New or existing?

New home or existing?

In today’s highly competitive environment, costs have a major impact on a builder’s viability. It is common to focus on the visual and presentation aspects of a house, while overlooking unseen areas for the sake of economy. We are aware that many new home buyers on restricted budgets demand value for money and look for cost savings wherever possible. In trying to satisfy this market, it is not uncommon for the appearance of a house to take precedence over the structural components.

Unfortunately, it’s not until later that the compromises in quality, due to cost cutting, are met with disappointing results. When maintenance issues appear, today’s shortcuts become tomorrow’s disputes. It is not always easy to identify the causes of defects that occur in the finish of interior linings. Some problems can be so complex that the actual reasons behind a particular issue may never be identified.

Spare a thought for the plasterers as it is their work that is immediately questioned. We need to remember that plaster is only a surface finish product and does not add to the structural integrity of a building. It is both interesting and amusing to observe the dispute resolution process regarding maintenance issues especially when it comes to apportioning blame and costs. Some of the fancy footwork and sidestepping that follows would do any dance instructor proud. As a result, the real costs of maintenance issues are seldom quantified.

Painters and plasterers often undertake repairs as an act of goodwill or alternatively to avoid conflict and ensure future business. When maintenance issues arise they are often the result of a combination of factors:-

  • Slab heaving
  • Building movement/reactive soils
  • Absence of proper framing (particularly around cornice lines and sheet ends)
  • Insufficient framing at directional truss change, or wall ends.
  • Lack of ventilation to rooms ie bathrooms, laundries, bedrooms as well as, sub floors and ceiling voids
  • No sarking under low pitch tile roofs
  • The use of ceiling joists running parallel between wide-spaced trusses to obviate the need for ceiling battens
  • Shrinkage and/or settlement on large bulkheads, particularly where they support a truss load for the full length of a room
  • Plasterboard installed over wet framing and the list goes on.

With the majority of these issues dealt with and forgotten about in the early life of the building don’t be led into a false sense of security as there are two more obstacles to overcome.

As there is an emerging trend where consumers are selling their homes earlier than previous generations. When this happens within the building guarantee period, the builder is often called in to rectify maintenance items in preparation for the sale. This is a growing cost that the builder has had little exposure to previously.

Also prospective buyers of recently built homes will often negotiate a lower price with an owner to take account of maintenance items. Once the sale has been completed, the new owner sometimes calls in the original builder to rectify those same items under the terms of the building guarantee. The new owner has had two wins. The first being the reduced purchase price and the second is having the items rectified at no cost by the builder. This is another growing area of concern for builders.

As building industry legislation has defined maintenance responsibilities, consumers have become more aware of their entitlements due to the competitive nature of the building industry. There is a need to ensure that maintenance costs are minimised.

Hopefully I haven’t put anyone off buying a new or near new home as the build quality and regulation and inspections required which have been introduced over the past decade or so have for the most part made Australian homes better engineered and to a stricter set of building rules.

As a consequence it’s even more important than ever to have a pre-purchase building and timber pest inspection done by a reputable inspector with sufficient knowledge of current building regulations and systems to ensure your new purchase is all it could be and will provide a safe comfortable home for you and your family or as a solid bricks and mortar investment into the future.



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