A building inspection is an essential step to take before purchasing a home. An experienced building inspector can draw your attention to any existing or potential problems, like signs of water damage or structural problems. Being aware of these issues before you buy can help you when negotiating the price. It will also help you to understand what kind of expenses you can expect for repairs or ongoing maintenance. In extreme cases, a building inspection might convince you to walk away from the property all together, potentially saving your tens of thousands of dollars on repairs.
While a building inspection report will outline the problems with the property, asking your inspector the right questions will help you understand the inspector’s findings and get the most out of the inspection.
Here are some of the most important questions to ask your building inspector.
What condition is the roof in?
You can learn a lot about a home’s current state from its roof. Is there evidence of holes or leaks? What condition is the guttering in? Does it look like it’s been cleaned and well maintained? Water that gets in through a roof can cause mould to spore, damage ceilings and walls, and even weaken the structures of the building. Besides the potential for costly water damage, roof repairs themselves can be extremely expensive. Listen closely to the inspector’s report on the roof.
What condition are the electrics in?
A poorly maintained or outdated electrical system can be a safety risk as well as a building code violation. It can also be incredibly expensive and complex to update an old electrical system. Ask about the condition of the meter box and age of the circuit breakers. Find out if the wall outlets and light switches are up to date and in working order. If your inspector has any doubts about the electrical system, it might be worth getting a licensed electrician in to do a pre-purchase electrical inspection.
What condition is the plumbing in?
Like the electrical system, any plumbing problems can be dangerous and costly to repair. However, since most of the plumbing system is hidden inside the property, it can be difficult to determine the condition of the pipes.
What your inspector can do is check for leaks, look for evidence of water damage, test the water quality and water pressure and check all the plumbing fittings. If there is any evidence of, or even suspicion of, damage to the plumbing, it’s advisable to get a plumber in to properly check the plumbing.
Is there evidence of recent modifications or renovations?
Recent modifications and renovations can be a good or a bad thing. A good renovation means that everything will be brand new, clean and in good condition. However, often vendors will carry out quick cosmetic modifications to hide defects or more serious problems.
Talk to your inspector about any recent renovations. Find out what has been done and how long ago. Is the work professional and up to code? Are the materials good quality? Is the work disguising any significant building defects?
Quick renovations don’t tend to wear well, and you may find yourself having to repair a recent renovation only a few months after moving in.
What should I fix before I move in? Do I need to call a professional?
The inspector may note certain problems on their report that you are happy to live with or repair. However, ask the inspector about whether these problems should be dealt with before you move in. Some may seriously affect your wellbeing, like mould, or others may be more of a mild inconvenience, like a blind that doesn’t work.
When speaking with the inspector, ask them to specify if a professional should complete the work or if it’s a task anyone could do. The last thing you want to do is make the problem worse by inexpertly trying to repair it yourself.
Most reputable building inspectors are also registered builders and should be able to give you ballpark cost estimates for the repairs.
Would you expect to see this in other houses?
A good way to gauge if the home you’re interested in has been well maintained is to ask if the inspector would expect to see the issues they’ve noted in similar homes in the area. For instance, some areas may be more susceptible to damp and mould, in which case it may be a common environmental issue in the area. However, if the area isn’t prone to moisture problems, then any signs of damp in the property could be the result of costly moisture damage.
If the problem isn’t common in your area, then be cautious about buying the property. It’s likely the home has not been well maintained and there will be more issues that need fixing.
Ask about anything you didn’t understand
Finally, while the property is still fresh in the inspector’s mind, get them to clarify anything you didn’t understand. They may have used jargon or assumed you didn’t need a more thorough explanation. There are no silly questions when you’re buying a new home.
The best way to make an informed decision when it comes to buying property is to listen to an independent building inspector. Their report will be unbiased and provide you with a clear picture of exactly what you’re buying. Ask as many questions as you can think of to get the most out of the inspector’s expertise.