Buying a house can be one of your largest investments in life. Owning a home in Malaysia is no longer easy with housing prices continuing to rise. Many have to spend a big chunk of their savings and commit to huge loans just to own a house.
Unfortunately, after buying a property that costs hundreds of thousands or even millions of ringgit, home owners may not get their money's worth as they have no idea how to inspect their new house. Some home buyers know the importance of inspection, but many do not know where to begin and what to look out for.
Why must you inspect your new house? When?
Paul Lee, a senior civil engineer, says it is common for home buyers to get excited when they get their keys from developers. They will normally want to start renovating the house so that they can move in or rent out the property as soon as possible.
"[But] once you have started renovating the house … and if you find any defects later, developers will not take responsibility for it," he adds. Therefore, home buyers should inspect their houses immediately after they take possession of the property, and before starting any renovation work.
The engineer notes that many home buyers do not know it is the responsibility of the property developer to deliver the house on time and in accordance with the specifications and quality stated in the sale and purchase (S&P) agreement.
According to Joshua Kang, a director of Canaan Building Inspection Sdn Bhd, developers will have to repair any defect or fault in a new house as there is a defect liability period of 24 months.
There are provisions for a house buyer to make a claim on the monies retained by the developer's solicitors for this purpose. The purchaser should make a claim before the expiry of the defect liability period, which requires the developer to make good on any defect, shrinkage or faults in the house.
"Home buyers can file complaints during the defect liability period and ask developers to rectify the problem," Kang says. Hiring a building surveyor to inspect a house in the Klang Valley, he adds, will cost a few hundred ringgit, depending on the size of the house. "For example, a 1,000 sq ft house will cost you about RM750."
Alternatively, home buyers can do the inspection themselves or with the help of family members or friends. The whole process will take a few hours to complete. "Unless there are severe defects, you can actually do it yourself," he says.
How to check?
Kang, who is a certified Quality Assessment System in Construction (QLASSIC) awareness trainer as well as a certified QLASSIC assessor for the Construction Industry Development Board Malaysia, suggests home buyers use the "six + one" formula to check their house. This formula is used by certified assessors when they perform inspections.
"Home buyers will be able to inspect their house in a systematic way with this formula," he says. QLASSIC is an independent method used to assess and evaluate the quality of workmanship at building projects based on the construction industry’s standards. The assessment covers the inspection of structural, architectural, mechanical and external works, field testing and sampling.
The ‘six + one’ formula
In every room, there are six things you have to inspect: the floor, wall, ceiling, door, window and components. Components include permanent fixtures such as bath tubs, basins and kitchen cabinets.
The "one" stands for mechanical and electrical (M&E) fittings such as switches and water taps. For each area, you will have to look at the finishing, alignment and evenness, and for any cracks and damage, hollowness and jointing.
For example, when you assess the walls in the living room, you should look at the finishing. Make sure the walls are free from paint drips or stain marks and are evenly painted.
Next, you should check the alignment and evenness. Then, see whether there are cracks or damage on the walls. You should also check the wall for hollowness and make sure there is consistent skirting thickness and no visible gap between the wall and skirting.
Finally, ensure that all electrical outlets and switches are properly installed. Make sure the positions of the electrical outlets and switches follow what is stated in the layout plan.
For doors, windows, components and M&E fittings, you should check for alignment and evenness, the joints and gaps, materials and damage, functionality and accessories defects. For instance, when you check the windows, make sure the lead and frame corners are at the right angles. Make sure the window can open and close smoothly.
Next, check that the windows are sealed when closed. Also, see whether there are scratches on the glass and check that the windows can be locked properly. Finally, make sure there are no missing accessories and that all the accessories, such as the window stays, handles and screws, are in good condition.
You can use the "six + one" formula to assess the bathroom, but the inspection may take longer as there are more tiles and permanent fixtures installed there.
Make sure all the taps are functioning. Pour a pail of water down the sink to see whether the water in the basin discharges quickly.
Check that the bath tub, basin and toilet bowl are properly installed. Inspect under the bath tub and basin to ensure there are no leaks. Also check whether the tiles have been properly installed.
Make sure there isn’t a hollow sound when you tap on the floor tiles. Also, pour a pail of water on the floor to see whether there is a water ponding problem and whether the floor is properly sloped.
If there are serious defects, home buyers should hire a professional building inspector, who will provide a comprehensive and detailed independent report. Here are some useful links:
For more details on the “six + one” formula, you can visit Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority’s website, www.bca.gov.sg/QM/quality.html.