Look before you leap: pre-purchase building inspections

By Lopich Lawyers

For the majority, the most expensive purchase we make in a lifetime is our home. A pre-purchase building inspection assists the individual to make a balanced judgment on whether to proceed with the purchase or not. A pre-purchase building Inspection and report is a useful tool obtained prior to the final purchase of a building in that it can access the structural stability and integrity of your proposed purchase.

While most pre-purchase building inspections consider all areas of the building, and cover structural, non-structural, safety and maintenance items, they also report on insect or vermin infestation, drainage issues, and trees or vegetation, which may be dangerous or may cause foundation problems. A pre-purchase inspection report can also provide cost estimates for repairs which are required to be carried out. It is sensible advice to protect your investment by finding out everything you can about the home before committing yourself to the hidden expense of unwanted repairs.

What are the advantages of having a pre-purchase inspection?

  • To be informed on likely problems and costs.


  • To get information to improve negotiating power.


  • For professional advice and guidance on any particular concerns and advice generally to preserve the condition and structural performance of the building.


  • To get a professional opinion on ideas for extensions and renovations.


  • For peace of mind.


  • To make a better, informed decision, on a property purchase.


  • What is the best time to have a pre-purchase building inspection done?


  • With the exception of properties being purchased at auction, home inspections can be done prior to entering into the Contract (viz:- before exchange of Contracts) or in the case of properties in New South Wales, during the "cooling-off" period or by such later date as the parties may agree. In the case of New South Wales properties, it is now common for vendors to require purchasers to have the Contract explained to them and therefore to waive the 5 day "cooling-off" period. Accordingly, the more common approach is for such inspections to be done both in the ACT and New South Wales prior to the exchange of Contracts. In the case of sales by auction, the necessary inspections should be done prior to the auction date as the successful purchaser will normally be required to enter into a binding Contract upon the fall of the auctioneer's hammer.

    Pre-purchase building reports standards

    Standards Australia outlines the standard required of all builders and property inspectors undertaking pre-purchase building inspections. While Standards Australia is an independent company, not directly associated with government, the Commonwealth and State governments are listed among its members.

    However, the significant role of standards in any country's working and technical infrastructure means that an intimate and cooperative working relationship with a nation's government is essential. To ensure this, a Memorandum of Understanding has existed between Standards Australia and the Commonwealth Government since 1988 that acknowledges Standards Australia as the main non-government standards body in Australia.

    Standards Australia established the Australian Standard AS 4349.1 - 1995 - 'Inspection of buildings - Property inspections - Residential buildings', which outlines recommendations for the visual inspection of residential buildings, including pre-purchase inspections and for the preparation of property inspection reports by builders and recognised property inspectors. It is therefore necessary for all individuals and parties who conduct pre-purchase building inspections to adhere to this set of conditions and recommendations outlined by the Commonwealth Government recognised body.

    The application of the pre-purchase building inspection standard

    Australian Standard AS 4349.1 - 1995 applies to all residential buildings including, but not limited to, the following:

  • freestanding houses;


  • semi-detached houses;


  • terrace-style houses;


  • home units and flats;


  • company, strata and community title units;


  • villas; and


  • town houses and cluster housing.


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