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What checks should you conduct before buying a property?

By Andrew Bell

Are you getting ready to buy a residential property? Before you sign any contracts, make sure you’re buying a property that is structurally sound, doesn’t have any asbestos or pest problems and has been properly maintained. Getting these assurances will require several inspections, and can add to the cost of buying the home, so be prepared. Keep in mind that careless or insufficient inspection can cause significant issues, and lead to a world of headaches down the road. Conversely, a revealed issue before you buy could help you by driving the price down, as you can use the need to fix issues as leverage to get a better deal, then fix the problems at your own leisure.

Personal inspection

When you attend an open-house viewing, you can get a good feel for the property. Look for problems with dampness or mold by opening and shutting windows and doors, checking under sinks and behind appliances, and snooping inside closets. Lift up rugs for a better look at the flooring, and ask if you can peel a corner of carpeting up to see the sub-floor. Try every light switch and take a peek at the fuse box. Check out pipes, plumbing and the water heater, and then inspect roof and gutters to the best of your ability. If everything looks good, your next step may be to hire an expert to assess the property. This is known as a building inspection report or a standard property report.

Professional building inspection report

This type of inspection can be completed by a licensed builder, a surveyor or an architect. They will inspect the property for any structural defects or other issues, and check to see if the building conforms with the Australian building code. Areas to be reviewed include the building interior, exterior, roof, attic, and under-floor spaces, if accessible. Electrical, plumbing, gutters, downpipes, surface water drainage, additional buildings or fencing, and driveways can also be reviewed. If there have been cosmetic repairs made to hide problem areas, your inspector has a better chance of spotting and identifying them, and can save you thousands in repairs. Once you know “the real deal” behind the state of the property, you can negotiate for a lower price. Professional reports are usually completed and delivered before the exchange of contracts, so you can withdraw your offer if serious problems come to light that weren’t disclosed by the seller.

Pest inspections

A pest inspection can save you thousands of dollars in future repairs, and should also be carried out before you exchange contracts. You may be able to get your building and pest inspection done by the same person. They will thoroughly investigate the property for any sign of wood-destroying insects like termites or borers, including existing damage as well as signs of live infestations. If there is damage, you can find out what the cost would be to repair it. If pests are present and active, you can find out what it would cost to exterminate them.

Asbestos inspection

If you live in the ACT, any asbestos survey work must be carried out by a licensed asbestos assessor. Otherwise, asbestos survey work must be carried out by a ‘competent person’, who can be an occupational hygienist with experience with asbestos, a licensed asbestos assessor, or an individual who has undertaken a recognised training course in asbestos identification. Houses built or renovated before 1990, are quite likely to contain some form of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs), which can be costly to remove.

Pre-settlement inspection

Finally, a pre-settlement inspection, also referred to as a final inspection or a pre-purchase inspection, should be done right before you take ownership of the property; possibly on the same day as the settlement. Check that all the fixtures and fittings work, that no rubbish has been left by repairmen or cleaners, and that no damage has been done to the property since you signed the contract.

By performing these checks before you finalise a home purchase, you can reduce the chances of getting saddled with a property that could turn into a nightmare. For help finding your dream home, contact Ray White Surfers Paradise.

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