Do Your Homework

Recent media coverage in Sydney talked about how suburbs may have contaminated parcels of land — contamination that homeowners are unaware of.

This reminded me of a young couple who came to me for help. They had found the house they wanted to buy, but with two young daughters and full-time jobs they neither had the time nor the know-how to move forward on the purchase.

Part of my 'Find & Buy' service is to thoroughly research the house and its surroundings.

The property they were interested in was in the Inner West, so the first item to come up was WestConnex. It turned out that the planned tunnel was going to be directly under the home, with WestConnex having notified the whole street of its intentions… a material fact which (legally) should have been disclosed by the vendor and agent (but wasn’t). Digging tunnels often damage homes, and the recovery can be slow and painful — not ideal when all you want to do is move in and get on with your life. This was Strike 1.

With no BOS (Building Over Sewer letter issued by Sydney Water) in the contract and the sewer diagram (also in the contract) showing a mains water drain directly underneath the substantial double garage, I decided to investigate further. Speaking directly with Sydney Water clarified that the garage had been built illegally and the new owners could be fined for the unauthorised work — and Sydney Water could recover any costs they incur. And don't forget that at auction the couple would be paying for a garage that they could forced to demolish...Strike 2

A final call to the suburbs’ duty town planner uncovered the last and most unpleasant fact...in the 1950s a factory producing gaskets containing asbestos had stood in the very spot of the home I was evaluating for my clients. According to the duty planner, the land was most likely contaminated. To be sure one would have to take soil samples and send them off to a lab to be tested, a process that would take at least 6 weeks —  well after the auction campaign had ended. It would have been a huge risk to purchase this home without knowing the results….Strike 3.

Needless to say that, armed with all this information, my clients walked away from the purchase. Unfortunately some other unsuspecting buyer paid more than $1.7 million for the house at auction.

I'm happy to report my clients ended up buying a great home five weeks later with none of these issues. It just goes to show that doing your due diligence is one step not to be missed, and a crucial part of buying the biggest investment of your life.