Inspections and Surveys
Buying a house is probably the biggest financial commitment of your life. Ensuring it is free of infestations or pests and that it is a legally sound is an important part of your property investment. It is important you employ other professionals to conduct checks, inspections and surveys on the property you are planning to buy. Here’s how to go about it.
You can either have these checks done before you make an offer or between signing the contract and completing the purchase. If you choose to wait until after you have signed the contract, make sure a clause has been added stipulating the sale will only go ahead if the surveys and inspections are satisfactory.
Sometimes the vendor will have old surveys and condition reports. These are useful and can speed things up, but you should always have your own inspections and surveys done before buying. It also makes sense to source your inspections independently of the real estate agent’s recommendations. Remember, the agent is working for the seller, not for you.
An organisation called Find Law has a useful website with information about the legal aspects of inspections and advice for buyers.
Inspections can only be carried out by a qualified professional who is a member of the Australian Institute of Building Surveyors (AIBS) and is licensed under the Home Building Act 1989.
The consultant should inspect all accessible parts of the property. These include the following areas:
- Interior and exterior of the building
- Roof space
- The under-floor space
- The roof exterior
- The site on which the house is built. This should include paths and driveways, carport/garage, sheds, retaining walls, steps leading up to the house from the street, fencing, storm water run-off, surface water drainage.
- By law, the Contract of Sale must include a drainage diagram as well as maps of drains, pipes and mains. An inspector should have access to these diagrams
The main priority for inspectors is to check for structural problems with the property and to test for pest infestation (especially termites or white ants).
Termites are a serious problem in Australia and an inspection is essential. A termite inspection should cost no more than $100. A full inspection of the property will probably cost in the region of $1,000.
For detailed information on the requirements of inspectors and government guidelines for their work, see: ‘Section 1. Building Inspection Agreement. Section 2. Timber Pest Inspection Agreement of the Australian Standard for Building Inspections 4349.'
The Australian Institute of Building sponsors another useful site.
You should pay for a survey to check the house is what the owners claim it to be. The most common survey is an Identification Survey (or ID Survey). A surveyor checks that the property you are being sold is the property you think you are buying; in other words, that it is on the correct block of land and that it is in the correct place on the block. They also peg out the land and measure it to ensure that you are getting all you have agreed to pay for. Finally, a surveyor checks issues such as ‘right of way’ through the property.
A registered surveyor must carry out all surveys and the cost depends upon the property's, size, location age, design and complexity, but it should not cost more than $750.
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