House hunting this weekend? Did you know that while sellers have a duty to inform their agents of any issues surrounding a property, many simply neglect to disclose issues if they are likely to influence a buyer’s purchasing decision.

As such, buyers are often kept in the dark about what they are actually purchasing. Nicole Ciantar of Vogue Real Estate Australia has devised a list of five things that your real estate agent may not be telling you about when renting or buying a property – so make sure you ask the right questions.

1. Urban development and infrastructure projects
For buyers, the environmental surroundings of the property are a key determinant in the purchase decision. Real estate agents may fail to inform buyers of any government projects or new infrastructure, such as roads or housing blocks being built near the home if they haven’t been notified by the seller.

2. Criminal history of the home
Any crimes committed in the house are often left undisclosed, from drug-labs to shoot-outs to cases of abuse. “Although these types of crimes may not result in death, the sensitive type of consumer is still going to feel distressed,” Ms Ciantar said.

3. Termite damage or impact
Annually, termites damage over 180,000 Australian homes and buildings. Estimates of the combined cost of termite damage range from $700-1 billion when agriculture and horticulture are taken into account. Despite this, many buyers are unaware of homes affected by termites and are generally only made aware after conducting a termite inspection. Often people don’t consider doing this.

4. Changes to Residential Tenancy Agreement
Previously, if a tenant wished to break free of their property lease before the end of the fixed term of the agreement, they were obliged by contract to continue paying rent and property fees until a suitable replacement tenant was found. Changes to the Residential Tenancy Agreement provide an alternative for tenants, allowing them to break free of the lease so long as notice is given and they pay six weeks of rent upfront. “Many renters are unaware of this new clause and feel stuck living in a property when they simply want to move on” Ms Ciantar said.

5. Suicide, deaths and backyard burial sites
“The gory history of a home often remains hidden,” said Ms Ciantar. The previous owner may have committed suicide with new buyers completely oblivious. “This is concerning, as many people would probably feel uncomfortable living in a ‘haunted’ and stigmatised house.”

So how do you avoid these pitfalls? Ms Ciantar suggests that research is essential, and buyers should thoroughly inspect the home and ask detailed questions before making any purchase decisions. Examining old records, conducting termite inspections and even carrying out a simple Google search is sure to deliver valuable information. Above all, a good real estate agent can make all the difference, so buyers are encouraged to look around and find an agent that best understands their needs.