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Punch Listing: Checking a House before Turnover

Before your house is turned over to you by the developer, there is a process called punch listing where the owner gets to look at the property to check if everything is in proper order.  Joy Sulague, a Property Sales Manager, shares some tips on the matter, having had actual experience in accompanying several buyers through the process, including a house owned by her Middle East based sister.

Alignment

Many problems in a new house are born out of a floor that is not leveled properly, Joy said. For one, chairs and tables might not stand firmly because of bumps on the floor. Try to look at every square inch where possible. Check to see if the doors open or shut fully. Certain portions in the floor might block the door’s way. Or the door may not fit properly into its frame.

Look at the walls if they are truly perpendicular to another as intended. Check the consistency of the wall’s position vis-à-vis the floor. Are they also aligned? Look at the windows. Does it form a perfect rectangle as it is supposed to or is it crooked? Check each window.  Do they open easily, close easily, and lock properly?

Puddles of Water

Also related to the problem of alignment of the floor is the formation of water puddles in terraces, balconies, and other areas where rain may fall outside of the house. This is also applicable in comfort rooms and bathrooms. Joy suggested that to check this thoroughly, you will have to pour a big amount of water over these areas to see if there is a proper exit for all the liquid and if it drains properly.

Water and Sewage

Turn on all the faucets. Does the water flow well enough? Try turning them all altogether. Does the shower still work? Do all the faucets work? Does the water drain properly in the lavatories and sinks? Are there no leaks under the sinks? Check for smells over sinks and drainage exits indicating that they might not be doing its work properly. Smell the water itself.  Does it exude strange odor?  Is there a color?  Does the toilet bowl flush properly? If it makes a slow circular motion instead of flushing right out, chances are it will have trouble flushing bigger pieces of materials properly.

Electrical Wiring

There is actually a simple way to check if the electrical circuits are in order. Bring light appliances along, especially those that are used for heating, such as, irons and small electric stoves which use up much power. Plug them in and turn on all the lights and all electrical devices in the house. See if all switches work.  Then watch if the lights flicker. Watch to see if there are any indicators that the power is fluctuating or worse, all the lights and appliances might go off altogether.

Most of the developers deliver the house without lights, but merely with the wirings. Be sure to ask them or the contractors to install lights before punch listing day so that you can test everything. Also check all the electrical outlets. See if your appliances work in all of them. The contractors might have missed out on ensuring that all of these outlets are live.

Cracks

Cracks are one of the obvious and inconspicuous items one would want to note down when doing punch listing.  Hairline cracks are quite common in constructions in Cebu, which many OFWs observe even in some of the big buildings here.  But it doesn’t have to become a way of life, Joy said.

There are actually two types of cracks. One is a mere hairline crack which is no more than an eyesore to an otherwise new and supposedly beautiful house. The other is more fatal and may mean that your house is not structurally fit.

To distinguish between the two, Joy said to look at the location of the crack. If these are on the beam and posts, then you will need to look at it more seriously.  Check how deep the crack is. If you drive a stick and it goes half an inch into it, then you should worry about it. Also see if the crack appears on the other side of the post or beam. If it does, then chances are then structural integrity is compromised. You may want to get an external structural engineer to double check on this.

As opposed to a serious crack, superficial cracks are usually finer and isolated. Sometimes cracks appear as the house settles against the earth. Sometimes these are because of improper mixture of cement and water. Whatever the case be, as long as the cracks do not appear in the beams, then these are relatively easy to correct and not so critical. They can easily be touched up with paint and some patching materials.

General Workmanship

Then examine the general workmanship of the house. Look at the edgings of roofs and floors.  Are these cleanly executed? Are the cabinets, if any, aligned properly? Is the paint even? Are the tiles properly aligned with equal distances between them?

Other things to look at include checking the banisters of stairs. Are they strong enough to handle people walking up and down using it as support? Or would it be unsafe for children and retirees?

Joy said that as basic as some of the items listed may seem, sometimes some developers get contractors which, in turn, get inexperienced workers. Or else, when pressured by time, contractors skip intentionally or not on some details. That is why punch listing is so important.

And while most of the advice anyone can give on punch listing might seem common sensical, Joy said that the biggest mistake of her clients in the past was not being thorough when doing the inspection.  Take as much time as needed. Don’t be pressured by time or worry about it. Go there early so you will not be pressured by time.

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