Don't purchase a unit until you're sure it's completely safe. Here's our checklist of things to look for.
So now you’ve finally decided you’re ready to buy a condo. You’ve hired yourself a real estate broker, you’ve figured out your budget, and you’ve zeroed in on a location. Your job’s far from over. Aside from assessing a unit in terms of aesthetics, price, and convenience, you also need to check how safe and secure it is.
If you really want a condo where you and your family can feel protected, here are a few points to keep in mind when doing a check on a unit you’re thinking of buying.
• Check to make sure the unit has smoke alarms and a sprinkler system. There should also be fire alarms and fire extinguishers in the halls.
• The unit should be close to the fire exit. If not, there should be maps all over the building pointing out the exits.
• It would be best to choose a unit that faces the street. It’s going to be hard for fire trucks with ladders to reach you if your unit faces a small back alley or the complex’s pool.
• When inspecting a unit, pay close attention to the wall sockets. Be wary of missing or damaged plates as well as exposed wiring.
• Ask about their policy regarding the source of gas supply. Most condos these days either have a central gas line or only allow electric stoves for extra safety.
• Check the unit as well as other areas of the building for cracks in the columns. This type of damage compromises the ability of a building to withstand the effects of an earthquake.
• Back in school, we were taught that the best place to go when an earthquake hits is an open space. Look for open spaces like parks near the condo building that you can easily get to in case of a quake.
• Find out if the condo is built near a fault line; this could mean the property’s prone to earthquake-related damage. Not sure where to start? The PHIVOLCS website can help you.
• Choose a developer known for following the guidelines set by the government in constructing structurally sound buildings. The government issues certification for this, and this is normally displayed in plain view of guests and residents. If you can’t find it, ask the developer if they do have one.
Flooding or water damage
• Look for tell-tale signs like sand bags in neighboring properties or dried water lines on building walls.
• If you’re afraid the condo owner won’t be honest about the area’s flooding situation, ask nearby homes or establishments about it.
• Inspect the walls and ceilings closely. If you find moisture, dried water streaks or stains, and paint bubbling on them, it’s a good sign that there are cracks or holes letting water seep into the unit.
• Check the slope of the bathroom and laundry room floors. In case you accidentally leave a faucet running, you don’t want to have to battle runaway puddles that can’t find their way down the drain because the floor’s tilted away from it.
• Find out if the building is equipped with CCTVs in common areas of the condo.
• There should be 24/7 security guards patrolling the grounds and the common areas of the complex, including the parking garage.
• What is the building policy on accepting guests? It’s important that they keep tabs on non-residents going in and out of the building through methods like having them log in, checking their IDs, and contacting the unit of the person they’re visiting.
• Don’t forget to visit the pool area too. Find out how easily it is for kids to access it, and if they have a lifeguard who can watch over the little ones while splashing around.
• Visit the condo at night to see how well-lighted the surrounding area is, especially if you usually take public transport and will be doing a bit of walking to get to the waiting shed or highway.
• Find out if there’s a community watch group that patrols the streets after hours to ensure the safety of people who come home late at night or work graveyard shifts.
• Are there convenience stores within walking distance of the condo? This will ensure that you won’t have to walk far if you suddenly need to buy something and have no one to accompany you to get it.
It’s not the end of the world if the building’s not that nice-looking on the outside. Condo a bit far from the mall? You’ll get by. But safety is one thing you can’t compromise, so be sure to choose a condo that makes their residents’ protection and comfort their topmost priority.
Photos from Flickr Creative Commons (Sherrie Thai, jlwelsh, and Frédéric BISSON)