It’s important to remember, that not everything can be as it seems, and performing a good inspection of the property and asking the right questions from the start, can be very useful in preventing any unexpected surprises or problems.
Here are some of the most important things you should be checking:
WINDOWS AND DOORS
Obviously, good windows and doors which close and lock properly are significantly important when it comes to security, but people often forget about how these can affect their heating costs. Old buildings will have single-pane windows or two of these windows placed together and a space of around 20cm between each one, although 2 panes of glass is better than one pane of glass, it doesn’t compete with double glazing or “termopane”.
Same can be said for seals or spacing in the doors or windows. Do the windows open and close properly? Are there gaps around the doors which can let sound or a draught in? Easy way to test is to have a piece of paper or something else which can easily be affected by wind, and place it around the edge of the frame. Draughty windows and doors can be very big issues both for heating in winter. but also for security, as it offers an easy leverage point.
LOCATION OF THE ROOMS
Being on the ground floor might be convenient, especially for the actual moving process, but typically being on the ground floor comes with some disadvantages which aren’t always immediately obvious.
It’s not uncommon for temperatures to drop below -20°C (-4°F), if you have a corner apartment, on the ground floor, likelihood is, you’ll start feeling the chill quite early on into the winter. Heating costs can soar to way over 500 lei per month in properties that are on the corner and ground floor, especially if they’re not highly insulated or have an inefficient heating system. This is why it’s important to ask for the bills or examples of a typical month in winter (e.g. February).
On the flip side, having an apartment on the top floor may offer some fantastic views, depending on where you are, but equally this can result in issues regulating the temperature. Especially in summer, when the sun will be beating down on your roof and walls, if you have no air conditioning and rely only on the cooling breeze to keep your apartment at a comfortable temperature, you’re likely in for a hard time.
The most cost-efficient place to have an apartment, is in the centre of the building with minimal amount of external walls and a place where you have both neighbours above, below and to the sides of you. This will be very helpful in winter, as you also have heat being transferred via other apartments into yours.
FLOORS, CEILINGS AND WALLS
Now we’re getting onto some of the more structural characteristics of a property. Having a good understanding of what to look for when inspecting structural quality of a building, will help you ensure that the property you are going to rent is both safe and efficient.
Check the floors:
What kind of floor does your possible future home have? Laminate flooring, tiles, carpet or actual wood? Each floor will have it’s advantages and disadvantages, and you should be thinking about some of the following:
- How easy is it to clean and maintain?
- Is there any damage which could cause discomfort?
- Are there any broken floorboards or tiles?
- How will it affect your heating?
- Are there signs of any damage caused by insects or mites?
The easiest way to check for any damage caused by insects or mites would be to check the corners of the rooms, especially those which are backing an external wall or front door. Maybe a but of wooden floor which has had a small bit of damage caused by insects doesn’t seem like a big deal, but maybe it’s a new issue which has gone undetected and could get worse.
It’s not uncommon to find damage caused by insects in old buildings on the ground floor, it’s an issue for everyone, everywhere. But if caught early, it can save a lot of time, money and inconvenience.
Check the ceilings:
How high are the ceilings in your apartment? Most ceilings are around 2.5m high, but if you’ll be renting or buying an older building, it’s likely that 2.5m will change to 3.5m or even 4m in height. Although high ceilings are very nice and often are accompanied by nice large windows, they are notorious for being difficult to heat and clean.
Don’t forget, that unless you have a ladder, changing a light bulb or sweeping down your 8 legged guests can be challenging with high ceilings.
You should also check for any water damage or staining on the ceiling. If the place you are going to rent has signs of possible water damage on the ceiling, you should be keen to discuss this with the owner to identify the cause and to make sure that they are aware of the issue.
Just because a place has some light water stains on a certain area of the ceiling, it doesn’t indicate that there’s a major problem. Maybe the upstairs neighbour had a leak once, which caused the stain, or maybe the building had issues with condensation at some stage, but equally it could indicate a current or reoccurring issue.
Dampness and water infiltration from the ceiling can be both hard to clean up but also very dangerous, especially if the stains are close to some of the electronic circuits or lighting. We advise discussing any concerns with the owner, and also to take a picture of any damage upon moving in, to demonstrate progression in the event that it gets worse.
Check the walls
Just like with ceilings, walls can indicate possible structural issues with the buildings. If you have water staining on the walls, that’s most likely due to condensation or water infiltration from a bad guttering system or damage to the external face of the wall.
It runs the same risks associated with damage to ceilings, in the sense that any electronics or power outlets on the wall could be affected and result in rusting of the fixtures or screws which are attached to the affected wall.
It’s quite normal for a building to have small hairline cracks in the wall, believe it or not, it’s present in both new and old buildings as they will move slightly over time due to weight balancing. However, if the building has large cracks in the walls or around certain structural elements (such as door frames or windows), it’s worth taking a measurement to ensure that the crack isn’t getting larger over time.
It goes without saying, that if the same crack is clearly visible both inside and outside of the building, some work may be required to ensure that the structure remains safe.
Situations like these are very rare, but it’s still important for both safety and the prevention of any unexpected costs, to perform these checks.