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.
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:
- illegal alterations
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.