Inspecting Building Inspections: Worth it, or not?

13 Jul 2023 The Lodge Real Estate Team


Buying property is one of, if not the largest, purchases most of us will ever make. It pays to make sure your dream home won’t turn into a nightmare down the track with a pre-purchase building inspection.

In one of our episodes of Home Truths, Hamilton-based building inspector Ryan Gulbransen and Lodge lifestyle and residential sales consultant Neil Archer – also a former builder – tell you all you need to know about building inspections – and yes, they’re worth it. Read on to find out for yourself.

Why bother with a building inspection?

Building inspections are often referred to as “contentious”, with many citing them as unnecessary and a waste of money – especially if you’ve got a handy dad or a builder mate who can eyeball a property for you. But the industry has evolved massively in the past 10 years, says Ryan.

“Basically, your dad or your mate having a look at the house you want to buy isn’t going to cut it anymore. Having a ‘general’ look isn’t enough.”

He says events over the past 20 years, such as the leaky homes crisis, has meant banks want to ensure the money they’re lending in home loans is protected, and to do that, they want written evidence from a qualified building inspector.

“And a building inspection is key for a buyer. It identifies key areas of risk that may be present in the property, and a trained and qualified building inspector is going to have the relevant tools to assess that risk and give you the right information you need to make an informed decision. They also know exactly what to look for that will satisfy the bank’s need for assurance in their lending,” he says.

Knowledge is power

At the end of the day, all houses will have something, and a building inspection will make visible what that something is, and help you as a buyer weigh up the costs of taking on any potential work in respect of your financial situation.

“Every house needs maintenance of some kind, you can’t let a house sit for decades and not need to do something to it, whether that’s a repainting job or fixing moisture damage. A building inspection will lay those things on the table and help you decide what issues are you comfortable with, what can you cope with financially?” says Ryan.

The report may even uncover issues the vendor is unaware of, so a buyer can take a look at those and decide if they want to take it on or go back to the vendor to get it repaired or come to another agreement, perhaps by taking some money off the asking price.

What does an inspection cover?

You may be surprised to learn that a building inspection looks at the property as a whole, not just the physical house itself.

“We look at the location of the house on the property, as certain locations can influence how a house ‘performs’. For example, is the house located near a gully or at the top of a hilly section, is it ground level, or on piles? Where does rainfall go?” Ryan says.

“Some things you might not think are issues can be influential in the overall condition of a house. For example, some houses built in a certain era have gardens and vegetation right up to the house and at times this can pose a problem where if it’s coming up against a certain cladding that can’t ‘breathe’, you could get a moisture problem.”

Building inspectors will also get under the house to look at foundations and piles, assess the exterior, the roof, and inside to assess the house’s overall condition.

Some inspectors may or may not include ‘extras’ in their reports, and Ryan says it’s worth asking if they can include moisture and asbestos testing.

While a building inspection report is thorough, Ryan says it’s no crystal ball. “All we can do is present the issues and information as we find them and our advice on what to do next. We can’t solve the problem or tell you how much it’s going to cost.”

Are all building inspectors created equal?

The short answer is, no.

The building inspection industry isn’t regulated, but it’s worth it in the long run to find an inspector who is qualified and belongs to a reputable industry body such as the Building Officials Institute of New Zealand (BOINZ) or the New Zealand Institute of Building Inspectors (NZIBI). There are also Residential Property Inspection Standards in New Zealand that must be followed, which outline what a report must cover in an inspection.

“And because a bank is likely to want a building inspection to satisfy their lending, nine times out of ten it won’t be OK to have your mate who’s a builder say it’s fine, they’ll want a professional’s opinion.”

So, it's not all a waste of money and time?

Neil says relative to the cost of purchasing a property, a few hundred dollars on a good building inspection is money well spent, and very rarely would you find nefarious vendors trying to discourage them.

“I think if any real estate agent saw that happening, they’d very quickly point out any potential buyer would be getting a building inspection and that it would be uncovered – it’s better to take care of it or disclose it upfront.

“I’ve been involved in many sales where a building inspection has been a positive way of resolving issues, usually where an issue has been presented with the house and the vendor has either agreed to fix it or come down in their asking price.

“At the end of the day, a building inspection won’t tell you how much something costs to fix, but it is a very useful piece of information to have when you’re buying a home.”

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