How to Choose A Great Building Inspector

One of the most important steps a buyer or seller can take during the process of purchasing a property is to book in a building and pest inspection.

how to choose a building inspector

When Should The Inspection Be Done?

Pre-purchase inspections are often initiated by the buyer to see whether a building is structurally sound and free of pest infestations such as termites. This is usually arranged after the offer has been accepted by the seller. Many sales contracts are subject to a satisfactory building and pest inspection.

Correcting significant defects can be negotiated as part of the purchase process.

Buyers at auction should make sure that they have completed all inspections before beforehand as there is no cooling off period.

Building and pest inspections can be ordered separately but both are recommended to ensure that there are no pest problems that may contribute to structural problems.

What Qualifications should a Building Inspector Have?

A professional, certified building inspector will carefully examine the accessible areas of a structure to find out whether major defects are present.

Building inspections must comply with Australian Standard AS 4349.1-2007.

Inspectors must have the experience and expertise to evaluate a property and prepare a report that details the information required in this standard.

An inspector must be a licensed architect, builder or surveyor with experience in the building industry. In addition, an inspector should be insured and indemnified.

What Will an Building and Pest Inspector Do During an Inspection?

A certified inspector will examine the building shell, internal walls, doors and windows, flooring and subfloor area, attic space, roof exterior, electrical wiring, plumbing fixtures, exterior drainage and outbuildings.

The inspector will also look for evidence of water damage or termite activity.

The inspector should tap tiles, turn on showers and other plumbing outlets to look for leaks, check clearances around windows and doors to see if there are signs of shifting or movement and examine the condition of wood timbers throughout the structure.

What Tools Will Be Used During a Building and Pest Inspection

Experienced inspectors use a variety of non-invasive tools to help identify defects that are difficult to find.

Thermal imaging cameras show areas of temperature variations or hot spots that may indicate the presence of termites.

These cameras also show wet spots that may indicate mould or timber rot. Electronic moisture meters show evidence of excess moisture in wood and masonry, often an indication of leaks or rising damp.

Inspection Photography and Videos

Some inspectors photograph the problems identified.

Photographs provide documentation of the extent and type of defect as it appeared at the time of inspection. Some companies offer videos of the inspection.

A video can be a good idea so that the buyer can see what the inspector sees. It also helps buyers get a better understanding of what to look for when examining a property for purchase.

Inspection Reports

A qualified inspector should provide a full report within one business day. Ask to see a sample report.

Does it appear to be comprehensive? Is it easy to understand?

If there are elements that you feel should be included but are not discussed in the sample report, ask why.

The report should list all elements inspected and itemise major defects. Your Inspector will recommend ways to rectify problems.

Reports may range in length between five and 30 pages.

The inspector will use a checklist itemising the elements examined.

Some include a checklist with a range of values that describe the seriousness of each problem. Other services provide a written report that narrates the entire inspection process and the findings.

If you have questions about the report, an inspector should answer them after your review of the information. Some will provide additional comments by telephone.

Questions to Ask When Selecting an Inspection Service

Selecting a pest and building inspector is just like hiring any other professional. Ask for pertinent information and evaluate the appropriateness and professionalism of the response. If answers seem vague or incomplete, ask for clarification.

What are the inspector’s qualifications?

Ask to see the inspector’s license. Talk to the inspector about his experience. Ask how long the person has been in the industry and what are the areas of expertise.

Does the same inspector conduct both pest and building inspections? Does the company undertake more detailed inspections such as for asbestos or mould?

Is the inspector familiar with the area?

Make sure that the inspector is familiar with local conditions. An experienced inspector from the local area will also be familiar with conditions common to the area such as presence of termites, flooding or ground saturation problems during rainy seasons.

The consultant should also be familiar with local codes so that they can address local council requirements.

Do they have a good reputation?

Ask friends and neighbours about people they may have used. Ask the company for references of past clients. Do get their telephone numbers and call them.

Do they offer any guarantees?

An inspection is based on a visual examination and documents the condition of a building at a specific point in time. Some problems may not be visible at the time of inspection.

Inspectors are required to be indemnified. Indemnification is a type of insurance that protects you if you want to take action against an inspector you believe to be negligent.

How much time is spent on an inspection?

A thorough inspection should take at least 60 minutes. Many take up to two hours depending on the size of the property and ease of access to points of inspection. Older houses may take more time.

How much does it cost?

The cost of inspection will vary depending on the size of the property and the type of inspection undertaken.

Ordering both a pest and building inspection may be less expensive than ordering independent inspections.

Typically, each type of report will cost between $400 and $600. A pest and building inspection completed at the same time may cost about $800.

Regional locations that require more travel time may cost more.

A client can specify specific elements to be included in the inspection.

Depending on the complexity of these items, the cost may be higher than a standard report. Be sure to verify that the price quoted reflects all the costs involved such as travel expenses, report preparation and inspection fees.

Will the inspector allow you to be present during the investigation?

Inspectors may allow the client to be present during an inspection.

However, the inspector should not be distracted. Although an inspector may point out specific problems or defects during the process of the investigation, the report should detail all the relevant information with evaluations.

Limitations of an Inspection

Inspections are visual assessments of a property and reflect conditions present on the day of the investigation.

If a house is occupied, furniture or appliances may block access to areas that should be inspected. Some sellers may purposely block access to areas so that they cannot be inspected.

Bad weather such as rain or strong winds may prohibit inspection of the roof surface, gutters or subfloor areas.

Heavy rain and runoff may also affect the ability to evaluate ground saturation levels. If portions of a property are not accessible, the inspector will list in the report all areas that were not included in the inspection and describe why these areas were not included.

If you order a building and pest inspection, you should be satisfied with the thoroughness of the results.

However, because an inspection is based on only what is visible and is usually non-invasive, some defects may not be identified at the time of the inspection.

This is not necessarily negligence on the part of the inspector. Many companies perform detailed inspections that can further explore areas that you feel may be defective.

A well-qualified, experienced inspector should discuss these issues with you.