Look behind the smoke and mirrors to know what you’re really buying.

ME Head of Home Loans, Patrick Nolan uncovers the short cuts vendors take to cover up flaws during open home inspections.

“A fresh coat of paint, the smell of freshly brewed coffee, and that glorious mirror in the dining room…these can all make a property seem so appealing,” says Nolan.

“But the truth could be far more sinister.

“All vendors spruce up their home for sale but a few tricks of the trade could be more than just a spruce up. Check out the hacks home owners use to disguise some hidden nasties.

Fresh paint

“Paint can be a cheap and easy cover up for a whole bunch of hidden nasties like mildew and even termite damage. Be on the lookout if some rooms have recently been repainted but not others. And be suspicious of paintwork that is bubbling or stained. It can signify damp areas.

Baking bread, brewed coffee, scented candles

“There was a time when vendors wouldn’t invite buyers into a property without first putting the kettle on to create the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. Thankfully that phase of home staging has passed, and buyers should be wary if a property is filled with overpowering scents from incense, candles or over-the-top air fresheners.

“Strong aromas can be used to mask anything from pet or tobacco smells through to the more serious problems of rising damp, mould or, heaven forbid, dodgy sewerage pipes.

Large mirrors

“It’s the oldest trick in the book. Hang a large mirror and create the instant illusion of a much bigger room. Mirrors are often used in older homes where the rooms can be small. Beat the illusion by surveying the room with your back to the mirror.

Home styling

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with employing a home stylist to make a property look like something from a lifestyle magazine, and it is a trend that is becoming more popular. The tell-tale signs tend to be a home that doesn’t really looked lived in with fancy furniture – seemingly brand new, and all masterfully put together.

“Bear in mind you are buying the bricks and mortar – not the home’s contents. Try to envision how the home will look with your furniture – and in smaller rooms think about whether your furniture will fit at all.

The lights are switched on

“It’s a fair bet at some stage you’ll inspect a property where every conceivable light is switched on even during the middle of the day. It’s often a giveaway that the place receives little sunlight. Flick the switches and if you find yourself reaching for the exits your suspicions about dingy natural light are on the money.

The solution

“Don’t just rely on your ability as a super sleuth to spot any sneaky hacks. Arranging a pre-purchase pest and building inspection is a good way to know what you’re buying – warts and all. It can cost from around $500 for a combined report but it’s money well spent if it means avoiding a problem property.”

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