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Buying a home

What are the inspections that I might need?

10 October 2017

If you’re thinking about buying a house, either as a home or an investment property, there are a few things you’ll have to arrange. There’s the move out of your old place, utility connections at the new property, and the important issue of whether to buy pizza or fish and chips for the friends and family who help you move.

The following are a few inspections that you should consider before making a final offer on a home.

Personal inspection and pre-settlement inspection

Once you’ve found a property that catches your eye, you should arrange to view it in person as early as you can. This will give you a chance to check for obvious signs of defects, such as:

  • large cracks in the wall or ceiling,
  • doors that don’t close,
  • lights that flicker or fail to turn on, and
  • leaks from the ceiling.

A personal inspection will also let you check for lifestyle features that are important to you, such as:

  • natural light,
  • room size,
  • traffic noise, and
  • proximity to schools and public transport. 

Later in the process, as close as possible to the settlement date, you should conduct another personal inspection. This will let you confirm that the condition of the house is as you expect, and there hasn’t been any damage or unexpected changes. You’d hate to move in and find that a moving-out party that got out of hand has turned your previously-white walls into an abstract art project. 

It’s a good idea to bring a second person with you, especially if this is your first time buying a house. Two sets of eyes are more likely to catch any defects, and new-house nerves might cause you to overlook something.

The best thing about these inspections is that they’re the cheapest and easiest to arrange, since you can carry them out yourself. 

Building inspection

Buying a house represents a huge investment, not just financially but also of your time and emotional energy. Taking possession of a place that has defects, whether they’re large or small, can significantly add to the stress and expense of your purchase. That’s why it’s important to arrange a thorough building inspection.

The things that building inspectors will look for include, but aren’t limited to:

  • cracks in the walls and floor,
  • dampness,
  • leaks and blockages in plumbing,
  • faulty or exposed wiring,
  • faults in systems such as heating and air conditioning, and
  • rotting timber.

Keep in mind that a defect doesn’t necessarily mean that you should walk away from the purchase. It might give you some power to negotiate a better price, or have the vendor arrange a repair before settlement. 

If the issues are minor, you may decide to buy the house anyway and fix them yourself, if you feel that the sale price and conditions are otherwise fair. But regardless of the approach you take to addressing defects, knowing about them near the beginning of your journey is always better than getting a nasty surprise down the road.

How do I choose a building inspector?

The inspector you choose should be a qualified professional, such as a builder, surveyor or architect. They should also have adequate insurance cover, especially for professional indemnity. Don’t be afraid to call around and ask questions, or obtain multiple quotes. 

It can be helpful to refer to reviews or recommendations to ensure that you select someone reliable. If you have friends or family members who’ve been through this before, pick their brains. They’ve already made the tough decisions so you don’t have to!

Pest inspection

A pest inspection is vital to ensuring that a house is ready to move into, and won’t present you with major bug-related headaches. A pest inspector will look for signs of a few different pests, such as wood borers, but they’re primarily concerned with termites. Termites can cause major damage that could be difficult and expensive to fix, so discovering them early can potentially save you thousands. 

As with building defects, evidence of termites in a home doesn’t mean that you have to abandon the purchase entirely. If termites are discovered in an inspection but you want to proceed with the purchase, you should ensure that the vendor has a proper treatment in place for them and that any damage is repaired before settlement. You could also use your inspection report to negotiate a fairer price with the vendor.  

Pool inspection

If you are considering a house with a pool, there are several state-based regulations with which it must comply. A pre-purchase inspection will ensure that your pool is compliant, saving you money. It also means that, when you finally get around to organising your housewarming barbecue, you can tell your guests to bring their bathers.

Most importantly, though, a thorough inspection ensures that your pool is as safe as possible for your family.

When should I get these inspections done?

You should aim to have these inspections completed as early in the purchasing process as possible. If problems are detected, you’ll want time to have them fixed, or factor them into the price negotiations.

It’s important to remember that, once contracts are signed, you’ll only have a brief cooling-off period in which you can cancel the sale. If you learn of a major problem outside of this period, you’re stuck with it. And if you purchase a house at auction, there’s no cooling-off period at all.

How does it work?

Once you’ve selected your inspector (or inspectors, if you’re getting building and pest inspections done separately), you should get in touch with them as quickly as possible. It may take a few days to arrange, especially if they’re busy.

After they conduct their inspection, they’ll provide you with a thorough written report. You should feel free to ask any questions about the report or the property in general; the more information you have, the more prepared you’ll be for negotiations. 

Ultimately, these inspections are a way for you to get to know your prospective house better, warts and all. If you do decide to make an offer, you’ll be glad that you did so with as much knowledge as possible. And if your offer is successful, you can move into your dream home confident that it won’t turn into a nightmare. 

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Any advice contained in this document has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situation or needs. For that reason, before acting on the advice, you should consider the appropriateness of the advice having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs. Where the advice relates to the acquisition, or possible acquisition, of a particular financial product, you should consider the Product Disclosure Statement before making any decision regarding the product. Contact us for a copy.

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