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Why a pre-purchase building inspection is essential

By George Hadgelias

It may seem like one of the more tedious aspects of buying a home, but building inspections are a godsend. Trust me.

The real estate equivalent of a test drive, they let you know whether the property you’re thinking about buying is worth the asking price, or whether it’s worth buying at all.

By shining a light on a property’s shortcomings, they save people thousands of dollars. And, more importantly, they help keep people safe.

Which is why I’m always amazed at how many people forget to book in a pre-purchase building inspection, or, worse still, contemplate forgoing one for the sake of saving a few hundred dollars.

Here’s why a pre-purchase building inspection is absolutely essential.

What is a Pre-Purchase Building Inspection?

A pre-purchase building inspection is an assessment of a property’s condition that is conducted by a qualified inspector. It covers everything from faulty roofs to rising damp and cracked walls, and generally includes information on whether these faults can be repaired and how much these repairs would cost.

A lot of buyers ask their inspectors to check for pest damage during the inspection, too. This usually costs a little extra, but is generally advisable, given the extensive damage termites and other pests can cause.

How much does a building inspection cost?

The cost of a building and pest inspection will vary from state to state, and inspectors operating in metropolitan areas will generally charge more than those working in regional areas. However, they rarely cost more than $600, according to Buyer’s agent Amanda Bidder-Segers.

Given your home will cost well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, it’s a small price to pay for peace of mind, and ultimately a lot less expensive than buying a home that needs extensive repairs.

What do inspectors check during an inspection?

A pre-purchase building inspection focuses on major structural defects and largely turns a blind eye to minor issues related to the quality and condition of materials and finishes.

That said, each state has slightly different guidelines on what needs to be included in a pre-purchase building inspection. Below is a breakdown of what most inspections provide.

1. An overview of structural issues

This is the big one, as some structural issues are nearly impossible to repair without major construction work, and can cause collapses that lead to injuries.

Buildings must conform to the Building Codes and Standards of Australia. Which means that, if you purchase a home or commercial building that does not conform to these standards, you will be responsible for the cost of bringing the building up to code.

2. Insight into necessary repairs

If you opt for a pre-purchase building inspection, you will find out exactly what needs to be done to bring the building up to where you’d like it to be, meaning that you’ll be able to ask for quotes from the relevant builders and tradespeople.

As a result, you’ll be able to put together a comprehensive budget for repairs.

3. Electrical wiring and smoke alarm tests

New house, good. Smoke and fire, bad.

Faulty electrical wiring increases the risk of electrocution or fire, and too few smoke alarms increases the likelihood of injury or death in the event of a fire.

A pre-purchasing building inspection will let you know if the house is suffering from either of these problems.

4. Identification of unsafe areas

A pre-purchase building inspection will also reveal any areas of the home that are unsafe. For example, it might highlight the presence of asbestos and other dangerous materials, or pinpoint missing balustrades and cracks in walls.

Being made aware of such hazards allows you to make an informed decision on whether to buy the home.

5. Evaluation of sundry structures

The building itself is not the only part of a property that may need the keen eye of a building inspector. Did you know sundry structures such as sheds and patios also have to be examined?

Local council regulations often dictate where these structures can be built, and so purchasing a building that does not conform to these regulations could mean you need to tear down one of these structures, which would be particularly bad news if their existence was a major reason behind your initially putting in an offer.

How long does a building inspection take?

A pre-purchase building inspection usually takes between one and two hours, although most companies will require a few days notice to conduct an inspection. Once the inspector has completed the assessment, they will produce a written report of their findings.

Some companies guarantee to provide clients this report within 24 hours of the inspection, while others will take a few days to deliver the document.

Should the inspection flag any particularly worrying issues, it’s advisable to commission a more detailed assessment from an appropriate expert, such as a plumber, electrician, or engineer, before making a final judgment call.

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