Property inspections

When you’ve found your dream home, you want things to move along at pace. But until you know exactly what you’re buying, you should proceed with caution.

Finding the right home to buy can be an exciting, process. When you first step foot inside a property, you often instantly know whether or not it ‘feels’ right. If it does, it’s easy to start imagining your furniture completing each room, and how it would feel to wake up there on a bright, warm morning. You go back at different times of the day, and it feels better each time you visit. Things progress, and you decide it’s the home for you. Now is the time to put the emotional stuff strictly to one side, because you need to get to know everything you possibly can about the property you’re about to buy.

The reality is, every property you’ll come across has ‘something’. That something could be relatively minor; maybe a leaky pipe or a window that needs replacing. Or it could be major. Whatever it is, you need to know about it, which is where inspections come in. After all, you’re far better off discovering that ‘something’ now than in 12 months’ time with a hefty mortgage in tow. 

Check it out yourself

First things first: before you get too deep, it can be wise to conduct an inspection of your own.

If you like the look of a place, arrange another viewing and bring someone else along with you – preferably someone experienced in buying property or, even better, a builder.

During this inspection, check that things such as windows, doors, electrical sockets, sinks and taps all work as they should.

You should also look for any obvious faults, things that need a spot of maintenance, or signs that there may be something more untoward happening.

Externally, have a good look at the roof, guttering, downpipes and fascia, and make sure everything looks as though it’s in good working order. See if you can spot any signs of damage to mortar, bricks or weatherboard.

Internally, look at the floorboards (always look under strategically placed rugs) for signs of damp or rotting. Check out the ceilings and walls – any cracks, sagging or movement should set off alarm bells, and keep an eye out for dampness and mould too.

If you spot anything at this stage, it’s wise to get a professional opinion before you go any further.

Inspections provide an impartial view on the condition of the property

Calling in the professionals

If you’re serious about a property, it can be smart to get the inspections done before you make an offer.

If the property is going to auction, you will need all your inspections done well in advance – once your bid has been accepted on auction day, there’s often little room for movement. If you’re buying via private treaty, having the inspection information will give you an informed position from which you can make your offer.

Inspections are important to help you understand the condition of the property and whether there are any hazards, including building work or the presence of pests such as rodents or termites.

Based on the inspection reports you may be able to request certain repairs be made, or use them to help you negotiate a lower price.

Above all, professional inspections provide an impartial view on the condition of the property. They’ll identify any major issues or give you the peace of mind that the property you’re buying is sound. 

Building inspection

A building inspection report can be undertaken by a licensed builder, architect or surveyor, and is essentially looking at the structural integrity of the property.

The building inspector will look for major issues, so will assess foundations, the condition of structural timber, the outside of the property, the load-bearing walls, and plumbing and electrics.

The building inspector should also check out the property’s roof space, eaves and under-floor space, the roof and exterior, as well as the site as a whole – driveways, fences, retaining walls, etc. The building report will identify the visible presence of asbestos too – while not necessarily a deal-breaker (unless it’s loose-fill asbestos), you should be fully aware of the presence and condition of the asbestos you’re taking on.

The building inspection won’t usually include minor defects, concealed damp-proofing, electrics, plumbing, air-con, swimming pools, chimneys, appliances and carpets – if you want any of these things looked at during the inspection period, speak with the building inspector, who may be able to include them, or bring another expert in to help.

If you want to go all out, you can get a forensic structural engineering report, which will cost more but could be a good idea in the long run.

Tip: Speak to the building inspector prior to inspection and go through exactly what they’re going to look at. If there are specifics you’d like them to delve into, make sure you ask them. You can request a special-purpose property report if you want minor defects and imperfections covered.

  • Indicative cost: $200 to $500. For more in-depth reports, like a full forensic structural engineering report, the cost could be up to $1000.

Pest inspection

Pests, such as termites, can cause many problems that will usually not be immediately apparent. A pest inspector can identify issues in the house, including in roof cavities, as well as examine the exterior of the property, including trees and fences, for signs of damage or pests. These will be included as a part of an overview of the current state of the property in a pest inspection report, which should also provide a rundown of costs to remedy any issue. 

Indicative cost: $250 to $350.

Tip: Don’t scrimp on the pest inspection – termite damage alone can result in hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of repairs

Other inspections and reports that are worth considering

Strata report: If you’re buying a strata property, the seller’s solicitor will supply information about the management committee, insurances, cost of levies, deeds and books. You can also arrange for a pre-purchase strata report to access all written records.

  • Indicative cost: $400.

Surveyor’s report: A surveyor’s report will give you confirmation of the property’s boundaries and could identify issues that may arise as a result of it, such as land disputes or problems with neighbours’ trees.

  • Indicative cost: $150 per hour.

Swimming pool: If you’re buying a property that has a swimming pool, the vendor must provide a valid certificate of compliance. You may also arrange for your own swimming pool inspection to be carried out to ensure the pool is safe.

  • Indicative cost: $200 to $600.

Electrical: In older houses in particular, faulty and old wiring is a common cause of fire, so it’s a good idea to get a licensed electrician to conduct a pre-purchase electrical inspection. While you’re at it, you may want to get a prepurchase plumbing inspection too!

  • Indicative cost: $500.

Energy and water: An energy and water efficiency report can help you understand just how efficient the property is going to be and will identify areas of improvement. From light fittings and fixtures to heating and cooling, it can be a huge cost-saver in the long run.

  • Indicative cost: $500.

Asbestos: A general asbestos report can be conducted as part of your building report. Loose-fill asbestos is a different story. This substance was installed in the ceiling spaces of homes in ACT and NSW during the ’60s and ’70s and is a major health risk. The presence cannot be identified by sight alone, so if you’re buying a home from that era, this is an important thing to get checked. If disturbed, loose-fill asbestos fibres can be inhaled and cause serious health risks.

  • Indicative cost: $1000.

As you can see it can be quite expensive to conduct each of these inspections. If you’d like to speak to us about your organising your finances for a new home – call us today on (02) 8277 4605.

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