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What do you need to know about building inspections?


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When purchasing a property in Australia, a building inspection is such a vital part of the process that it’s usually one of the buyer’s conditions for the sale to proceed. Any major problems with the property can jeopardise this sale. So the inspection needs to take place after your written offer has been accepted by the sellers and your deposit has been paid, but before the contract goes unconditional.

During this time, your current contract to buy the property is conditional on a number of factors that you, as the buyer, have included in the contract. One of these conditions may be that you have time to obtain suitable finance, but another is almost always that you have a building inspection. If any major problems are found by the building inspector, you can either renegotiate a lower price for the property or ask the sellers to fix the problems prior to settlement.

Whilst organising a building inspection before the contract goes unconditional is important, there are three salient points you need to know to ensure that this inspection runs smoothly.

You have the option of selecting your home building inspector

Often, a real estate agency works with one building inspector who can be hired by their clients to perform inspections on houses that they are contracted to purchase. This applies to Switch Real Estate, as to any other real estate business, and our networked builder is highly experienced and very popular with our clients. You can, of course, hire your own building inspector, but often locating and hiring a building inspector, as well as scheduling the inspection can be frustrating and difficult to achieve within your constrained time limits.

Whether or not you hire our recommended building inspector or contract your own inspector, it’s a good idea to attend this inspection, so you can see any problems yourself and ask questions. Sometimes you may find that the seller has paid for a building inspection themselves, hoping to give added confidence to potential buyers. However, it’s never a good idea to rely on a seller’s building inspection, it’s a much better idea to have your own inspection performed.

One last point about building inspections is that financial lenders will often stipulate that a building inspection must be performed to their satisfaction, before they will finalise your loan. So don’t forget to schedule this appointment or you could be left with a house that’s full of major faults, a lender who won’t lend you any money, and a contract that has gone unconditional.

Not all home building inspections are equal

Each building inspector will have their own specialities. Of course, each inspector will make a full and comprehensive scrutiny of the property, but if you want something in particular checked, then look for an inspector with that speciality. Also, you need to make sure that both the interior and exterior of the house is checked, as well as any other buildings on the property. The obvious faults that should be checked include water leaks and fire hazards, plumbing and electrical wiring, and inbuilt appliances and smoke detectors. This list also includes the attic space, A/C units or ducted A/C, chimneys, large cracks in the walls or ceilings, subsidence, leaking roofs, mould or mildew, and any unpleasant odours. If the building inspector believes that there are any structural issues with the building, you will be well-advised to seek the guidance of a structural engineer, which will cost you more money, but will be worth every cent in the end.

Some inspectors will also perform a pest inspection at the same time. However, if you are concerned about termites, always engage a termite inspector, as they are specialists in their field and won’t have any problems identifying old or current evidence of termite activity.

Home building inspections allow you to walk away or renegotiate the terms of sale

If the building inspector identifies major problems that will be time consuming or costly to fix, or issues that you simply don’t want to deal with yourself, you have options. This is why it’s important that you include a building and pest inspection as a condition in your initial contract to purchase the property, because it gives you four options, moving forward. First, you can ask the seller to fix these problems at their own expense, but they can refuse. Second, you can ask the seller to reduce their asking price by the amount it will cost you to fix these problems or a percentage of these costs, but they can refuse. Third, if they won’t share the costs, pay for the repairs themselves or renegotiate the price to where you are comfortable, you can walk away from the contract. That’s why you must have a building and pest inspection as part of your conditional contract. Of course, the fourth option is that you simply proceed with the purchase and deal with the problems yourself, but you do have other options.

At Switch Real Estate, we can help you navigate your way through these negotiations to achieve a position that makes you comfortable and achieves your goals.

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