alarm bells for you and is something you should bring to the table as part of your negotiations.

Balcony Rails - Façade Repair - Remedial Building Services

Why is concrete cancer so important in the buying decision?

You may be thinking, these guys are trying to scare me into using their services, however, this is not the case. Moreover, we are trying to let you know that failure to bring this up early may mean you are left unaware of things which you really should be made aware of.

For example, if you are buying a unit, there is every chance that failure to table your knowledge of concrete cancer means you fail to ask about the building history in terms of structural work done, and that you, therefore, find out that in recent years only patchwork has been done to address the issue of concrete cancer. As we have previously noted, deferring the maintenance of concrete cancer will only increase the cost of rectification long term as the work required then to remove the rusted reinforcing is a lot more intensive.

Similarly, you may not know if you fail to ask that there is a sinking fund dedicated to the rectification of the said issue and that 3 months into new ownership you are required to front up a sum of cash as part of your fees. This will explain why the cost has been lowered now.

Our message to you re concrete cancer

Please know, we are not trying to drive down sales of existing buildings, nor try to scare you out of making your dream purchase. Rather we want you to know the things which are important ahead of making your purchase. Negotiate with the existing owners based on your knowledge of building defects, know what you are in for and then come to a resolution that suits both parties equally.

And as importantly, remember, that even if you do make a purchase which now shows signs of concrete cancer, it is not the end of the world. There are ways to treat it and hopefully, your place is not completely riddled with poor and rusted reinforcing. If it is, you know who to contact for information and help.

Till next time, happy house hunting.