25 Sep 2017

Should you avoid a property with termites? Home deal breakers and their solutions

So, you’ve found your dream home and you’re about to purchase. This could be your greatest investment – or so it seems. The old “buyer beware” maxim has never been more important than when it comes to property.

A lot can happen between contracts and closing, so make sure you keep an eye out for these potential problems. Ahead, points on how to identify them, plus expert tips on how to cope with them.

Noise Pollution

The problem: Noise travelling through windows and doors – often caused by traffic, trains, planes, pets, air conditioners or chatty neighbours. As Millicent Aaron from Soundblock Solutions says, “Any pathway that air can get through, sound will get through.”

What to look for: Look out for busy roads, neighbours’ dogs, where air-con units are positioned in neighbouring properties, and research flight paths in close proximity. Also be wary of weatherboard homes – this type of house will let more sound through than brick or double-brick houses.

Sellers may try to minimise noise by keeping windows closed during inspections. “As a buyer, you should visit the street at different times to listen to the neighbours and streetscape,” says Aaron. You can also hire an acoustical engineer to run noise tests.

The solution: Secondary windows and door systems can alleviate a lot of external noise. As Aaron says, “This would require installing an internal acoustic window to block residual heat and noise. Front doors may also require a set of acoustic seals to the perimeter and base to block out noise.”

Rising Damp

The problem: This occurs when water rises inside the capillaries of stone, bricks and mortar. The moisture contains salt, which expands and leads to plaster decay or peeling paint. You may see salt coming out of the walls as a result. If left unattended, rising damp can be destructive and lead to a significant devaluation of the property over time.

What to look for: Sellers will sometimes paint over the problem areas. “This is only a temporary solution and the problem resurfaces in a short space of time,” says Tee Fourie from Aquapol. You can also hire an experienced consultant to test the moisture reading inside the wall.

The solution: Tackle the problem at the source. The Aquapol device is one such method, which uses wireless technology to dry out the walls in an eco-friendly and non-toxic way.

Illegal Building Work

The problem: This refers to when a structure on the property has not been legally approved. “Most often a neighbour will complain to council and the council will advise the property owner, or an owner may decide to seek approval for the work because they’re planning on selling and don’t want to lose prospective buyers,” says Louise Hedges from Building Approval Solutions.

What to look for: Your solicitor or conveyancer should protect you from unwittingly purchasing a property that has illegal works.

The solution: “You can purchase the property with unapproved works, but often this will mean a deduction in the price, or a commitment on the part of the vendor to rectifying the situation by applying for ‘approval’,” says Hedges. When obtaining approval, avoid private certifiers. At the end of the day, you need a Building Certificate through council.


The problem: The tunnelling insects feed on plant matter, including the timber our houses are commonly built from. Termites aren’t usually covered by home insurance.

What to look for: As well as surveying all timber in the house, look out for the pencil-sized tunnels, or mud tubes, they use to travel across terrain.

The solution: Deal with any dampness, including timber rot, as termites love moisture. If you find active termites, don’t provoke them or knock anything down – once they sense a disturbance, they simply move to another area.

Call pest control. They’ll likely use infrared scanners and moisture metres to find termite activity in wall cavities before using a water-based termiticide to treat the soil around the building. Termites travelling through the treated soil will transport the chemical back to the colony. Have this done before commencing any repairs.

Bad paintwork

The problem: When proper paintwork hasn’t been done, and the foundation surface hasn’t been properly patched and sanded back, it results in drips, chips, cracks, bubbles and evidence of peeling paint underneath.

What to look for: It’s easy to spot and light reveals all. “This is particularly a problem in older houses where there’s layers and layers of paint accumulated over the decades,” says Cherie Barber from Renovating for Profit. She advises paying close attention to high-gloss enamel on window frames, architraves and doors. “The higher the paint sheen, the more obvious the flaws.”

The solution: You’ve got to go back to the start and fix the foundations. “Do not attempt to DIY the plastering,” says Barber. “Get a highly recommended plasterer to give you the professional finish that should have been done in the first place.” Once you have a top-notch surface to work with, the painting is easy.

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