How to spot a healthy home - REA

Purchasing a house that’s warm and dry is a priority for many property hunters, but how can buyers identify a ‘healthy’ home?

Real Estate Authority chief executive Kevin Lampen-Smith says there are a handful of key traits to watch out for.

“A house that’s hard to heat can make you sick and miserable. In many cases, the key is good insulation."

The World Health Organisation recommends a minimum of 18 degrees in our homes. Insulation is often the most practical and cost-effective way to make a house more energy efficient.

An insulated home is warmer in winter and cooler in summer, which can provide health benefits like reducing mould and damp.

“Ask the agent or seller if the property is insulated, the type of insulation used and when it was installed. Ask your building inspector to check the state of the insulation."

Kevin says insulation should be replaced or topped up if it’s less than 12cm thick, doesn’t cover the whole ceiling, has become wet or damp, or been damaged by rodents or birds.

“If a property you’re looking at isn’t insulated, it’s a good idea to budget for the cost of doing the work, as your health (and your wallet) will thank you in the long term.”

There’s support available for some buyers, such as a Warmer Kiwi Homes insulation grant. Some local councils also allow property owner to add the cost of insulation to their rates and pay this back over time.

When working to identify a healthy home, Lampen-Smith says it’s important to watch out for dampness.

Signs of dampness include musty smells, damp or mouldy wardrobe contents, mould forming behind paintings or furniture, or mould or watermarks on ceilings or walls.

“Condensation on windows, especially in bedrooms, isn't necessarily a sign of excessive dampness if it only happens occasionally during winter.'

Ideally, the house will have extractor fans in the bathroom, kitchen and laundry that are vented outside. Fans should not be vented into the roof space.

Good curtains can also help a house retain warmth.

“It’s important to note that curtains aren’t necessarily included in the sale of the house, so ask about this and if the answer is yes, ensure they’re included in the list of chattels in the sale and purchase agreement,” says Kevin.

According to EECA, good curtains should be floor-length and fit tightly against the wall or window frame. Sill-length curtains are ineffective.

Curtains should be wider than the window frame and preferably be double layered with a thick lining. If the property has ineffective curtains, or does not come with curtains, buyers should factor this cost into their budget.

For more information and helpful resources about purchasing a home, visit settled.govt.nz, the independent government website for buyers and sellers.  


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