There’s no video to upload yet. I’m still working out bugs with iMovie. I haven’t used it before, so I’m taking my time to get the first film right before I upload it for your viewing pleasure.
In the meanwhile, we have had two forms of property inspections done on the lifestyle block we’re trying to buy.
One of these was a structural engineer’s report, to investigate the floor levelling problems that were obvious to us as we walked around the house. Old houses in New Zealand often sit on a foundation of piles made of stone or untreated timber (such as totara), and over time these piles can sink, decay, or a combination of both. Sometimes a tradesperson can put packing on top of sunken piles to relevel the house; other times, the correct solution is to repile. In the most severe cases, the entire foundation must be replaced. Especially if the house has other major problems, a foundation replacement can be so costly that it is more economical to demolish the house and build a new one. We wished to rule out the possibility that a complete refounding is needed.
The other report we commissioned is a pre-purchase building inspection. Building inspectors vary in quality, as building inspection is a largely unregulated trade in New Zealand. For this purchase, we opted to consult a member of the New Zealand Institute of Building Surveyors. Membership of a trade association is useful there is a level of professional standards and accountability without having to seek redress through the courts in the event of poor service.
The building inspection, unfortunately, came back with some bad news. The building inspector was very thorough and caught many problems that we didn’t see. We knew that the house had some problems due to its age (floor levelling as described above, old windows, minor roof repairs and some paint needed, etc.), but we were unaware that it would also require extensive subfloor replacement due to borer beetle damage! It will also probably require a complete re-pile as well as a lot of work on the ground surrounding the house to prevent drainage issues.
Once we had this new information, we decided to contact the current insurer for the property. (Historically, we would not have known who the current insurer was, but after a series of severe earthquakes in the Canterbury region, it is now standard for house vendors to certify that a house is insurable by providing a statement from the current insurer. Otherwise, the house must be sold “as is”, which makes finance very difficult as banks won’t lend against uninsured assets.) The insurer, AA insurance, told us that the house in its current state would only be insurable if we promised to repair the subfloor without delay. They told us that they were unaware that the house was not being properly maintained.
So we’ve gone back to our solicitor (i.e., lawyer) to ask the vendors if they are willing to complete that work or not. If they are unwilling to do the work there are other options available to us. All is not lost – but we may end up going back to the drawing board for our lifestyle block acquisition.