Inspect properties before you buy

Why should I inspect the property?

Inspecting a property will tell you about its features and condition and give you a sense of the local area.

You should make several visits to a property before deciding to buy it. If you are inspecting a number of properties in one day, take a notebook and record any identifying features. Ask the agent for permission before you take any photographs.

The first visit will give you an initial impression and determine if the property meets your basic requirements, such as: 

  • location 
  • size 
  • age 
  • access to facilities 
  • style.

Further visits will give you an opportunity to check whether repairs are needed and for signs of any structural problems. For example:

  • sloping or bouncy floors may mean stumps need replacing 
  • damp brick walls can indicate rising damp or salt damp 
  • blisters or bubbles on paintwork can indicate termite activity 
  • cracked walls can indicate subsidence, requiring the replacement of stumps. If there are large cracks, seek advice from a structural engineer 
  • mouldy walls, lifting tiles, peeling paint or pools of water in wet areas can indicate excessive moisture 
  • fretting (crazed) brickwork can indicate major structural problems 
  • a sagging roof, or cracked or broken roof tiles may involve costly roof repairs or replacement.

If the property has been renovated or extended, check the Section 32 statement and contact the local council to find out whether relevant planning or building permits were obtained.

Any illegal alterations may become your responsibility once you sign the contract of sale.

You should also check whether the property is in a bushfire-prone area.  You can do this for free on the Department of Planning and Community Development’s Land Channel website.

If the property is in a bushfire-prone area, the seller must declare this in the Section 32 statement.

Attending an open for inspection

Open for inspection times are usually advertised in newspapers’ real estate sections and on the internet. You may be able to arrange an alternative inspection time with the agent.

When you enter a property, you may be asked for proof of identity and to leave contact details with the agent. This is a security measure.

It is not a legal requirement for you to leave your details with an agent at an open house, but sellers can make this a condition of entry to their property.

Professional building inspections

Before signing a contract of sale, consider engaging a qualified building inspector, surveyor or architect to provide a professional building inspection report.

The fee for a professional inspection service is small compared with the cost of buying a property that needs extensive unforeseen repairs. A qualified inspector will know what to look for and will see through any cosmetic improvements that cover up faults.

Be wary of any property inspection report offered by the agent or the seller. The independence of a report is only guaranteed if it is obtained specifically by and for the buyer.

The inspector will provide a written report listing:

  • faults in the property 
  • whether they can be repaired 
  • how much these repairs are likely to cost.

The report will also highlight any unsafe or unauthorised renovations and/or extensions.

You may be able to use the report to:

  • negotiate the price and conditions in the contract with the seller 
  • develop a maintenance program if you decide to buy the property.

Use an inspection service with full professional indemnity insurance. This will protect you if the inspection misses a problem that must be fixed.

Pest inspections

A pest inspection could save you thousands of dollars in repair costs.

A 2006 report by Archicentre, ‘An analysis of termite damage in Sydney and Melbourne’, suggested that about one in five houses in Armadale, Frankston, Greensborough, Monbulk, Newport, Wantirna and immediate surrounding areas had a termite infestation problem, or showed evidence of a past pest problem.

Last updated: 29/06/2015