Buying a new property is exciting, especially when you find your dream home. Before signing the contract of sale make sure it is conditional on the outcome of a pest and a building inspection. Often people leave this for during the cooling off period but you may not have enough time. Adding these as a condition gives you leverage to renegotiate the price if the reports find major issues.
Too many people forgo doing a pre purchase inspection and it is too late once the sale closes and you move in. There is nothing more frustrating than finding problems in the first few weeks or months. While some may be minor and others major, it is all money you have to spend to rectify them. Your budget may be tight after purchasing the property so you may have to live with the problems indefinitely.
Property inspections are crucial. They can uncover problems that may change your mind about buying. Three reasons you should get a building report before buying a house are so you:
- Have advance warning of any problems.
- Can use it to negotiate a better price or have the problems fixed.
- Receive the advice of a specialist about major problems and how they will affect the house in years to come.
What a Pre-purchase Inspection can Reveal
When looking for a building inspector, make sure they have the right qualifications. This can be a builder, architect or a surveyor. These are building professionals who know what to look for and are likely to see where someone has covered up faults. Make sure you ask for a building inspector’s credentials before engaging them to complete an inspection.
A building inspector will look for serious issues and defects rather than minor issues with finishes and materials.
The following is a breakdown of what a building inspector looks for:
- Identifies unsafe areas. A building inspector will look for any unsafe areas in the home. They will look for evidence of termite activity, asbestos and any other materials that are unsafe, and for cracks in the external and internal walls. Knowing there are areas that are unsafe can help you make a good decision.
- Looks for structural issues. You want to know about any structural issues. They are not only dangerous but expensive to repair. All buildings must conform to Australian building codes and standards, so you will be responsible for the issues once you take possession of a property.
- Evaluates the electrics. A building inspection will detect whether the electrical wiring has any problems and the inspector will test the smoke alarms. Faulty wiring risks fire or electrocution.
- Unearths any necessary repairs. The building inspector’s report will list any repairs you may not be aware of. These could include powerpoints that are not working or evidence of concrete cancer, which is a major problem. This means you can get quotes from relevant tradespeople and either use it to negotiate a better deal to cover the repairs or you may decide to move on if the seller will not fix them because of the additional cost.
- Checks sundry buildings. Sheds. pergolas and verandas are a part of a property inspection. They need to meet local council regulations. If they do not, you may have the cost of demolishing one of the buildings.
What you can Expect a Building Inspector to Check
It can be a false illusion to expect a building inspector to pick up hidden issues. This is simply impossible. If you are not sure, ask them. But you can expect them to check the:
- Outside of the house
- Inside the house
- Roof space
- Property for signs of pest infestations
- Condition of the roof
- Under the floor where they can
- State of the concrete slab where it is accessible
- Carport and garage
- Outbuildings such as the shed and pergola
- Stormwater run-off
- Separate toilet and laundry
- Drainage for surface water
- Driveway, paving and paths.
Where there are specific things you want checked, make sure you let the inspector know.
What a Building Inspector Does Not Check
There are things a building inspector will not include in the building report, for example:
- Inaccessible parts of the property they cannot inspect.
- Minor defects.
- While they may see signs of pests, they do not have the expertise to detect them.
- How much it will cost for any repairs.
People make the mistake of assuming a building inspection report will cover everything to do with a property. Realistically, this is just not possible. A building report is a snapshot of what an inspector sees at a moment in time. How serious a problem may be will depend on how old the home is and the type of property.
A building inspector will not check everything, Mostly because they do not have access to check them. This will include:
- Air conditioning
- Drains, plumbing and gas fittings
- Damp proofing that is concealed
- Tiles, carpet and lino
- Appliances such as cooktops, ovens, dishwashers and range hoods
- Television reception
- Internet connections
- Swimming pools and equipment
- They will not open every window
- Intercom and alarm systems
- Heating systems
- Watering systems
- Fireplaces and chimneys.
Detailed Building Report
The most important part of a building inspection is the report. The level of detail it contains will depend on the type, condition, size and age of the property, and the process the building inspecting uses. All these factors will influence the price of your pre-purchase inspection. The cost will range from around $300 upwards.
Some building inspectors will use a detailed checklist or a standard format and others tailor their reports for every property they inspect. What is important, is that the report conforms to the Australian standard. So it is important that when choosing a building inspector to ask them what to expect in the report.
Keep in mind building inspections are a visual inspection of a property. This means that it will not uncover hidden issues and major structural defects. If these are a concern, you should consider other inspections from specialists such as a structural engineer or surveyor.
You can expect to see the following information in the report:
- Address of the property
- Reason for the report such as a pre purchase inspection
- Extent of the inspection
- A list of areas not inspected and why.
- An overall summary of the property’s condition.
- A list of any major problems that need repairing
- Recommendations for further assessments required if thought to be necessary.
Certain things can affect the report such as:
- Issues that are hard to identify, for example, because of weather conditions such as leaks or rising damp.
- What information you give to the inspector.
- The inspector’s specific areas of expertise.
- Anything that has been intentionally hidden.
It is always worth having a building inspection before buying a property despite the cost. The cost is minor compared to the price of a house and you find significant issues once you move in. You can use it as a powerful tool to negotiate the purchase price.
A pest inspection report is not the same as a building inspection report. While a building inspector may report signs of pest damage, a pest inspector looks for evidence of pests.
It is important to have a pest inspection if the property is a high risk area such as Queensland. You should also have a pest inspection where the building inspection report indicates signs of pests. It will give you peace of mind if the property’s structural integrity of the property is not compromised.
A qualified, licenced pest inspector will look for:
- Timber damage throughout the house.
- Evidence of current termite, pest or borer activity.
- Previous treatments used in the house.
- Evidence there have been pests present in the past.
A pest inspector will visually inspect the following areas:
- Roof spaces
- Sub floors
- Each room
- Sheds and any other outbuildings
- Retaining walls
You will receive a report of their findings which will include recommendations of what to do to prevent pest infestations in the future.
For more in depth information on what else to consider when buying a home, check out our first home owners guide.