When looking for a new home and assessing property offers on the market, it is important to consider not only the price of the home upfront, but also the costs of maintaining it in the future. “According to Gintaras Stanišauskas of Civinity Namai, housing in an old house may seem cheaper, but the house’s structures and engineering systems are ageing and all apartment owners pay for their maintenance.
When looking for a new home, buyers tend to look at the neighbourhood, accessibility, and the aesthetic appeal of the house and its surroundings. While these criteria are undoubtedly important, many people do not consider that the age and technical condition of the apartment building should also be taken into account.
The responsibility for the technical condition of a block of flats lies with the owners of the flats
According to Gintaras Stanišauskas of Civinity Namai, when assessing the technical condition of an apartment building and the price of the offered housing, it is worth remembering that all apartment owners are responsible for maintaining the good technical condition of the apartment building, irrespective of the number of years of living in it.
Older blocks of flats eventually develop all sorts of problems: leaking roofs, cracked facades, blocked sewage pipes. Eventually, experts see deterioration, and the only solution is a major overhaul. Emergencies are dealt with immediately, and when a building is deteriorating, the owners of the apartment building have to deal with the renovation of the building.
“In many cases, residents decide to renovate the house and take advantage of state support. However, both emergency response and renovation have to be considered as additional costs that will have to be borne in full or in part by the residents,” says a representative of Civinity Namai.
Apartment blocks 30 years and older require more maintenance and repairs
Although building regulations do not stipulate how long a particular building structure or engineering system must last, practice shows that apartment blocks with 30 or more years of construction require more maintenance and repair.
“For example, in all blocks of flats with 30-year-old piping, it is recommended to replace the piping with new piping, replacing metal pipes with plastic ones. Lifts older than 25 years are starting to deteriorate and require a risk assessment to decide whether they can be used safely. In our practice, we see that apartment buildings over 30 years old need more attention to maintenance, and repairs are unlikely to be avoided,” says Mr Stanišauskas.
The age of a building is not always the only criterion for determining the technical condition of an apartment block. The extent to which an apartment building will not cause problems for its inhabitants depends largely on the quality of the materials used during construction and on the proper maintenance of the building, says Stanišauskas. If cheap, low-quality materials are used or if the apartment building is not properly maintained, it may need its first repairs after 5 to 10 years.
Pay attention to the roof of the apartment building
Pay attention to the roof of the apartment building: it can be pitched or flat. Pitched roofs are covered with slate, tiles or tin. Flat roofs are covered with bitumen.
Repairs to pitched roofs are needed when leaks occur through leaks that have developed: leaks in slate sheets and tiles due to splitting or displacement. Tin roofs need to be repaired when the roof is damaged by corrosion. Repairs to flat roofs are required when weathering cracks in the bituminous roofing and leaks at joints occur.
If the roof of the house is pitched and covered with a slate covering, it is suggested to be reluctant. It is recommended to replace such roofs even if there are no leaks, as old slate sheets contain asbestos, which is dangerous to human health. It is therefore likely that the issue of roof replacement will sooner or later appear on the agenda of the apartment owners’ meeting.
Check the condition of the facade of the apartment building
Before deciding to buy a home in a particular building, it is advisable to pay attention to the façade of the apartment building.
The maintenance of wooden facades is of the utmost importance, as an unmaintained wooden facade can quickly start to cause major problems. If a wooden facade is not regularly painted or impregnated, it will start to rot and decay will spread quickly, requiring a significant investment to rebuild the facade.
Brick facades are often affected by weathering and crumbling. This is caused by small cracks in the bricks. During the cold season, the moisture they contain breaks the surface of the brick. When erosion of the bricks starts, the damaged areas need to be repaired.
The main problem in block houses is the inter-block joints, which, if they leak, can lead to mould in the flats, signs of water leakage, and cold bridges at the corners of the outer walls. In rare cases, micro-cracks appear in the block itself, causing the whole block to freeze over, moisture to build up inside the flat and even frost to form in the cold season. In such cases, the whole unit needs to be repaired by coating it with thermosetting paint.
Assess the potential costs of renovating a block of flats
The potential cost of renovating a block of flats should be seen as a real estate cost that will eventually have to be paid extra.
According to G. Stanišauskas, the cost of renovation depends on a number of aspects: the price of materials and works prevailing on the market, the scope of the renovation works, the number of apartments in the apartment block.
“When assessing an apartment building, one should pay attention to its wear and tear and possible problems in the future, as the investment in renovating it is quite high. For example, replacing an elevator in an old 9-storey apartment building costs around €60,000, repairing the seams in a block of flats can cost between €1,000 and €10,000, and repairing the roof of an entire 5-storey apartment building can cost up to €50,000. More and more apartment dwellers are deciding to renovate their old houses and take advantage of the compensation offered by the State. The average investment, including state compensation, is around €22-25,000 per apartment,” says a representative of Civinity Namai.
The administrator can help you find out about the condition of your apartment building
Naturally, it can be difficult to assess the technical condition of an apartment building with the naked eye when it comes to buying a home. In such cases, it is advisable to contact the owner of the apartment and ask for the most recent maintenance records of the apartment building.
“The building maintenance technician of the company that maintains the apartment building must carry out a technical inspection of the building at least once a year and assess its condition. The report must identify all structures and systems that are not in good repair and make recommendations on what work needs to be done. This information should give you a better idea of what you can expect to spend on maintenance in the future,” says Civinity Namai.
It is also important to understand how much the owners of a block of flats have saved up for repairs and other necessary expenses before buying a home. If there are no funds available, then any repairs to the apartment block will have to be paid for out of pocket immediately.
“Unfortunately, there are also cases where a house has to have some work done immediately for the safety of the occupants, and some of the occupants are insolvent. In such cases, the burden of the repairs falls on some of the apartment owners, which increases the cost per resident,” says Mr Stanišauskas.
However, a buyer contacting the building manager directly will not get this information, as the manager can only provide information to the owners of the apartment building. It is therefore recommended to ask the owner who is selling the property for the information, who can get it from the building manager.