Being real estate smart isn’t the sole preserve of a real estate agent. Indeed, when it’s YOUR hard-earned cash at risk you’ll want to be the smartest home buyer on the planet.

Buying a home is, without doubt, one of the largest investments people make in their lives. Yet due to our time-poor lifestyles, the average time spent inspecting a property is ridiculously low. When you consider the significance of the purchase, most people need to be more real estate smart.

Admittedly, it’s not like people are rushing into making decisions without doing any checks as these are often outsourced to surveyors, solicitors, and banks. However, there are several things that can go left unnoticed which, as a buyer, you should check out.

This article looks at being real estate smart by checking a number of areas prior to purchase that aren’t always included within standard home inspections.

There are large issues such as plumbing faults and damp, but it’s a good idea to be mindful of smaller issues such as window repairs or leaking shower repairs on the basis these all take time and money to fix.

real estate smart

Furthermore, if you can present the seller with a list of these smaller repairs that will need to be undertaken it can reinforce and substantiate a lower counter offer – making it more likely they’ll knock a few thousand off the price.

Talking of finances, it’s also clearly important to ensure you have the necessary finances in place before looking at properties. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than finding your dream property only to realise you can’t get the money in time to actually purchase it.

Listen to the podcast with Mortage Broker, Joe Tirimacco, for great tips on financing real estate.

So, assuming you’re ready to go property hunting, here are some key suggestions on what to check out to be real estate smart.

real estate smart



You may wish to invest in a sewer inspection whereby specialist plumbers will come with a sewer camera to inspect the main sewer line.

If the line is partially blocked it will not resolve itself. It will deteriorate, meaning remedial action will be required (which can be costly). If the sewer line were to collapse due to deterioration this would be a major job.

Essentially, drains clog for a reason and they do not fix themselves; a quick camera inspection of the sewer line will make you aware of any hidden and potentially costly issues in this area prior to purchase that would otherwise go unnoticed.

real estate smart

The next area to focus on are the toilets themselves.  Check around the base of each toilet. Over time, if there is a leak, the water will have started to damage the floor.  Look out for warping and discolouration around the floor and check to see if it feels squidgy or soft around the base.

If a toilet is constantly running it could mean the chain or flapper needs to be replaced.  This is less of an issue, but a leaking toilet itself will eventually rot through the floor and could in the most dramatic scenario literally fall through the ceiling.

Lastly, clogged drains are one of the most common issues in a property which can usually be resolved without the intervention of a professional plumber. However, seemingly simple clogged drains can lead to significant leaks; meaning this is something you’ll want to take care of right away.


You can usually only smell damp when the issue is in an advanced state; meaning just because the property doesn’t smell damp or musty, doesn’t mean that damp doesn’t exist.

Spend some time looking at the ceilings, the windows and the walls – looking out for any stains or discolouration (particularly on the ceiling) or cosmetic cover-up work which could indicate prior leaks.

Similarly, look out for signs of damp or mould on the walls particularly inside covered areas such as walk-in wardrobes and underneath the sink.  Check out the timber frames to see if there are any signs of rot.

real estate smart


There’s a huge difference between buying a house and buying a home.  A house is a physical commodity whereas a home is more of a feeling – it’s a sense of belonging, security and comfort that transcends the value of the bricks and mortar holding up the roof over your head.

You’ll want to consider aspects such as whether your phone works in the property.  Do you have full reception or do you need to go in the garden and stand on one leg in order to be able to make a phone call?

How about the speed of the internet?  These little life essentials are becoming increasingly important in today’s world – and shouldn’t be overlooked.

How is the garden?  Is it suitable for hosting outdoor parties and having friends over, or is it small and unsightly?  Will it need a new fence around the perimeter?

What are the neighbours like?  Are they warm and welcoming or anal and fuddy-duddy?

How does the property sound?  Is there a busy road nearby what will keep you awake at night, or a cockerel that’ll wake you up at the crack of dawn?  Can you hear the neighbors arguing or is the property really tranquil?

What is the view like?  Are there any strange structures or signs of heavy construction in the area?  Are there plans to build within the local area?

These are aspects you’ll want to consider, particularly if you are buying a property due to its rural location. For example, if just a few years on a huge housing estate is built on the nearby land.

How is the security of the property?  Will you need to invest in more security, such as heavier doors or an alarm system?

These are all aspects to consider that often go overlooked in whirlwind property tours.

real estate smart


Unfortunately, unlike what is represented in some of the property programmes on TV, potential buyers aren’t usually able to spend a night in the house before they purchase. This is understandable yet somewhat frustrating when you’re trying to be real estate smart. I mean, you wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it first.

What you can do, however, is spend a night or two at a nearby hotel or an Airbnb in order to get a feel for the area; go to the local gym, meet people within the shops, eat at the local takeaway – and so on.

What is the attitude and atmosphere of the location?  How does it get after dark?  How busy and congested are the roads during rush hour?

If you’re going to be setting up a life there, it’s important to get a good feel for the area – after all, the perfect house in an imperfect area is not going to give you a sense of home… it’s just going to cause heartache and frustration.

real estate smart

In summary, to be real estate smart you’ll want to consider the fact you are buying a home rather than just a house. Be sure to check it out from a lifestyle perspective (e.g. does your mobile phone have signal) in addition to looking at overlooked areas of property inspections – most notably, the plumbing and whether the property is hiding damp.  

Don’t be afraid to request an extended property visit with your real estate agent, or to meet the current owners, as buying a house is a costly experience and you deserve to not be rushed into it.

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