Property Home Inspections: 5 Tips Every Buyer Must Know before Signing the Dotted Line

It’s a buyers’ market, and you’ve made an offer on a prime piece of property on the water’s edge. The seller accepted. However, with buying a property, what you see isn’t exactly what you get.

Purchasing a new property is the single largest investment most people ever make, and while the process is exciting, it’s also stressful. If you’re not vigilant, you could easily spend more than you intended, or even worse, buy a grand three-storey home with more defects than the one you just spent a fortune fixing before flipping.

What you see isn’t always what you get

Real estate professionals are masters at staging houses, and it’s all geared toward making buyers see a glamorous property. The house will boast colourful bouquets and glimmering floors and big, clean windows. If the agent is fantastic at their job, you will even smell the fresh aroma of gourmet coffee and oven-baked cookies. You will envision a happy family home with en-suite bedrooms, a sparkling chrome and granite kitchen to whip up meals, a backyard to grow your herbs, and a swimming pool the kids will love.

Buyers are captivated by the superficial that they overlook what’s underneath, like the foundation, wall cracks, mould in cupboards, peeling paint behind furniture, asbestos insulation, dangerous wiring, broken appliances, ancient plumbing, and lifeless trees in the backyard. That is why home inspections are critical.

What is a home inspection?

There’s no such thing as a “perfect” home—just the right one. A home inspection will almost always reveal some issue that needs attention, short term and long term. An essential step in the home-buying process—protecting you, your bank account, and several surprises that your agent forgot to mention, a home inspection report is an examination that outlines necessary maintenance and repairs that affect living standards and quality of life.

Once the buyer has a breakdown of the inspection report, they can renegotiate, fix the problems at their own cost after the sale, or walk away from the deal. As the buyer, you also pay for the inspection report, and if you want to get the most value, consider the following tips.

1. Inspect the inspector

The best inspectors understand the property market and can quickly identify problems. They can determine repair costs and even advise the buyer when to walk away or take on costs. A home inspector can be the difference between financial loss and a happy long-term relationship with your home, which is why you must only work with someone brilliant at what they do. Similar to any other professional, do not hire the first inspector you find—just because the price is right. Vet several local inspectors to ensure they have a track record of thorough inspections.

2. Prepare your inspection checklist.

A spacious kitchen with plenty of contemporary features is a dream of every homeowner. A family living room with a fireplace that will keep your family warm during the winter months and a master bedroom with glass doors that lead out onto a patio and swimming pool can hypnotise anyone into signing the dotted line. But what about the things you cannot see unless you ask? As a high-ticket lifelong investment, your job is to walk through the home and make notes of everything that might be a safety or financial risk in the future.

3. Do NOT overlook structural integrity and plumbing

How old is the geyser, and was the house built on a slab or a raised foundation? A faulty foundation and structure with cracks can cause severe problems down the line, just like water damage. Plumbing and sanitation are also items worthy of a closer inspection. While you may have noticed cosmetic flaws, you cannot see rusting pipes hidden behind walls; old copper or asbestos geysers buried in attics and basements, or aged water systems only months away from a breakdown.

4. Look for signs of infestation

Wood-destroying termites and beetles thrive in warm weather and can cause severe interior and exterior structural damage. If the house has wooden stairs, floors, ceilings, or an attic and basement, get an inspector to examine for termite damage or decaying wood. Should you need an exterminator, it is typical for the seller to foot the bill.

5. Check the electrics

It pays to know property age as this can signal the condition of the electrical box, and repairs required to bring the property up to code. Ensure your inspector tests service drops, conductors, electrical meter and panels, grounding and bonding, switches, power outlets, fuse boxes and circuit breakers. The report, which will come with a cost estimate, will advise you to either replace the electric box, outdated wiring or the electrical panels.

Getting a home inspection on a property that you’ve fallen head-over-heels for can feel like getting a detective to assess someone you’re interested in dating. Insulation problems, shocking plumbing, and shoddy wiring take a professional eye to detect. Knowledge is power, and knowing more about the ins and outs of your dream home not only tells you exactly what you’re entering into, but it saves you heartbreak and loads of cash down the line.