You've found the perfect home to renovate. It's in the right location. All it seems to need is a paint job, some minor repairs and some landscaping. You've done your sums and you think you can do all your renovations and still pocket $20,000 or more in savings. But before you sign the contract, consider having a building inspector take a closer look at the property.
Or if you're selling your home, it's also a good idea to have a building inspection carried out. If there are problems to be fixed, you can fix them before buyers start inspecting your property. If you get the "all clear" from the building inspector, you have your report to show prospective buyers and avoid one of the top 10 most costly mistakes home sellers make.
What a building inspector looks for
Building inspectors are often ex or current builders who know what to look for and for this reason, they will already be licensed in your state.
Thorough building inspections will include inspections of:
- Property additions and extensions to ensure that they have been made legally and according to Australian standards
- Walls, ceilings and floors for sagging, dampness, mould and leak stains
- Windows and doors to ensure functionality, and for any indication of a sinking foundation
- Plumbing, including taps, toilets and drainage systems
- Wiring and electrical systems
- Retaining walls
- Roof space and exterior
- Any fire hazards and rusting frameworks
The difference between your own home inspection and a professional's inspection is that they know what to look for. If they notice anything, they will include it on their report and indicate if it may be a sign of a more significant problem.
"The difference between your own home inspection and a professional's inspection is that they know what to look for."
By request, they can explore further and look for signs of serious problems. For example, if doors or windows are sticking in one part of the house, it may be because the house is sinking on one side. If there are long cracks in a brick wall, it can be a telltale sign that the foundation is shaky.
Why you need a building inspection
As a home buyer, you'll need (and probably want) a building inspection because:
- It assesses the property and its condition, and tells you whether it's structurally sound or not.
- It will let you know in advance the current and potential problems of the property.
- It may give you a bargaining chip to negotiate a lower price for the property.
As a home seller, on the other hand, you'll need a building inspection because:
- It will uncover hidden problems so that you can make repairs ahead of time, before prospective buyers bring their own inspectors.
- It will help you to create a strong first impression among buyers and give you an advantage during negotiations.
- It will give you peace of mind during the sale process.
- It can help to close the sale much quicker.
How much does a building inspection cost?
The cost of a building inspection depends on several factors: where you live, the size of your property and the number of services the building inspector will need to carry out.
Generally, however, building inspections typically cost:
- $200 -$250 for a small apartment (up to 100 square metres)
- $250-$350 for an average sized 3-bedroom home in a regional area
- $400-$500 for a larger 4-bedroom home in a regional area
- $800-$1000 for a larger 4-bedroom home in a metropolitan area
As you can see, costs tend to be lower in regional areas and higher in metropolitan areas. Regardless of both however, there may be additional charges for extra requests, such as building certificates and pest inspections.
As is true of any trade, it pays to get quotes before you choose a building inspector. Keep in mind though, the lowest quote may not be the best choice. Any quote should list everything the inspector will look at. You can do a cursory inspection of a property yourself. You are paying a building inspector for their expertise and want to know they are taking a close look at the property.
"As is true of any trade, it pays to get quotes before you choose a building inspector."
Also make sure any building inspector you choose holds a current licence and carries insurance. You want to ensure that they are reputable. A trustworthy building inspector will have experience in the area and be able to supply you with references and/or testimonials.
Is a building inspection enough?
Most building inspectors look for repairs that need to be done and structural issues. A few may offer other services such as a pest or pool inspection. You will have to ask about these services.
If a building inspector is not qualified to do a pest inspection, consider having at least a termite inspection carried out. A qualified termite inspector will also be a licensed pest control expert. They will offer a variety of pest inspections. A pre-purchase termite inspection might cost:
- $175 for a 30 to 40 minute inspection. However, this might not be enough time to cover a thorough pre-purchase termite inspection
- $250 will be more comprehensive and be in accordance with Australian Standards
- A termite inspection can cost up to $750, but paying that much may not be necessary
If you choose a $250 inspection, the pest inspector will look for current and past termite activity. They will also look for other signs of decay such as borer decay and wood rot. It may be worth paying extra for a more thorough inspection because you want to know you aren't going to have to pay for structural damage.
"If a building inspector offers to do a termite inspection, it will cost about the same as a quick inspection by a professional pest control expert."
If a building inspector offers to do a termite inspection, it will cost about the same as a quick inspection by a professional pest control expert. It will probably be worth the extra cost to have a more thorough inspection done by an expert. You probably don't need to pay the top rate, but an extra $75 will give you the assurance that you won't have to worry about termites, borers or wood rot.