Buying An Apartment

Buying An Apartment: A Checklist For Viewing An Apartment And Checking Documents (what to ask, what to look at)

You seem to have found your dream apartment. The photos are pleasing, the description is promising, you call the owner to arrange a viewing. What should be clarified right away, what should be paid attention to on the spot, what to check, and what to ask about – we made a checklist.

What to ask when you call on an advertisement for the sale of an apartment

To begin with – a test call to the author of the ad. Ask a few short questions to see if the ride is worth it.

  • How long have you taken photographs and do they correspond to reality?
  • Who is the owner of the property and who will you be dealing with – the owner or his representative?
  • What documents of title does the seller have – a purchase and sale agreement, a certificate of inheritance, a donation agreement, etc? Are there any nuances (for example, a “fresh” inheritance)?
  • This is a free deal or alternative. if an alternative – is there already a selected option?
  • If the deal is alternative, will there be a mortgage and in which bank? It is important if you take out a mortgage yourself, as it will not be possible to conduct a transaction with two different banks on the same day.
  • How many people are registered in the apartment, are children registered? If yes, does the owner agree to discharge people before the deal?
  • How long has the apartment been owned? If the term is short – what is the reason for the sale?

If there are no “nuances” in the form of a very elderly owner, a complex alternative, a very short tenure period (or they seem uncritical to you, and you are ready to work with them), you can go for an inspection.

What to look for when viewing an apartment

During the examination, we focus on three issues:

  • The condition of the house and adjacent territories.
  • Condition of the apartment.
  • Questions about documents.

Simon Lobroski, a real estate agent at Black Stone Estate Agents, expert of the company for the acceptance and examination of apartments, told us how to assess the condition of a house and an apartment. Real estate specialist Ildus Valishin, executive director of m2.sale, helped to sort out the issue of checking documents.

Condition of the house and public spaces

 Public spaces are the courtyard, stairwells, landings, and elevators — the places where all the residents of the house are. 

Before the trip, see when the last major overhaul was carried out and whether it was at all (relevant for houses built over 2000). This can be done on the Housing and Utilities Reform website – enter the city and the address of the object in the search bar. This will allow us to adjust expectations if the overhaul is about to begin or, conversely, has recently passed.

What to evaluate in the local area

The facade of the house and what happens within a radius of 20 meters

Walk around the house several times. The façade must be free of cracks, brick delamination, and other visual defects. If there is a renovation nearby, ask what exactly is being repaired, perhaps there are chronic problems with communications in the house.

How the parking issue was solved:

  • Is there a parking lot at all and how many free spaces there are (do not forget that this may depend on the viewing time).
  • Whether there is a barrier or a gate, whether they work.

What is the condition of the yard and playground:

  • Whether the territory of the playground corresponds to the estimated number of residents.
  • What kind of playgrounds, slides, and benches.
  • There is no debris (especially empty containers for alcohol or syringes).

What to evaluate at the entrance 

Consider the load on common areas – the more apartments in the house, the more wear and tear will be.

Pay special attention to the first floor – there is the greatest traffic of people here. If the house is relatively new, but the entrance has already been launched, you will most likely be out of luck with the current Criminal Code.

Purity:

  • If there is graffiti on the walls and dust on the windowsills.
  • What is the state of the area next to the mailboxes – are they throwing flyers on the floor. 

How long has it been renovated

  • Whether the plaster is crumbling?
  • How well the walls are painted.
  • In what condition the garbage chute (if any).
  • Are there chips and cracks on the floor and wall tiles.
  • What is the state of the entrance doors?
  • How the windows look and whether they open.
  • What the switchboards and switches look like.

Elevator:

  • Is there a freight elevator in the house (if you understand that you need it).
  • Are all buttons working well, including call buttons?
  • Check the lift in operation. Symptoms of malfunction: extraneous sounds while driving, rocking the cab, stopping the cab just above or below the landing.
  • Whether the year when the lift was put into operation is indicated in the car. The maximum term is 25 years.

 Safety

Is there a concierge, security cameras, do they work.

Do you smoke at the entrance

It can be understood by the smell and the presence of ashtrays made from scrap materials. 

Neighbors

  • are there any signs on the front doors of neighbors that they have been hacked or knocked out.
  • whether there are empty alcohol bottles or syringes in the entrance.
  • are there places where people store bicycles, strollers, and toys.
  • whether everyone takes out the garbage or there are bags on the stairwells not for the first day.
  • Check the bulletin board for complaints about neighbors or reports of utility bills.

By the way, you can evaluate what kind of people live in the house on social networks: many residential complexes have groups. 

 Apartment condition 

If you are planning to make repairs “for yourself” and already know how your apartment will look like, you can invite a designer and a craftsman to see it. They will be able to estimate how much the repair will cost in a particular case.

Even if an apartment looks good on the outside, there may be problems in it. Some will be difficult or expensive to fix, others will stay with you even after renovation. Therefore, we begin our inspection with communications.

Water and heating, electricity, gas, ventilation

Water and heating:

  • Are there any rusty streaks near radiators and technical connections (at the washing machine, sinks, toilet, bath).
  • If the welds and fastening system are deformed.
  • Whether the pressure in the taps is good and whether the water temperature is hot enough at the maximum.
  • What color and smell the water is.
  • How the water in the toilet is flushed away (if it stays above the average level, there is likely a blockage down the riser).
  • In winter, touch the batteries and see if there is a shut-off valve.

Electricity:

  • Are all sockets and switches working?
  • If there are signs of carbon deposits.
  • Whether the machines knock out (try turning on the lights throughout the apartment and running several household appliances).

Gas:

  • Whether a working meter is installed.
  • How long has the gas service been checked and how often it happens (according to the rules – at least once a year).
  • The gas pipe must not be blocked (for example, recessed in grooves) or moved.

Ventilation

Close the front door, open the window, and place a piece of paper against the air vent – it should be drawn to it. Ventilation problems can also be indicated by mold in the bathroom and unpleasant odors. 

Walls, floor and ceiling

Floor: 

  •  Whether the floor is even.
  • Does not squeak or sag when walking.
  • How long has the flooring changed and what is underneath in general: reinforced concrete slabs, wooden logs, screed (the cost of repairs in the future depends on this).

Flooring:

  • Linoleum: are there any creases or other damage.
  • Laminate or parquet: has it sagged, have serious scratches and chips appeared on it, have the joints of elements diverge.
  • Ceramic tiles: intact, whether there are voids under it (for this, the floor needs to be tapped).

Walls

  • If there are cracks, irregularities, areas with swollen wallpaper – if there is, specify where it came from (corny badly glued or the problem is more serious – plaster is peeling off or a hidden leak is worried).
  • Try to visually assess the deviation of the walls from the vertical: this can be noticed if there are inconsistencies in the pattern on the wallpaper or tiles.

Ceiling

Pay attention to cracks, spots and streaks, possibly from flooding. Ask the owner if they are often heated. Sometimes it’s worth talking to the neighbors upstairs.

Window frames and balcony

  • Find out if the balcony is insulated if this is important to you.
  • Whether there are traces of stains, mold, or smudges on the balcony or along the perimeter of window openings. Whether windows open easily, whether the sealing gum is jammed.
  • Whether the handle is in working order, whether it is easy to switch the window opening and ventilation mode.
  • If there are traces of mold on the frames.
  • Room noise and airtightness (open and close windows, make sure there is no blowing through).

Verification of documents

Even though we say “owner”, the apartment can be shown by an agent, relative, or trusted person. We wrote about the nuances associated with proxy transactions in this material  – it will be useful to study them. It is also important to understand that a third party who does not have a power of attorney from the owner cannot receive or provide some of the documents that we are talking about below.

Checking the apartment. What documents to request:

A fresh extract from the USRN about a real estate object, otherwise it is called “extended”. The extract will indicate the names of the homeowners, whether the apartment is encumbered, the exact data on the apartment will be given: the purpose of the premises, cadastral number, footage, floor. Also from it, you will learn how often the owners of the apartment changed. If a year or two passes between sales, perhaps there is an objective reason why people do not stay in the apartment for a long time.

Documents of title. Ask how the person became the owner of the apartment – bought, privatized, received as a gift, or as an inheritance. Accordingly, he will provide you with one of the documents: a purchase and sale agreement, an agreement on the transfer of an apartment into ownership, a gift, or a certificate of inheritance. Together with the purchase and sale agreement, ask to show the certificate of acceptance and transfer of the apartment.

Technical certificate. Compare the apartment plan with what you see in reality to make sure there are no redevelopments. Pay special attention to the location of the wet areas: whether, for example, the kitchen and the bedroom have changed places, whether the bathroom has “moved” – and that all load-bearing walls are in place.

If there was a redevelopment, but in the datasheet, there is a stamp “Permission for the refurbishment/redevelopment was not presented in the BTI” (the wording may be different), then the owner did not submit documents confirming the legality of the redevelopment.

Keep in mind: if you take out an apartment on a mortgage, banks may not give a loan for such an apartment. Also, for illegal redevelopment, you will have to pay a fine in case of verification – and either legalize or return everything as it was.

Registration certificate in form 9. The certificate can be of two types: archive and complete. It’s safer to check both. So you will find out who was registered in the apartment before and who is registered in it now. Discuss with the owner when he plans to remove people from registration – before or after the transaction. For you, of course, everyone should check out before.  

Certificate of deregistration in form 12. The certificate will indicate people who have been deregistered for certain reasons: a person is in a medical institution, in a place of imprisonment, or has gone missing. The certificate does not contain names, only the number of people and the date of deregistration. If the help says “no” everywhere, everything is in order. If there is a number in any of the categories, ask the owner who these people are and where they are. “Temporarily discharged” tenants can return at any time and claim the right to live in an apartment.

Data on the absence of debts on utility bills. Ask for a receipt for utility bills – it contains information about arrears. Better yet, request data on debts in the Criminal Code.

Seller Identity Verification

Make sure you are not taking risks by making a deal with a specific person. Ask the landlord for a passport and check his details with the information indicated in each document from the list above.

How can you independently check the owner of the apartment:

  • Check if the seller (and his spouse) has tax arrears and whether a lawsuit has been opened against him.
  • On the website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, you can find out if a person is on the criminal wanted list, and also make sure that his passport is not invalid.
  • Check whether the bankruptcy procedure of an individual has not been initiated on the seller
  • Request a certificate of legal capacity from the seller. This document confirms that the person is not registered in the drug and psycho-neurological dispensary. 
  • If at the time of purchase of the apartment the seller was married, you need a notarized consent of the spouse for the transaction/agreement on the division of property.

If everything is in order on all items from our checklist, congratulations! It seems that this is really what you were looking for. If something is wrong or you are confused, this is a reason to consult a good realtor.

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