By Julian

 

“Should I get a building inspection?” 

I always wonder if this is a rhetorical question when I hear it. 

Take the scenario of buying a used car as an example. You search for a suitable vehicle, select one from a short list, you test drive it, the seller seems like a genuine person, everything’s looking great….until you realise the vehicle doesn’t have a Road Worthy Certificate and there is no record of servicing.  

The RWC acts as a quality approval seal that guarantees the vehicle is free of any defects.  When one is not provided, our natural tendency is to doubt the quality of the vehicle. 

By comparison, purchasing real estate – probably one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make – operates under a “Buyer Beware” arrangement where sellers are not under any obligation to check or disclose the existence of any faults or hazards associated with the property. Legislation protects the seller if any concealed defects are found after settlement. 

Think of a professional building inspection as the RWC that provides peace of mind before you make a commitment. 

For the most part, sellers and agents want to do the right thing when selling a property. They’ll make some cosmetic enhancements to the property to make it look attractive to prospective buyers. But sometimes, what you get isn’t always what you see and only after you’ve made a commitment, you discover the cracks underneath the shiny surface. 

 

The value of good advice 

Take a recent, and very common, case study of ours as an example of this playing out in the market. 

We recently engaged our go-to building and pest inspector, Brett White from Inspect East, to take a look at a property we were considering for one of our clients. 

Brett’s first impression was positive; from the street, it appeared as a well presented and cared for home. The roof coverings had been recently replaced and were in near new condition. So far so good.  

As he continued the inspection, Brett discovered that certain areas of the property had been concealed in an unusual way. 

The roof void area had been sealed shut and painted over.

Carpet had been glued down over the garage floor area. 

And there were some abnormal cracks in one of the external walls.  

As the inspection progressed, Brett and his team discovered the concrete slab footing had subsided by 80mm causing the floor in the lounge room to be uneven.  

The shortcomings of this property were very cleverly disguised in an effort to outsmart the untrained eye. Gluing carpet to garage floor concealed cracks and movement in the concrete foundation; cracks in the brick work were concealed very well, masking signs of significant movement; and gaps in the ceiling had been sealed and painted over, obscuring substantial structural damage. Over time, this would lead to drainage issues with excess moisture eroding the structural integrity even further.  

 

Buyer beware 

Eventually, this home would have to be knocked down with a huge cost implication to our client. Naturally, we advised against a purchase but unfortunately, the house did end up selling for more than it was worth and will likely cost the new owner a lot of money in the long run.  

If you’re entering the property investment market, or even if you’re experienced at it, ask yourself, is taking a short cut really worth it in the long run?  

The few hundred dollars you spend on an inspection could save you tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars down the track. Be smart, take advantage of the availability of services that specialise in helping you make an informed decision and always insist on a ‘subject to building inspection clause’ in the contract of sale.