What I DIDN’T know about Pre-purchase Building Inspections

As the old saying goes, there is simply no substitute for experience. It is in the undertaking of an activity that you really get to appreciate what you actually know, and moreover, what you might not know!

After writing about a pre-purchase pest, building and conveyancing for the last year, I actually had the opportunity to put this knowledge to work. You see, in Nov 2021 my partner and I bought a rural-based Queenslander, high on the Scenic Rim in the Gold Coast. You can read about this experience (and what I didn't know about Pest Inspections) here

What is the point of a Pre-purchase Building Inspection? 

Pre-purchase inspections are essential to ensure that you are aware of any major or minor defects of the property you are about to buy. Whether or not the property is brand new or 200 years old, you must get this report in order to safeguard your family, investment and to satisfy lenders.  But, as I have come to appreciate, the building inspection report is a lot more than simply ‘this is good and this needs fixing'. 

Overall Condition assessment:

In many ways, the building inspection is like a school report. It highlights positives, negatives, and potential for improvement and areas of future concern! The Building Report will give you an overall rating of the current condition of the property. In its own words, “The purpose of the inspection is to provide advice to a prospective purchaser or another interested party regarding the condition of the property at the time of the inspection.” Many interested parties (such as the bank) may only look at this overall assessment. 

The overall condition will be indicated as one of the following: Poor. Below Average. Average. Above Average. High. In our case, the 40-year-old Queenslander scored ‘Average’.

So, now we know that the property is not only as old as the author himself (40 years) but also achieved the same sort of school reports that I got as a student: Average! Jokes aside, it is a good reflection of the average condition of a freestanding home in Queensland. Now, sure, it would have been better to get better results, but when you are dealing with older properties - average is good. If you had just received this result from a brand new build, there might be cause for concern!

The Building Inspection will give you a snapshot in time of the overall health of your property. Photo by Toa Heftiba courtesy of Unsplash

A Building Inspection will highlight things to 'look out' for:

Another thing we noticed was the report did not just list what is a 'defect' and what is ‘sound’, but also indicated what could hide a potential problem, or what could become a potential problem for the home in the future. The report lists  ‘Conditions Conducive to Structural Damage’. A clear example of this would of there was a small oak tree growing within a metre of a property outer walls. Sure, it may not be causing any issues now, but in time, the root system could extend and cause serious structural damage.

A Building Inspection will highlight things that you can’t see which could require further review: 

The inspector can NOT inspect what he or she can not see or assess with the equipment that they have. In our case, the garage showed “obstacles including concealed internal walls (inspection limited).’’ This means that the building inspector could not make a determination one way or another. On the report, this is listed and says ‘requires further inspection”. 

A Building Inspection will highlight things that are not included: 

There can be many items that are out of scope for a Pre-purchase building or Pest Inspection. For example, the Inspector would not touch the Solar Power System. This will require a licenced electrician. Furthermore, plumbing systems are not inspected. Indeed, the report indicates this explicitly saying “specialist inspection of the plumbing & drainage system is excluded”. 

A Building Inspection is like a visit to the GP - but for your home.

A Pre-Purchase Building Inspection is similar in theory to an overall health check-up at your local doctor. It provides an over-assessment of your health at the time. If there are any problems or potential problems, the GP may offer advice to mitigate these, but if there is something that he can’t see, or is not specialised in, he is going to send you to the specialist to have it checked out.

The same feels true for your home. A builder will not only indicate minor and major defects, but where necessary will make recommendations where further examination would be wise, or simply highlight what items to ‘keep an eye on’.

With a score of ‘average’, our house has no serious problems but has a fair few items for us to watch out for, and one where we need to inspect further.  The key is, we know what we dont know, and now we can find out! 

The overall condition will be indicated as one of the following: Poor. Below Average. Average. Above Average. High. In our case, the 40-year-old Queenslander scored ‘Average’.

Written by Ben Saravia,  

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