If you’re in the market for your first or next property, you know that a home inspection is a must-have component of the buying process.
It is crucial that you familiarise yourself with the types of problems and damages a home may have that could cost you big in the long run. Especially as clocking potential issues before you sign the contract of sale may put you in a better position to negotiate for a lower price based on the cost of repairs.
When you first inspect a property, it is worthwhile considering conducting your own personal property inspection, and then proceeding with a professional inspection if you’re motivated to purchase the home.
This is because if you train yourself to spot some common issues early, it can save you not only in major repair costs, but the cost of a building inspection.
According to OpenAgent, in Australia a building inspection will typically cost you between:
- $200 to $250 for a small apartment,
- $250 to $300 for an averaged sized home in a regional area,
- $400 to $500 for a larger-sized home in a regional area, and
- $800 to $1000 for a larger-sized home in a metropolitan area.
However, it is fundamental that you proceed with a professional building inspection before you purchase any property. Having a trained expert identify complications in a building inspection report before you are the homeowner could save you tens of thousands, if not more, in renovation costs.
Keep in mind that home inspectors in Australia do not cover every single potential issue inside and outside of a home. While they are required to check for major building defects and serious hazards, they do not need to include checks for:
- Issues hidden within walls or the ceiling – this means cabling issues, plumbing or framework will not be noted as they can only access what is open during inspection (such as crawlspaces).
- Inbuilt home appliances, such as the oven and rangehood or dishwashers.
- Home accessories, such as CCTV and smoke detectors,
- Review of compliance with building codes or regulation (if an existing dwelling).
Let’s explore some of the most common property issues that affect Aussie homes, and which issues you may be able to identify yourself on first look at the home.
Common property issues impacting Aussie homes
- Structural issues
Not every structural issue will be visible to the untrained eye, but you should be able to spot some of the more serious problems inside or outside of a home yourself.
Look out for any cracks in the foundations or the interior and exterior walls, which may be a sign of foundation problems, amongst other things. Bowed walls, sagging roofs and non-level walkways (walkways should be sealed and crack-free) may also be a bad sign. Also take a look at the state of the floorboards, if present, and look for any level issues or significant cracks.
Outside of the home, look for whether tree roots or vines are encroaching on the property, including the gutters, as this may create issues with rain pipe drainage, as well as fire hazards. If the home has a driveway or carport, be sure to inspect these areas for cracks or faults as well. A small crack can become a major issue and even a safety hazard very quickly, if not managed efficiently.
And it’s not just older homes that can have a range of structural issues, but new homes may be affected too, with over a quarter of apartment blocks in Sydney likely to have defects.
As you move through the property, you’ll want to check the functionality of any utilities and highlight any electrical issues. This means turning on and off lights and other switches as well as taps in bathrooms and the kitchen. Request to test if air-conditioning, such as ducted or split system air conditioners, are functional as well. While a broken lightbulb is easily fixed, electrical wiring faults may come at significant cost if undetected. Issues such as poor drainage or low water pressure may also be a sign that plumbing issues are present.
- Doors and windows
Be sure to turn a keen eye to the doors and windows of the property as well, including the condition of screens. In Australia, it’s not uncommon for pests such as flies and other insects to come into a home, so having screens on every window and door should be commonplace, and they should be in good repair. Next, you’ll want to look at the door frames for any cracks or if the door is still level to the frame. Further, check that the windows still open and close easily and are moisture and mildew free.
Speaking of moisture-free, checking for mould is a must-do step in any home inspection. This is not just for regions with warmer climates and greater humidity, or homes in close proximity to the ocean, as mould can impact any home. Check in areas that are prone to dampness, such as bathrooms and laundry rooms. Look to see for any recent painting or patching nearby windows or underneath sinks.
A pest inspection will not be performed under a standard building inspection and is why inspectors recommend you also hire a pest inspector for the job. But as you walk through a home you should still look for common signs of infestations, such as cockroach droppings or pantry moths in cupboards.
One of the biggest pest issues impacting Australian homes are termites, with the average cost of termite damage sitting at around $4,500, according to hipages. Ask the real estate agent if there has ever been a history of termite damage a
t the property while you are inspecting it. Keep an eye out for discarded wings by windowsills which unfortunately can be a sign of infestation.
It’s not just the property itself you’ll want to inspect but the neighbourhood as well. If you’re motivated to purchase a property, it’s worthwhile coming to visit the home at different times of the day and week. For example, if your neighbours enjoy throwing parties every weekend, this will not be evident during a midday inspection. There may be other noises that occur at certain times of the day, such as trains or planes.
Buying property is expensive enough in the current market, and when it comes to finding your ideal property to purchase, the last thing you want is for your budget to be undone by steep repairs and maintenance costs. It’s not enough to rely on home and pest inspections performed by the seller, so you should also consider hiring an independent inspection. And hopefully, by knowing some of the key property issues to look for yourself, you may be able to save yourself the financial pain of unexpected renovations.
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