The Investor's Tool Belt
By Justin Eslick
Buyer's Agent and Town Planner
There are some things that every investor should carry with them to every property inspection they attend. I look at this list of items and I think it is pretty simple and straightforward, but it can’t be that simple because regularly I am the only person at an open house with more than one of these items! Here are the ‘tools’ that makes up my investor’s tool belt and why they are handy.
Maybe only seen during an inspection a dozen times in the last few years, but something I use at 75% of my inspections. The first area of a property I inspect is underneath the house and around the foundations, because let’s face it, if it is no good down there, then there is no point looking up top. In most cases you cannot do a thorough inspection underneath a house without a torch. I am looking for termites, cracking, faulty or old wiring, poor plumbing, fire hazards, drainage issues, moisture, vegetation issues, structural issues and in some cases I am trying to determine the age of the property by inspecting the materials used.
My torch is a high quality LED torch. Why? Because it is small and I have only had to change the batteries once in two and a half years despite being used almost every day (as an added bonus it also doubles as a bicycle light!).
This is probably about the only item I regularly see people take with them on an inspection. The reason is simple, but one thing I try and do that others don’t seem to do is take photos of every room from every angle. It certainly helps when you are trying to come up with that ‘fourth bedroom’ or ‘second bathroom’ when you get back to the office. If you can carry a wide angle camera then all the better, as these will often fit more into the shot, particularly handy in small rooms like bathrooms. One thing to note though is to ask for permission before taking photos from both the agent and the occupant. Some can get a little funny about it and as you want them on your side you don’t want to put them off in any way!
Small Tape Measure
Another simple one, but regularly forgotten is the 8m or 10m tape. The number of times you see people stepping out distances is quite alarming (I must admit I have been one of these before when the tape has gone missing)! Good for floor plans, planning the next step and checking height (internal and under the dwelling). There is nothing sweeter than to prove to an agent that they are actually selling a two bedroom house, not a 3 bedroom house, because the height of the bedroom isn’t legal.
Large tape measure
Less common than the small tape, but very handy, especially for checking boundaries, setbacks and potential development areas.
Or in my case, a screwdriver. Used to dig or prod at potential termite nests/tracks and to tap on timber (don’t tap too hard though as you might find it goes through an eaten out piece of timber, which has happened to me before and the agent was not too impressed!). When tapping timber a hollow sound could be an indication of termite activity. One other tip with this... People won’t think twice if you tap with your hand but they will watch with interest if you use a screwdriver. As funny as it sounds, but they actually think you are a pro because of it!
Even if you know exactly where the property is that you are inspecting, carry a street directory, because more often than not rather than let you walk out empty handed the agent will inform you of other properties they currently have for sale. This can also be a good way of finding out about new listings first. Try and update your street directory every year as proposed roads and infrastructure corridors are often marked on them as they are announced.
This is an optional extra as it can be hard to carry and won’t be used as often as the other ‘tools’, however, guaranteed there are investors out there who have cursed themselves at one point or another for not bringing their ladder. Obviously good for checking inside the roof cavity for ‘stars’ (pin-pricks of light coming through the roof sheeting indicating potential leaks) and for evidence of termites, but also good for checking for city, water or quality views (done discreetly of course!).
Pen and Paper
Another obvious one but often forgotten. The same people pacing out room sizes (because they forgot their tape) are generally the same people scratching measurements onto the back of a business card with a borrowed pen or asking their partner to ‘remember this dimension’.
This, sadly, is very regularly forgotten. Critical details of the purchasing entity (some can be very complicated these days!), your solicitor and anything else similar. Also include in this contact details for anyone and everyone you may need to get a hold of in a rush, whether it is a plumber, your accountant, a builder, a valuer, etc. It is amazing how many people forget to bring these details, and it is always when they want to get an offer in quickly!
Contract/Offer to Purchase
Up to the individual but one thing I try and avoid is to make an offer on a property in front of people or to be seen sitting in a corner completing a contract. This can create urgency, which is something we should try and avoid.
Just in case you come across a winner and need to pay a deposit quick!
There are probably numerous other things that people should take with them when they inspect a property, but the above is what we would consider the more critical and more valuable.
It is highly recommended all of these items be permanently kept in your car, even if it means buying a second torch, tape or similar. Some of these items might sound simple or even silly, but as professional buyer’s agents we find a need for all of the above on a regular basis and it helps us to buy smarter and quicker, as well as helping us avoid wasting too much time on the dud properties.
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