There's only one thing worse than losing your dream home because your mortgage didn't come through on time. Missing out on the purchase because your building or pest inspections didn't take place on time feels terrible. But nowhere near as bad as buying a property that turns out to be termite infested.

Building, pest and pool inspections are part of the due diligence you need to do before buying a property. It's an essential step when you buy property and one that will give you peace of mind.

If you're buying property here's what you need to know about building and pest inspections.

1. Do I really need a building, pest and pool inspection?

Yes. A building and pest inspection are essential however it's also worth checking out the property closely yourself. Of course you only need a pool inspection if the property has a pool and a pool safety certificate has not been supplied by the seller.

2. Why do I need both a building inspection and a pest inspection?

Although they may sometimes be carried out by the same company who are qualified as both building and pest inspectors, it's more common for two companies to visit the property to carry out these separate inspections.

A building inspection report is different to a pest inspection report. While a building inspection report should identify any visual damage that may have been caused by termites, it usually won't include details on existing termites or other timber destroying pests.

Here in Queensland it is recommended to get a separate pest inspection report done before you buy a property, in addition to the building inspection.

3. How can I check the property myself before the official inspections?

Doing a property self-check won't protect you but it might make you notice concerns you want to raise with the agent or your building or pest inspector.

When you look round the property try to assess it less personally and check a few common issues:

  • See that windows and doors open easily.
  • Inspect  skirting boards, walls and ceilings for damp or mould. Look out for paint jobs that may have been used to cover up mould.
  • Look out for sagging ceilings or buckling walls.
  • Lift up carpets where possible to check for rotting or damp floorboards.
  • Turn on all the taps and check how long it takes for hot water to start pouring.
  • Flush the toilet to check for running cisterns.
  • Look under sinks and give the plumbing a gentle shake to test sturdiness. Look out for rust and other damage to the pipes.
  • Review the hot water system for size and age, and check for damp in all wet areas.
  • Try light switches and look at the fuse box to evaluate circuitry age and see if there is an Earth Leakage Safety Switch.
  • Look at the general state of the roof, guttering and drain pipes.
  • Inspect exterior walls for cracks and other defects.
  • Ask about the property's energy efficiency rating.
  • While in different parts of the property, listen out to gauge noise levels. Consider what the noise levels might be like at different times of day.
  • Finally not if the property smells or if there are smells from nearby restaurants or waste treatment plants.

4. What is a pre-purchase building or pest inspection report?

A building inspection is just one check you should get done before buying a property.

Your building inspection should be carried out by a qualified building or pest  inspector who will create a written account of the property’s condition.

The report will include any significant building defects or problems like rising damp, movement in the walls (which may be visible as cracks), safety hazards or a faulty roof.

The building or pest inspection should be carried out before you exchange sale contracts so you can identify problems which, if left unchecked, could prove costly to repair.

6. What's the point of getting a building or pest  inspection?

Getting a building inspection report done before buying a property will protect you from risk because it will let you know if there are any problems with the property.

If the building or pest inspections do raise concerns then you can use that information to negotiate a lower price for the property, bearing in mind that you will have to pay to repair the problems.

If you wish, you can also get more specialist advice about major problems and how they will affect the property over time.

7. How do I choose a building or pest inspector?

Always choose a suitably qualified person such as a licensed builder or surveyor to perform a professional building inspection report. They will be able to see through any cosmetic improvements covering faults that might otherwise be missed by an untrained eye.

A professional person will ensure that the format and content of the report complies with the Australian Standard. This is often necessary for mortgage applications.

Make sure that the building or pest inspector you hire has adequate insurance cover, particularly for professional indemnity.

8. What will the building inspector check?

The building inspector should check all accessible parts of the property including:

  • interior;
  • exterior;
  • roof space;
  • under-floor space;
  • roof exterior;
  • building site including garage, carport or garden shed, any separate laundry or toilet, retaining walls, steps, fencing, surface water drainage, storm water run-off and paths and driveways.

You may also ask for a particular item or part of the property to be inspected, such as:

  • visible signs of asbestos;
  •  electrical safety switch;
  • operable smoke alarms.

9. What should I expect to see on the building inspection report?

The inspection report should include the following information:

  • your name;
  • the address of the property;
  • reason for the inspection;
  • date of inspection;
  • scope of the inspection;
  • a list of any area or item that wasn’t inspected, the reasons why it wasn’t inspected and if necessary, a recommendation for further investigation;
  • a summary of the overall condition of the property (considering its age and type) and any major faults founds in the property;
  • a list of any significant problems that need fixing;
  • if necessary, a recommendation that a further inspection or assessment be carried out by a suitably accredited specialist (eg. pest inspector, electricity supply authority, water supply authority, structural engineer, geotechnical engineer, surveyor or solicitor).

10. Do I need to get a pool inspection too?

Yes, unless your building inspector is qualified to check pools you should get a separate pool inspector. Swimming pool problems can be very costly to repair and hard to spot so this is a wise investment before you buy a property with a pool. If the seller has provided you with a pool safety certificate though, there is no need to engage an inspector for the pool.

11. How long will getting a building report take?

Most building inspectors need a minimum of 2–3 days notice to do a building inspection.

When ordering your building inspection report, give yourself enough time to make a decision. You should get the vendor’s permission to have the property inspected as early in the sale negotiations as possible. This will help you decide if the property is worth buying.

There may be little point in spending money on conveyancing until you know the condition of the property.

12. When should I pull out of buying the property?

Most houses have minor flaws but a few may have major problems. Mould, poor electrical wiring or rusting that causes structural integrity to be compromised are serious faults that could be dangerous.
It's not up to your lawyer or building inspector to tell you what to do, but if your building inspector makes you aware of serious problems  you will have to decide whether to go ahead with the sale or not. Your lawyer will be able to advise you on the best way to proceed whatever you choose.

13. How much should  I budget for building and pest inspection?

Anywhere from about $200 for a very basic inspections up to $500 for extensive building inspection reports. Multiply that by three if you need a building, pest and swimming pool inspection. 

Remember that this is not an expense. It's partly insurance that protects you from future problems and partly the investment cost associated with buying property.

Did you know we offer free conveyancing consultations?

Contact us now for informed legal advice on buying or selling property. To book your free consultation outside business hours please use the consultation booking form below or call us now on 1300 224 278.