Defects check before you purchase the resale HDB flat

Resale HDB flats can be a great investment in your quality of life – the larger floor space and better developed neighbourhood amenities are good reasons to look into this housing option.

However, there are some pitfalls that come along with purchasing a resale HDB. One of the more serious ones are defects in the property that come from either unauthorised renovation works, wear and tear or deliberate damage.

Today, we’ll run through some of the most important things to look out for, as well as give you some tips on what to do when you’re on site for an inspection.

Bukit Batok East Ave 4, HDB. Picture: iProperty

What happens first?

The HDB’s very first priority is the safety of public housing. Therefore, they will definitely conduct an inspection to check for any unauthorised renovation work that might have affected the structural stability of the block of flats, or the unit itself.

While HDB flats are generally well-built, the HDB tends to leave no stone unturned in the interest of public safety.

If they happen to find any illegal renovation work done, they will inform you about it. Should you accept the purchase, it is done with the full knowledge of any and all structural changes.

Therefore, the responsibility will lie with you if anything happens to the block or unit after the transaction is completed.

Check your flooring!

Kitchen, HDB. Picture: iProperty

When you walk in, look and feel the floor. What is the material you are standing on? If it is ceramic, homogenous or marble tiling, look carefully for cracks. Find out when the flooring was installed to have a gauge of how old the tiles are.

If they are parquet, timber or any other type of wood, look for discolouration, scratches and damp spots. As you walk around, feel for any bumps or uneven flooring. This is especially if you’re thinking of keeping the flooring the way it is.

Even if you are thinking of ripping everything out, keep a sharp eye for discolouration as this is a telltale sign for potential water leaks.

Walls and ceilings

When moving around, examine the wall and ceiling surfaces for cracks, bulges, wet spots and discolouration. Did the current owners attempt to seal any cracks up? Find out what happened and why they had to make repairs.

Remember that older HDB units might have pipe leakage problems from adjacent units, and this will affect your purchase decisions.

Don’t wait until you have bought the unit to realise that there is a water leakage from next door. It will be expensive and time-consuming to rectify this issue.

Toilets and Sanitary

Look out for any cracks in the sink and toilet bowls. When in the toilet, take particular note of corners where the walls meet the floor or ceiling. This is where you might find some form of mould or mildew.

Mushrooms sprouting in the toilet are a cause for concern because even though they are harmless, their existence indicates a serious moisture issue that might lead to more mould growth that can be dangerous to those susceptible to respiratory illnesses.

Mechanical and Electrical Fittings

The condition of the electrical wiring is very important to look into, as this is a potentially life-threatening hazard. Poorly rigged or faulty electrical systems can result in serious electrical fires.

As such, you must look at all power points, switches, air-con units, ceiling fans and lights.

Keep an eye out for blackened power points, non-functioning switches and loose plug points. All these are signs of an ageing electrical system that is ripe for a complete re-fitting during renovations.

Doors and Windows

HDB, Yishun Ave 4. Picture: iProperty

If you want to keep the windows and doors, you have to ensure that they are functional.

Make it a point to move them about. Don’t hesitate to swing them back and forth, and test the full range of motion. You want to check for rust, and make sure that they can be locked and unlocked with relative ease.

Windows should close as tightly as possible so that they don’t let any rainwater in.


Kitchen cabinets are a key point to focus on. After all, they are heavily exposed to oil, heat and moisture so they are the most vulnerable to wear and tear. Look out for functionality, cracks, missing shelves, missing handles and any odd growths or odours.

For the rest of the carpentry, make it a point to ensure there are no moulds or any other odd growths in the dark corners.

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Some important tips for you

One very important thing to do is to knock on the doors of the neighbours and ask questions.

For example, you really want to make sure that this current owner isn’t someone who has an outstanding loan from illegal moneylenders who could potentially make your life a living hell.

Additionally, check the walls in the lifts and at the void deck for any graffiti that indicates any loanshark problem.

Also, talk to the neighbours to find out if there have been any previous issues with the unit in question. While some neighbours might be nice enough to fill you in on the history of the house you might be purchasing, you might come across neighbours who seem to hesitate.

Kim Tian Road, Tiong Bahru. Picture: iProperty

If they do, take that as a sign that you need to do more research before committing to anything. Remember that some homes have been murder scenes or places where crime has taken place before. So do your due diligence before you make that purchase.

You should also find out if there have been any upgrading programmes announced for the unit or flat. If so, find out if the cost of upgrading has already been taken care of.

A good example would be lift upgrading projects, where residents all share the cost of the upgrade, which can come up to a thousand dollars per household.

Finally, make sure you visit more than once and make sure you bring friends and family. Multiple visits mean more chances to view the house in different situations.

The difference between a sunny day and a rainy day can bring out the characteristics of a home that you didn’t see the first time round.

Having friends and family with you can also help you to have a clearer idea of what you’re buying into. Their second opinions can be the difference between a poor investment and a happy home.

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