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Reasons to consider building and pest inspections

A house or apartment might look great at an open for inspection. But costly structural problems could be hidden behind that fresh coat of paint or under the new carpet.

Moving into your first home is expensive enough. So the last thing you want is an unexpected repair bill for a building that turns out to be unsound or even unsafe.

Some issues are easy to spot. Uneven floors, damp patches and large cracks in the walls are all obvious warning signs that work needs doing.

But how do you tell if the wiring is faulty? Or if the subfloor is riddled with termites?

Worth the cost

It’s a good idea to have the home inspected by professionals. For around a few hundred dollars, you can get a report that outlines the property’s faults and estimates the cost of any repairs.

If you have that knowledge before you sign the contract of sale, you can could potentially negotiate a lower price. Or you can walk away altogether if the problems are too serious.

There are two inspections you should consider if you’re thinking about making a bid or offer on a property.

Building inspection

A qualified building inspector, architect or surveyor can inspect the house and provide you with a written report on its condition.

Their expert eye can see past the cosmetic tricks that sellers sometimes use to hide faults. And they won’t let emotion get in the way, so you’ll get a completely objective opinion.

A building report will usually assess things like:

  • roof
  • guttering
  • subfloor
  • footings
  • framing
  • plumbing
  • wiring
  • dampness
  • rot
  • illegal alterations

Pest inspection

A pest inspection is separate to a building inspection and may be worth considering as well.

Timber-eating insects like termites could literally chew through the frames and floors of a house, leaving tiny piles of sawdust and large repair bills.

A pest inspector will check the house and the area around it for termite activity. They‘ll report current damage and assess whether pests pose any future threat.

If the pest inspector finds active termites, their report will usually recommend a treatment and give an estimate of its cost.

When to order an inspection

If the property is for auction you’ll need to arrange the inspections before auction day. Remember there’s no cooling-off period. You can’t pull out of the sale if you discover termites.

If you have a clear understanding of the property’s condition beforehand you can better decide how much to bid or whether to bid at all.

Properties sold by private sale do sometimes offer a cooling-off period. You could carry out the inspections then. But there are downsides to waiting till the last minute.

Firstly the cooling-off period is usually limited to around the three days. So you run the risk of not finding an inspector who is available in that time.

Secondly, if you do uncover problems during the cooling-off period, it may be too late to negotiate a lower price.

Use a qualified inspector

Buying a home is a big decision, so you need get advice from a trustworthy  professional. That’s why you should check your building inspector’s qualifications. It may be a good idea to look for someone who has:

  • experience – at least two years in the industry
  • education – a Diploma of Building Surveying, Building & Construction or a reasonable equivalent 
  • registration – as a builder, architect or engineer
  • insurance – professional indemnity insurance of $10 million
  • standards – building inspections should be carried out to current Australian Standards

To sum up

  • Building and pest reports can may uncover costly defects.
  • Get the reports before you make an offer or a bid.
  • Always use a qualified inspector.

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Any advice does not take into account your personal needs and financial circumstances and you should consider whether it is appropriate for you and read the relevant Terms and Conditions, Product Disclosure Statement and the ANZ Financial Services Guide (PDF, 104kB) before acquiring any product. 

Reports are based on a range of data sources, are not indicative of future performance and are only for personal domestic use. Price estimates may not be available for all sales and properties.

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