Buying a Property - What’s the Point in Getting Inspection Reports?
A lot of people say there is no point in getting a building inspection report because they are full of disclaimers and don’t tell you much anyway. I agree that the reports could be a lot better but these people are missing out on a valuable service.
Building and timber pest inspection reports are the subject of Australian standards and they recognise there are limits on what an inspector can report on. Some professional indemnity insurers are also quite strict about the content of reports. The main limitations to inspection reports are:
1. It’s a Visual Inspection. The building inspector can’t damage the property or anything in it. This includes moving furniture or floor coverings or otherwise doing anything invasive that could cause damage. The inspector is liable for any damage caused.
2. Inaccessible Areas. Sometimes areas of the property are inaccessible to the inspector. This could be a sub-floor area with no access point or a ceiling void with no manhole (or there is one but it’s locked and there’s no key) or a high roof (two storey house) where the only access is from ground level.
Despite these limitations an inspector can still find out a lot from a good look/poke around, particularly in areas that you can’t access. Inspectors find it frustrating to turn up to find access points are sealed or locked as this can mean a return visit is required, which add costs and delays the finalisation of reports. Some of these issues can be avoided with some help from the vendor/agent but most agents don’t really consider the needs of building inspectors when preparing a property for sale.
Buyers sometimes get frustrated if the report doesn’t show many defects - maybe they were hoping for the report to give them some leverage in price negotiations. Generally, a report with a shorter defects list should mean the property has come through the inspection well. But buyers tend to worry that it could also mean a low level inspection.
Whatever the report tells you, you need to discuss it with the inspector. This is important. Firstly, he can answer any questions you’ve got about the report but he can also give you his overall impressions of the property and how he thinks it compares to other properties of a similar type and age. This is a crucial part of the service that is often overlooked by buyers. Make sure that follow up with the inspector is part of the report price – and make use of it.
The bottom line is when you get an inspection report you should also be getting access to an experienced building professional who can give you the benefit of his knowledge and experience to provide you with valuable information that can help you make a very important decision. Those who don’t bother getting an inspection done are flying blind and are missing the real benefits of the inspection process.