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

Aside from conducting your own inspection, you'll need to get building and pest inspections. If you're buying a unit then you need a strata report.

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Before you sign any contracts, you want to be sure you’re buying a property that is structurally sound, doesn’t have any pest problems, and has generally been maintained. To do that, you will need to conduct pest and building inspections.

These inspections are not compulsory. Skipping on pre-purchase inspections may save time and money in the short term, but if these inspections turn up a problem with the house, they can be well worth the cost.

When buying a property you'll also need to look at the place yourself, and you will also have a final inspection just before settlement.

Tips for first home buyers

Personal inspection

Open inspections give potential buyers a chance to cast their eye over the property and see what they think. They usually last for around half an hour and offer a great opportunity for you to get a general feel for the overall quality and features of a property.

If you can, take someone else along to help you inspect a property because having a second perspective can help you pick out potential issues and faults you may otherwise overlook.

What does a personal inspection involve?

Wandering through a property with several other buyers allows you to get an overall feel for the property, including what you like about it and what you don’t.

If you like the feel of a property, use this inspection time to take a closer look. You can:

  • Check that windows and doors open easily. Do they get stuck on the hinge? Or do they open and close easily?
  • Look for any signs of dampness or mould on walls and ceilings.
  • Examine the structural integrity of the property – check for sagging ceilings or walls that may be buckling.
  • Check the taps to see if they run.
  • Look under sinks to check the age and condition of the plumbing.
  • Look for rotting floorboards hidden under carpet or rugs.
  • Try all the light switches and take a look inside the fuse box to determine the age of the circuitry.
  • Look for defects in exterior walls, the roof and gutters.
  • Use all your senses to inspect a property. Is there significant noise coming from a major road nearby? Is there a bad smell from a nearby factory or sewage treatment plant?

Building inspection

While a personal inspection can tell you a whole lot about a property, if you’re interested in a property and are considering buying it, it’s essential that you get an expert to assess the property. This is known as a building inspection report or a standard property report.

A professional building inspection report can be completed by a licensed builder, a surveyor or an architect. The expert you hire to complete the report will inspect the property for any structural defects or other issues, for example rising damp, that may be missed by the untrained eye. The inspector will ensure that the building conforms to Australian building code.

Qualified inspectors can look beyond cosmetic repairs or improvements, and identify unsafe renovations and repairs, thus minimising the issues of "unforeseen damages" down the road. Knowing the "cons" of a property can also help you negotiate for a lower price.

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.

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 professional 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.
  • Building roof. Loose or damaged tiles or roofing, damaged gutters and downpipes will be included in the report.
  • 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.

A pest inspection should be carried out before you exchange contracts, and sometimes it’s possible to get a combined building and pest inspection.

What does a pest inspection involve?

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.

If pests are present and active, inspection reports help determine what treatment should be taken.

Termite inspection is mostly a visual process and is done by a qualified professional. Aside from the building interior and exteriors, areas such as roof and crawl spaces, trees and fences are also inspected. Ideally, this is all done before the property is purchased with a recommended repeat every four to six months.

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.

Repairing termite damage to a house can cost you several thousands of dollars, so a pest inspection can be the difference between buying your dream home and buying a property that turns out to be a nightmare.

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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Name Product Comparison Rate Fees Monthly Payment

Ubank Neat Variable Home Loan
Principal & interestOwner-occupier40% min. deposit
Principal & interestOwner-occupier40% min. deposit
Interest Rate
2.64%
2.65%
  • Application: $0
  • Ongoing: $0 p.a.
$605
Get flexibility and the option to make unlimited extra repayments with this variable rate loan.

Unloan Variable Home Loan
Principal & interestOwner-occupier20% min. deposit Refinancers only
Principal & interestOwner-occupier20% min. deposit Refinancers only
Interest Rate
2.64%
2.56%
  • Application: $0
  • Ongoing: $0 p.a.
$605
A low-rate variable home loan from a 100% online lender. Backed by the Commonwealth Bank.

loans.com.au Smart Booster Discount Variable Home Loan
Principal & interestOwner-occupier20% min. deposit
Principal & interestOwner-occupier20% min. deposit
Interest Rate
2.60%
2.96%
  • Application: $0
  • Ongoing: $0 p.a.
$602
Get a low discounted variable rate loan. Requires a 20% deposit. Get your loan processed fast and settle within 30 days.

Nano Variable Home Loans
Principal & interestOwner-occupier20% min. deposit
Principal & interestOwner-occupier20% min. deposit
Interest Rate
2.74%
2.74%
  • Application: $0
  • Ongoing: $0 p.a.
$613
Competitive rate with zero fees, fast approval and a 100% free offset account. Available for refinancers and existing buyers purchasing their next home. 20% deposit required.

Macquarie Bank Basic Home Loan
Principal & interestOwner-occupier40% min. deposit
Principal & interestOwner-occupier40% min. deposit
Interest Rate
2.84%
2.84%
  • Application: $0
  • Ongoing: $0 p.a.
$621
This flexible variable rate loan requires a 40% deposit or equity. Get fast online approval and $0 application fee and $0 ongoing fees.

IMB Budget Home Loan
Principal & interestOwner-occupier20% min. deposit
Principal & interestOwner-occupier20% min. deposit
Interest Rate
2.84%
2.85%
  • Application: $449
  • Ongoing: $0 p.a.
$621
A low-rate, no-frills home loan for borrowers with a good deposit and unrestricted repayments. $0 application fee for eligible borrowers with principal-and-interest repayments and deposits of at least 20%.

Yard Variable Home Loan
Principal & interestOwner-occupier40% min. deposit
Principal & interestOwner-occupier40% min. deposit
Interest Rate
2.64%
2.66%
  • Application: $0
  • Ongoing: $0 p.a.
$605
Get a low variable rate loan with this online lender. 100% offset account. Requires a 40% deposit.

Ubank Neat Variable Home Loan
Principal & interestOwner-occupier20% min. deposit
Principal & interestOwner-occupier20% min. deposit
Interest Rate
2.84%
2.86%
  • Application: $0
  • Ongoing: $0 p.a.
$621
A competitive variable rate loan that comes with a 100% offset account. 20% deposit required.

HSBC Home Value Loan
Principal & interestOwner-occupier30% min. deposit
Principal & interestOwner-occupier30% min. deposit
Interest Rate
2.77%
2.78%
  • Application: $0
  • Ongoing: $0 p.a.
$616
$3,288 refinance cashback offer
This competitive variable rate loan is available for borrowers with 30% deposits. Eligible refinancers borrowing $250,000 or more can get a $3,288 cashback. Terms and conditions apply.

Greater Bank Great Rate Discount Variable with Family Pledge Home Loan
Principal & interestOwner-occupier-10% min. deposit
Principal & interestOwner-occupier-10% min. deposit
Interest Rate
2.79%
2.80%
  • Application: $0
  • Ongoing: $0 p.a.
$617
Pay no deposit or LMI and get a discounted rate with this family pledge loan. Requires a family member to act as guarantor. NSW, QLD and ACT only.

OneTwo Variable Rate Home Loan
Principal & interestOwner-occupier20% min. deposit Refi Only
Principal & interestOwner-occupier20% min. deposit Refi Only
Interest Rate
2.59%
2.49%
  • Application: $0
  • Ongoing: $0 per month
$601
$5,000 refinance cashback.
A variable rate loan for owner-occupier refinancers living in NSW, VIC, QLD or SA metro and inner regional areas. Get an extra 0.15% off your rate as you repay the loan and get up to $2,500 in bonus payments. Terms and conditions apply.

homeloans.com.au Low Rate Home Loan with Offset
Principal & interestOwner-occupier40% min. deposit
Principal & interestOwner-occupier40% min. deposit
Interest Rate
2.64%
2.64%
  • Application: $0
  • Ongoing: $0 p.a.
$605
A competitive rate with no application or ongoing fees. This loan is not available for construction.

Tic:Toc Live in Loan Variable Rate
Principal & interestOwner-occupier10% min. deposit
Principal & interestOwner-occupier10% min. deposit
Interest Rate
2.59%
2.60%
  • Application: $0
  • Ongoing: $0 p.a.
$601
A competitive variable rate product with no application or valuation fees offered by a 100% online lender.

Unloan Variable Home Loan
Principal & interestInvestment20% min. deposit Refinancers only
Principal & interestInvestment20% min. deposit Refinancers only
Interest Rate
2.94%
2.86%
  • Application: $0
  • Ongoing: $0 p.a.
$629
Investors can get a low variable rate. Apply online and get fast approval. Backed by the Commonwealth Bank.

Athena Variable Home Loan
Principal & interestOwner-occupier40% min. deposit
Principal & interestOwner-occupier40% min. deposit
Interest Rate
2.64%
2.64%
  • Application: $0
  • Ongoing: $0 p.a.
$605
Owner occupiers with 40% deposits or equity can get this competitive variable rate loan. No upfront or ongoing fees.

G&C Mutual Bank Momentum Home Loan
Principal & interestOwner-occupier40% min. deposit
Principal & interestOwner-occupier40% min. deposit
Interest Rate
2.74%
2.76%
  • Application: $0
  • Ongoing: $0 p.a.
$613
A variable rate loan for owner-occupiers looking to refinance. This loan has low fees and a 100% offset account.

Well Money Balanced Variable
Principal & interestOwner-occupier20% min. deposit
Principal & interestOwner-occupier20% min. deposit
Interest Rate
2.60%
2.63%
  • Application: $250
  • Ongoing: $0 p.a.
$602
A very low interest rate for home buyers with 20% deposits saved. Add an offset account for a small fee.

Newcastle Permanent Building Society Real Deal Home Loan
Principal & interestOwner-occupier20% min. deposit
Principal & interestOwner-occupier20% min. deposit
Interest Rate
2.87%
2.91%
  • Application: $595
  • Ongoing: $0 p.a.
$624
This variable rate loan requires a 20% deposit and has an offset account.

Nano Variable Home Loans
Principal & interestInvestment20% min. deposit
Principal & interestInvestment20% min. deposit
Interest Rate
3.04%
3.04%
  • Application: $0
  • Ongoing: $0 p.a.
$637
Investors can get this no-fee variable rate loan. You will need a 20% deposit. Fast online approval. Available for refinancers and existing buyers purchasing their next property.

Yard Variable Home Loan
Principal & interestOwner-occupier20% min. deposit
Principal & interestOwner-occupier20% min. deposit
Interest Rate
2.74%
2.76%
  • Application: $0
  • Ongoing: $0 p.a.
$613
A competitive variable rate loan for home buyers with an optional offset account ($120 annual fee). 20% deposit required.
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4 Responses

  1. 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

  2. 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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