Buy By Day – Trouble At Night

Peter Mericka B.A., LL.BOPINION
by Peter Mericka B.A., LL.B
Real Estate Consumer Advocate
Real Estate Lawyer
Qualified Practising Conveyancer Victoria
Director Lawyers Real Estate Pty Ltd
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Most purchasers of real estate visit the property during the day, or in the early evening. But what if the property has nocturnal problems?

Sometimes it’s worth visiting a property in the small hours of the night to find out why the vendors are really selling!

One of the more unusual complaints we hear from purchaser clients relates to problems that only come out at night.  These include the budding rock band drummer, who has set up a “sound studio” in the backyard.  Yes, it’s his backyard, but unfortunately the shed that doubles as his “studio”, built on the rear boundary of his property, is just a few metres from the main bedroom of your home.

Your new drummer neighbour only practices on 3 nights of the week, but your pre-purchase visits were never on any of those nights.

And then there’s those screeching cars that slither their way from the 24 hour convenience store at the corner.  You didn’t notice the convenience store during your inspection visits?  That’s probably because the sound of the traffic is nothing out of the ordinary during the day.  It’s at night that hot cars powered by V8 motors and testosterone send their mating-calls into the quiet nearby streets.

Here’s a weird one – the property was zoned as “residential”, but there was a police station opposite.  The police were required to ensure that their police car was in “serviceable condition” before taking charge of it from the previous shift, and this meant testing the siren.  A quick “blip” of the siren was enough to confirm that it was still working.  It was also just enough to wake any neighbour silly enough to be asleep at the change of shift (anytime between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.)

Vendor Disclosure

If the vendors are leaving because they can’t stand the sound of the dog barking nearby or because the factory on the hill makes an annoying humming noise during the night, are they required to disclose these issues to an intending purchaser?  The answer is no.  These are “quality” issues, and the law does not recognise them as defects or deficiencies.  The maximcaveat emptor or “buyer beware” applies, and it is up to the purchaser to make all relevant enquiries before buying.


Checking For Nocturnal Nasties

So, how does the intending purchaser go about checking for possible “after hours” problems?  Here are a few tips:

  • Visit the local police station, and ask about the neighbourhood.  Of course the police won’t be too specific about who causes what problems, but they can let you know if your new home is in a street known for wild parties or other local “issues”.
  • Ask the police for contact details of the local Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator, and see about attending the next Neighbourhood Watch meeting.  At the very least you should request a copy of the latest Neighbourhood Watch newsletters.
  • Take the time to drive around the neighbourhood on a Saturday night.  Park in your chosen street, wind down the windows, and listen to the night sounds.  You’ll be amazed at the distance sound travels at night.
  • Go for a bicycle ride around the neighbourhood, and take the time to talk to the neighbours.
  • Follow your own instincts and make enquiries according to your specific needs.

Remember, most of your “home-time” is likely to be between sunset and sunrise.  Time invested in checking on the property and the neighbourhood for suitability as your night-time refuge will be time well spent.

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