18.11
2020
Buyer beware: a home buyer’s nightmare thwarted in the nick of time

Buyer beware: a home buyer’s nightmare thwarted in the nick of time

When Maria and her husband inspected a 50-year-old home on the market in Sydney’s south west, they expected to come across some flaws and imperfections – after all, it was an ageing property. It wasn’t until they read about a myriad of costly and challenging gremlins in a pre-purchase inspection report that they pulled up stumps on the sale.

Their experience underscores the importance of building inspections in the home buying process. Skipping that step could have grave consequences – as the couple almost discovered.

A cautionary tale for house hunters

House hunting on behalf of her brother-in-law, Maria didn’t think twice when the solicitor recommended an independent inspection. “I wouldn’t spend a bundle of money without one,” she said of the pre-purchase inspection. And she’s not wrong: NSW Fair Trading recommends obtaining a building inspection before exchanging sale contracts to identify any major problems and determining how they will affect the property over time.

As part of the conveyancing process, the couple engaged SJN Building Consultants to conduct the pre-purchase inspection – a written assessment of the property’s condition by a qualified inspector.

It turned out to be a wise move considering the report unearthed significant structural issues lurking within. These included gaps between the eave trims and brick walls as well as the window openings – a clear sign of structural movement. Dampness in the subfloor of the home was also discovered as well as evidence of timber fungal decay in the stair treads, deteriorating retaining walls and cracked roof tiles.

The report concluded the overall condition of the house compared to others of similar age and type was below average.

Once bitten twice shy

Maria said she was “shocked” by the contents of the pre-purchase report. It recommended a consult with a structural engineer before proceeding further – a cost Maria said would mount into the thousands of dollars.

“If the report found a number of minor defects, we could come to some sort of agreement with the vendors but this was not the case. What we were seeing were major structural issues that required us to engage an engineer which would have set us back several thousands of dollar,” she said.

“It’s incredible because what we picked up looking at the house as lay people was very different to what an experienced inspector found. Looking at the photographs in the report and seeing these major flaws was a shock.”

The couple continued their search and, when they found what they believed was the perfect home, they didn’t hesitate booking another building inspection. Only minor defects were found in this second property so the parties negotiated, settled on a sale price and contracts were exchanged.

Forewarned is forearmed

“The cost of purchasing a home, whether it is your first or third or you are downsizing, you’re outlaying hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Maria said. “To skimp on the cost of an inspection is ludicrous.”

Her advice? “Anyone making such a huge investment should always have a pest and building inspection done.”

Without an inspection report, you run the risk of incurring the expensive cost of repairs – something Maria’s brother-in-law would have found out the hard way.

Shinning a spotlight on the hidden unknowns

A pre-purchase property inspection is just as the name suggests – an inspection of the property before you sign on the dotted line. Consider it a safety net against having to fork out large sums of money to rectify major defects that may not be discovered until it’s too late. Fortunately for Maria’s family, an inspection by a qualified inspector who is trained to know where to look and what to look for helped them avoid a nasty surprise.

SJN Building Consultants use licensed builders to carry out property inspections. They are skilled at detecting problems that are not visible to the untrained eye.