One of the often overlooked aspects of buying an apartment anywhere in the world, but especially in historical areas where properties can be 50 years old or more, is the engineer’s inspection.

When buying a home it is important to have an inspection engineer give the property a once-over. He or she will check the legal and building history of the apartment and visit it to check all aspects of the property.

The engineer will check not only obvious items such as windows that need replacing or flooring not up to scratch, but more importantly, he will check for potential leaks or dampness and things such as the state of the plumbing and wiring. His inspection also will encompass the general state of the building including the roof and common areas.

It is important to be aware that every inspection will turn up problems with even the soundest apartment.

What you are looking for are not the minor issues that can be fixed relatively cheaply and easily, but major problems – structural or otherwise – that will affect your decision regarding a particular apartment. Once an agreement has been reached, very seldom does the buyer request to change purchase conditions based on minor findings in the engineer’s report.

That said, there are occasions where the engineer’s report can save not only money but also aggravation and even potentially save lives.

A few years ago, I took an investor client to see a property represented by another agent in Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda market. Upon entering the building, we both noticed a number of strange cracks in the walls and staircase. Although we were assured that these were normal in such an old building, we insisted on an engineer’s evaluation. When he saw the building, the engineer immediately contacted the city engineer, who sent a team to inspect the property.

The whole building was structurally unsound and in danger of collapse. Apparently this was as a result of damage caused by the 1996 shuk bombing. So the cost of repairing the building and making it safe was incurred by the various authorities and not by the concerned homeowners. And, yes, my client did buy the property.

All engineers will provide a written report (many in English if requested), and most provide a cheaper option of a verbal report with the buyer being present at the inspection. One can normally get the written report within a few days of the inspection. This minor delay and comparatively low extra expense make getting a report almost a no-brainer. So, engineer’s reports – yes or no? The answer is most definitely a “YES!” Raphi Bloch is manager of the Re/Max Vision real-estate agency in Jerusalem.

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