Buying a home? Everything you need to know about pre-purchase pest inspections

May 27, 2016

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When you’re thinking about buying a property, it’s important to know you are making a sound investment decision… and not buying a lemon! There are two inspections that buyers should commission for any property they are intending to buy; a pre-purchase building inspection and a pre-purchase timber pest inspection.

Why do you need a pre-purchase building inspection?

Pre-purchase building inspections are designed to determine the condition of the house before making a decision to purchase the property, so you can determine if there are any major issues (big or small) that will need to be remedied. Common building defects that are identified during inspections include rising damp, leaks or draining issues, cracked walls (which may indicate wall / soil movement), leaking roofs and safety hazards. Any estimates for repair can then be obtained so that a purchase decision can be made, negotiating on price as required.

Why do you need a pre-purchase pest inspection?

A pre-purchase pest inspection or more accurately a pre-purchase timber pest inspection is an inspection carried out on a property by potential buyers, before purchase. It differs from the standard termite inspection that property owners may have on a property they own, in that it also specifically includes other timber pests including borers, wood decay fungi and mould. The costs in treating for these pests, remedying any prevailing conditions and repairing damage can then be taken into account in negotiations on the property.

Do I need both a building and pest inspection?

It is important to remember a building inspection is separate to a pest inspection. Although there is a bit of overlap in the content of these two inspections, there are some significant differences, which is why it is important to have both a building inspection and a timber pest inspection before buying a property.

Although a building inspection should identify any visual termite damage, it is not specifically looking for active termites, borers or wood decay. More importantly the timber pest inspection not only covers all the same areas of the building and site as the building inspector, but also involves inspecting up to 30m from the main building to inspect for signs of termite activity that may become a future threat to the property.

When do you need these inspections?

These inspections are carried out pre-purchase – before the buyer completes the purchase of the property. This means they are carried out before placing on offer on a property or during the cooling off period. This allows the buyer to re-negotiate the price if required (depending on the findings of the inspection) or even pull out of the deal. If you are bidding at an auction, these inspections have to be carried out before the auction – once your bid is accepted, the deal is closed!

In most situations it is actually optional for a buyer to carry out these inspections, but when you are buying a property for hundreds of thousands of dollars (and often much more!), such inspections are actually vital. It makes sense to spend a couple of hundred dollars on separate quality building and pest inspections, to prevent an investment mistake that may cost tens of thousands or more!

Should you ask for a joint building and pest inspection?

A number of companies provide joint building and pest inspections. As a building inspector and pest inspector go to many of the same areas of the property, when one person carries out both inspections it can save time and often this results in a cheaper inspection for the buyer.

HOWEVER, you need to decide whether want a cheap inspection or a quality inspection. When you are spending hundreds of thousands on a home, you really should be trying to get thorough inspections from the best inspectors available. Typically this means using a building inspection that specialises in building inspections and pest inspection that specialises in timber pest inspections. Apart from the experience and skills that a specialised inspector can utilise, two different inspectors provides two sets of eyes inspecting the property, dramatically reducing the chances of an issue being missed. This gives you increased confidence in the reports on the state of the property – well worth a bit of extra money.

How should you choose your building and pest inspectors?

Don’t use real estate recommendations. Real estate agents often have their preferred building inspections and pest control companies. If you ask, the real estate agent may well pass on their details, although they won’t necessarily “recommend” them, as by recommending them, they take on some responsibility should an issue occur in the future. It is also important to realise that the real estate is acting for the seller, not you, the buyer. As such, some real estate agents don’t really like inspectors who go into too much detail in their inspections, after all the more faults they find, the greater the chance the sale price will go down or even fall through. However, as a buyer these are just the inspectors you want, so it’s far better for buyers to find their own inspectors.

Don’t choose on price. When trying to decide on your building and pest inspectors, find inspectors with experience and those that come recommended, either from friends, work colleagues or through online reviews. As mentioned previously, definitely have two separate inspections (one building inspection and one pest inspection) and don’t choose your inspector on the basis of the cheapest price. A good inspector will take time to carry out a comprehensive inspection and will not undervalue their time and expertise. These are just the inspectors you want when you are making such a big investment decision.

Check qualifications, licenses and insurance. Make sure the inspector is qualified to carry out the inspection and has the required license to carry out this work in your state. (As a general point, pest inspectors need to have a license to carry out timber pest / termite work in addition to their general pest license). They should also carry professional indemnity and public liability insurance for the specified inspection work. A good inspection company will have no issue showing you these documents on request.

You need to have a pre-inspection agreement!

All pre-purchase building and inspection inspections require an agreement to be signed before the inspection takes place. As you can imagine, there is the potential for significant financial repercussions to occur if issue are overlooked during an inspection. As such, insurance companies require inspectors to have agreements in place with buyers to ensure the buyers understands what is and is not included in an inspection and how the company and the buyer are protected. These documents may seem a little scary but get your inspector to clarify anything you don’t understand. In fact, you should be more worried if an inspection company does not require you to sign a pre-inspection agreement.

What’s involved in a timber pest inspection?

It is important to remember that both building and pest pre-purchase inspections are visual inspections, which means inspectors cannot cause any damage to the property or even move items of furniture during inspections. If there are areas to which they cannot gain access, these will also not be inspected. If there are any such areas they cannot inspect, it will be noted in the report.

As a word of caution, sellers will often restrict access or block areas they wish to hide with furniture, to try and prevent issues being detected. A good inspector will be aware of such tricks and will comment on this lack of access in the report and recommend further inspections. Obviously if the inspector cannot access an area, they cannot comment on whether there are issues or not.

Pre-purchase timber inspections need to be carried out according to Australian Standards AS 4349.1. In inspecting for termites, borers and wood decay, not only are inspectors looking for active pest activity, but also they look for previous pest activity, signs of damage, current building faults and environmental conditions that may make pest problems in the future more likely.

In inspecting the property, the inspector should go through each room in turn, as well as spending time in the roof void and sub-floor inspecting each timber in turn, inspect outbuildings, fences and tress up to 30m from the main building. They will particularly look for leaks, drainage and ventilation issues and construction faults, which make the house more attractive to termites and easy to access.

The inspector may use additional equipment such as moisture meters, motion detectors and thermal imaging cameras to investigate areas of concern. However, as it is a visual inspection, they are unable to move items or open up walls to confirm any suspicions they may have.

Termatrac termite detector

Termatrac termite detectors are often used by quality pest professionals

How long should a pest inspection take?

As you can imagine, inspecting each room in turn and taking time to inspect the high-risk areas such as the roof void and sub-floor and surveying the land surrounding the building, can make an inspection a time consuming process. The amount of time taken for an inspection will depend on a number of factors including the property type (does it have a sub-floor), the size of the building, the size of the land, the number of buildings and the complexity of the gardens present. However, it is not unusual for a quality pest inspection to take at least 2 hours for a “standard” house.

Asking a potential inspection company how long the inspection will take can be a good indicator as to whether they are a quality company. Often the real estate agent will be on site with the inspector and they can often try and “hurry up” the inspector, so you need an inspector confident and assertive in their manner.

A great option is to be on site when the inspection is being carried out. Again, good inspectors are more than happy for you to be there as it allows them to point out and discuss any issues first hand, so you have a better understanding.

What’s in the pest inspection report?

The inspection will be a multi-page report (with photos) detailing the areas inspected (and not inspected, with reasons), any areas of current pest activity, previous pest activity, areas of damage, construction faults that may cause pest issues, drainage and other environmental issues. It will also include any recommendations for further inspections and any treatments that may be necessary. Along with all the legal speak, these can be lengthy documents, so talk to the inspector if you need to clarify anything.

At the end of the day, knowledge is power when it comes to negotiating on a property and making a sound investment decision. Getting quality building and pest inspections gives you that knowledge.

If you’re in Melbourne and need a pre-purchase pest inspection call

Specialist Termite Control

Specialist Pest Manager of the Year 2014 and 2015
“You’re in safe hands”

1300 695949

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