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Which property inspections should you conduct before you buy a home?

House buyers should consider getting a professional pest and building inspection. Apartment buyers can get a strata report.

Many Australian home buyers sign a contract of sale after a quick inspection of the property themselves. But the average person can't detect building faults or pest infestations. That's why it's worth paying for a building and pest inspection before you sign a contract or go to auction.

You can also your conveyancer to make the contract dependent on a "subject to inspection" clause, if the seller agrees.

While these inspections are not compulsory they can be well worth the cost.

Tips for first home buyers

Building inspections

A professional building inspection report conducted by an inspector will help you find any structural defects in the building or other issues, for example rising damp, that may be missed by the untrained eye.

A good inspector can look beyond cosmetic repairs or improvements, and identify unsafe renovations and repairs, thus minimising the issues of "unforeseen damages" down the road.

Your inspector may find some minor issues with the property, and that doesn't mean you shouldn't buy the place. But it gives you creater confidence and knowledge about what you're buying.

It’s recommended that you use a third-party professional, rather than one suggested or provided by the seller.

What does a building inspection involve?

A building inspector will visually inspect all areas of the property for signs of structural defects or expensive problems. The inspector will cast their eye over every part of the property they can access, including:

  • Building interior. From cracks in the walls to problems with electrical wiring, doors that won’t shut and broken windows, the inspector will look at every aspect of the property’s interior.
  • Building exterior. The inspector will examine the construction of the property for any defects.
  • Roof and under-floor spaces. If these areas can be accessed, the inspector will check them for any structural damage.
  • The property site. The building inspection report will also include details of the condition of garages, carports, garden sheds, retaining walls, separate toilets or laundries, fencing, surface water drainage, driveways and paths.

If there are any particular items or areas on the site you’d like checked out, make sure to mention these before the inspection begins.

Pest inspections

Just like a building inspection, a pest inspection can save you thousands of dollars when it comes to potential future repairs. If you live in an area prone to termites or other pests, this type of inspection is essential for your peace of mind before you buy a property.

You can usually get a combined building and pest inspection.

What does a pest inspection involve?

A pest inspector will investigate the property to check for the presence of any wood-destroying insects, such as termites or borers. The inspector will also look for any existing damage caused by those pests already, plus any potential damage they could cause in the future. The interior and exterior of the home will be inspected, including any accessible under-floor or roof cavity areas.

If pests are present and active, inspection reports help determine what treatment should be taken and how bad the damage is. Minor evidence of termites isn't necessarily a deal-breaker and can be managed, but serious damage could be enough to make you call off the purchase.

Strata inspection

If you're buying a unit or apartment it's harder to inspect the building itself because the unit's foundations are shared across a large complex and you probably don't have an accessible roof cavity.

A strata report is a report you can buy online. It will tell you important information about the entire strata complex, including the financial position of the body corporate and any recent issues with the building or tenant.

Pre-settlement inspection

A pre-settlement inspection is one of the final steps in the property purchase and settlement process. Also referred to as a final inspection or a pre-purchase inspection, this takes place just before you take ownership of the property – often on the same day as settlement.

The standard contract of sale terms require sellers to hand over the property upon settlement in the same condition it was in on the day the sale was finalised. Buyers should ask what is included in the sale before purchase to prevent misunderstandings once the contract has been signed.

The purpose of a pre-settlement inspection is for you to ensure that the property is in the same condition it was when you signed the contract. You can check that all the fixtures and fittings work, that any rubbish has been removed, and that no damage has been done to the property since you signed the contract.

What does a pre-settlement inspection involve?

There are several issues you can investigate during a pre-settlement inspection, including:

  • Whether the home is vacant
  • Whether the home is clean and in a good condition
  • Whether the previous owners have damaged the property in any way
  • Whether all the fixtures and fittings are functioning
  • Are any items that were included in the sale (e.g. a dishwasher, air conditioner, in-built microwave)
  • Whether the gardens and the exterior of the property are in good condition
  • Whether any excess rubbish or waste has been left on the property

If there’s a major issue with the property then the seller will be in breach of contract, giving you the right to withhold settlement until the issue is fixed to your satisfaction.

Organising pre-purchase property inspections is vital before buying a property. This minimises the risk of encountering issues in the future and it can also give you an edge when negotiating a price with the seller.

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4 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    TyJune 19, 2019

    Is it common for a building & pest inspection to be requested before a contract offer is submitted? Are there any disadvantages to allowing an inspection ahead of an offer?
    Cheers Ty

      Default Gravatar
      BellaJune 21, 2019

      Hi Ty,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      Building and pest inspection should be carried out before you exchange the contracts. This is to allow you to identify problems that could be expensive to repair in the future. If the building inspection report reveals significant issues with the property, you can withdraw your offer. According to our article written above “Qualified inspectors can look beyond cosmetic repairs or improvements, and identify unsafe renovations and repairs, thus minimizing the issues of ‘unforeseen damages’ down the road. Knowing the ‘cons’ of a property can also help you negotiate for a lower price.”

      I hope this helps.

      Kind regards,
      Bella

    Default Gravatar
    BevAugust 11, 2017

    How long do i have in Qld to get a build and pest inspection done and to make my decision to proceed or withdraw? Is there a penalty for withdrawal due to pests?

      Default Gravatar
      ArnoldAugust 11, 2017

      Hi Bev,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      It all depends on the agreement but usually, you are given ample amount of time to conduct inspections.

      Building inspections are usually carried out before the exchange of contracts, allowing you to identify problems that could be expensive to repair in the future. If the building inspection report reveals significant issues with the property, you can withdraw your offer. Meanwhile, a pest inspector will thoroughly investigate the property to check for the presence of any wood-destroying insects, such as termites or borers. The inspector will also look for any existing damage caused by those pests already, plus any potential damage they could cause in the future. The interior and exterior of the home will be inspected, including any accessible under-floor or roof cavity areas.

      Experts advise that pest inspections be done simultaneously with building inspections. Any damage detected from the former can be assessed by the latter and immediately determine the extent of repairs to be done. Pest inspection can range from $200 for a simple report, to up to $500 to include infrared thermal images.

      Hope this information helped.

      Cheers,
      Arnold

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