Buyers can consult Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors checklist for final inspection tips on homes
Building professionals, such as qualified building surveyors, are also skilled at inspections – and are affordable
Kenny Tse is a director of Raymond Chan Surveyors. He advises buyers on what to look for in a new flat before moving in.
The developer has just handed over a new flat to me that I bought off plan. What should I look for before conducting a final check of my new home?
The developer may give you a new home inspection checklist to use during your walk through the new flat. You can also download a checklist published by the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors (HKIS) from its website. A careful inspection should be conducted of doors, door frames and ironworks to reveal, for example, any signs of loose joints or hinges, whether all the door locks work properly, and whether there are any irritating noises. According to the HKIS checklist, further checks should be carried out on parquet flooring and timber skirting, walls and ceilings, rendering and paint finishes, windows, window hoods and balconies; and toilets, bathrooms and the kitchen. Pay attention to windows and the balcony to look for clues of water leaks as it is a common defect found in new flats and previously owned homes. You should examine the edges of window openings, window hoods and balconies for any sign of water stains or residual water marks. Another defect commonly found is localised bulging, cracking or spalling. So you should look for any sign of exposed or corroded reinforcement which may cause a rust stain on a decorative surface. If there is any doubt when you are doing an inspection, hammer tapping should be carried out to reveal any signs of debonding or hollow surface. This procedure is especially important in old buildings.
What should I look for if I have bought a second-hand flat?
In addition to the items listed above, a second-hand property buyer should pay attention to any unauthorised works within the premises and outside the windows or balcony. Unauthorised building works typically include a metal cage, full-height glazed panel balcony enclosure, canopy, flower bed, split-type air conditioning supporting rack, drying rack and advertising sign among others. There is also a chance that the main entrance or kitchen door may have been altered without permission. In general, hammer tapping should be carried out to reveal whether they have been changed from a fire-resistant door to a hollow door. Window and balcony door components of old buildings should also be examined to reveal any unauthorised modifications. Such works may indicate if part of the original structural component has been removed or waterproofing sealant has been damaged. The new owner is advised to retrieve the sales brochure or a building plan from the Buildings Department to check the existing conditions against the original or approved building plan for any illegal structures or installations.
S hould I hire a building professional to carry out the new home inspection? How much does it cost?
Although the HKIS checklist is a useful tool to tell the contractor/developer what you think needs to be fixed during the warranty period, it offers simple guidelines on procedural checks performed by means of visual examination and simple on-off operation of equipment. This should not be used as a complete defect identification process. You can hire a building professional, such as a qualified building surveyor, as he or she is skilled in inspecting new homes. They are also trained in the inspection of aged buildings for unauthorised works or structures. I believe the cost of an initial inspection is within most people’s budget and it’s worth the expense if defects are discovered upfront rather than later in the process.