CRACKING: IS MY HOUSE ABOUT TO FALL DOWN?

CRACKING: IS MY HOUSE ABOUT TO FALL DOWN?

You’re sure it wasn’t there when you looked yesterday! Something must have happened during the night and now a long, spidery vein is inching its way across the dining room wall. It seems to be spreading even as you stare at it! So what does it mean and how can it be fixed? Is the house about to fall down?

First of all, don’t panic! A crack, while unsightly, does not generally indicate a major structural problem and in most cases, requires only cosmetic attention. And fortunately, there are a number of basic remedies you can adopt. To assess the most appropriate solution, it’s useful to understand what you are dealing with and this article is intended to outline some of the more common problems we find here in Australia.

It would help too to engage the services of a property inspector or structural engineer, as they can ascertain the cause and extent of the problem and give you some professional advice on the next steps to take.

So What Causes Cracking?

Movement in a building or in paving can occur as a result of a number of factors. These can include ground movement and changing conditions in the environment, ageing of the building, poor structural design or substandard workmanship. Basically, when movement occurs, a rigid building is not flexible enough to bend without fracturing.

So let’s look at some of the main causes in more detail.

1. Ground Movement/Changing Environment

The foundations of your house are the actual soil and rock material on which your house is built, i.e. not the house structure itself. Foundations can be affected by changes in temperature, moisture and loads from the structure above.

The foundations consist of either ‘reactive’ or ‘non-reactive’ material. Reactive soils are the clay soils and black earth which are known as ‘plastic’ because they shrink or swell according to the level of moisture content. Non-reactive soils are sands, silt and gravel. These materials don’t suffer moisture changes but can be more susceptible to load-bearing failure.

Up to about 90% of all cracking in houses is due to changing water content in reactive soils and subsequent ground movement. A few of the main culprits for this include:

Trees and Shrubs
The fine root systems of trees and shrubs draw on the moisture in the foundations and cause the soil to shrink and settle. This, in turn, creates movement in the house structure and subsequent cracks in the masonry or brickwork.

As a rule of thumb, a typical tree will spread for a horizontal distance equal to its vertical height. Where there are a row of trees, the distance is 1.5 x the height. The amount of water drawn from the soil is therefore quite considerable. Conversely, when you remove established trees and shrubs, the foundation soil will reabsorb lost moisture and start to expand, and this again creates movement.

Climate
Long dry summers and cold wet winters create ‘saucer’ effects in the foundations. Australia suffered through nearly 10 years of continuous drought, with the result that the earth had been parched, with little opportunity to restore its moisture balance. This has been exacerbated by the sudden change to cold wet weather and the soil now being continually wet.

Saucer effects in the foundations can cause external walls of a building to rotate inwards at the top, internal walls can develop cracks, and floors become spongy as the sub-floor structures sink below the supporting bearers.

Surface Run-off
The run-off from raised street and footpath levels, stormwater, or blocked and leaking downpipes can cause washout of the soil or foundation saturation.

Garden Sprinkler Systems
Excessive wetting of the soil by garden sprinkler systems close to external walls can cause problems. So too can blocked or leaking downpipes and stormwater drains.

Uneven Settlement
This is usually a problem associated with relatively new buildings, where cracking has occurred because of differential movement of foundations and stress on the building. It can also be as a result of building on filled ground, where compaction of the fill has not been adequate, or building on variable foundations, such as those composed partly of clay and partly of rock.

A classic example too is when a new extension is added and the new addition has settled with soil consolidation, causing cracks to form between sections of a building.

Excessive Vibration
Vibration damage, such as that caused by earthquakes, heavy traffic, or from significant earthworks can cause foundations to move if the vibration is severe enough. Cracking would occur as a result and show up irregularly in the building structure.

2. Ageing of the Building

All buildings settle when they are first constructed but this shouldn’t have a significant effect on the building itself, provided the footing/slab design has been adequate. However, if the bracing and support in the formwork during slab construction is insufficient, it can result in movement while the concrete is green, and for cracking to occur.

As buildings age and adjust to environmental conditions, there will naturally be some shrinkage and warping which can cause cracks in plasterboard and minor crazing. Cracking in solid plaster is commonly associated with movement of backing material, which will cause the loss of adhesion. This loss of adhesion, or ‘drumminess’, is generally caused by the use of incompatible coatings with different shrinkage rates and is the most common problem in old plaster work.

3. Poor Structural Design or Workmanship
Unfortunately, poor design or workmanship can play its part too in what they call ‘deformation’ of the building. Where overloading occurs beyond the design capacity of a building for example, or where there is inadequate support structures in the roof or walls, or if there is excessive cutting or removal of wall framing for the installation of services, distortion and movement will occur in the building and lead to sagging and cracking.

Cracking can also occur in concrete paving and driveways, where the builder did not make allowances for shrinkage or general movement of the concrete, or used defective finishing techniques such as excessive trowelling.

So what does the Crack look like and how can it be fixed?

The form and size of the crack can sometimes indicate the underlying problem. Cracking can be horizontal, vertical, stepped, cogged or a combination of all these.

As to resolving the problem of cracking, there can only be two approaches: preventing the problem from occurring in the first place or dealing with the cracking once it’s happened.

For prevention, there are a number of strategies that can be considered during the building process. For example, in seaside areas where there is sandy soil and a sloping site, it is smarter to build with suspended timber floors rather than on a concrete slab.

Remember too that bricks are a clay product and have a natural tendency to expand. Expansion joints are therefore necessary to prevent cracking, bowing and arching.

Ground drainage, and surface and subsoil water flows should be controlled, with pipes rerouted away from the building where possible. Careful positioning of trees and consideration of watering systems are essential to prevent changes in soil moisture content.

Once a wall is cracked, it can be difficult to prevent recurrent cracking at the same location. Cracks can either be repaired and allowed to re-crack (to a lesser extent) or filled with flexible sealants to allow for minor movement. Replacing bricks, rebuilding sections of walls or installing articulation joints can also help to control movement.

Considered the most dramatic remedy for cracking, underpinning involves replacing the footings of the building with either concrete, masonry or piles to carry the load of the building down to a more stable level. This is expensive and we would recommend that house-owners seek a professional opinion before committing to this path.

By now, you will be wondering how a building can possibly withstand all these pressures and survive unscathed. But as with any building project, there are myriad factors to consider from the climate and environment through to materials and workmanship. Major structural failures are rare and for the most part, buildings can sustain a great deal of wear and tear.

TRUTH BEHIND HOME INSPECTION

When you decide to purchase or sell a property, whether it is online or through a network of friends or family, one of the most fundamental steps is conducting a thorough home inspection.

Home inspections need to be conducted by a professional that will fully comply with real estate laws and regulations.

It is a home inspector’s responsibility to create a detailed report of the property that allows potential buyers to assess it, without having to visit themselves.

Be present for the inspection

Many individuals fail to acknowledge that home inspectors can help property owners discover damage and other issues that can be rectified. When you hire a professional home inspection service, it is absolutely crucial that you monitor it when it takes place. Delegating this off to a real estate agent may be what many individuals do, but if you do not have a close relationship with your agent, you may be taking on increased risk. Supervising the home inspection process, and understanding how the inspection is performed, will give you a good idea of what you can do to improve the property, as a homeowner.

Do your own research

While it goes without saying that when you hire a professional home inspection service, you should check all qualifications and credentials, it is also important to conduct your own research regarding companies. Qualifications are important, but so is experience. Asking friends and family whether they know any reliable companies, or checking ratings online will hold you in good stead, as you begin searching for a home inspection service. The knowledge of your home inspector should also be relevant to the neighborhood or region in which your property is located.

Calculate repairs

Once a home inspection is complete, it may be beneficial to keep a detailed record of all the damages that the property has sustained. If you are looking to sell your property, this list will help you calculate the total repair costs, and the kind of value you will add to it when repairs are performed. This is equally important if you are looking to purchase property. Repair expenditure must be factored into the overall price of the property. Once you have identified what repairs are to be made, you can use the home inspection service or your real estate agent, to negotiate lower rates with home maintenance and repair costs.

THE 10 BEST PLACES TO HIDE VALUABLES IN YOUR HOME

Burglary is a crime of opportunity.

And burglars don’t want to spend a lot of time looking through a home to find things of value to steal, which is why there are obvious locations that they always check. That means that there are ways to outsmart them by hiding your valuables in not-so-obvious places, and sometimes even in plain sight.

Depending on the size and type of item, the best places to hide valuables are those that burglars don’t want to search through or wouldn’t bother with, including places that are inconvenient or difficult to search, messy, or uninteresting.

Here Are the Top 10:

  1. hollowed-out books. Criminals tend to be uneducated, which is why they’ve turned to crime to make their living. They’re practically allergic to books! But if you have only a couple of books on a bookshelf, this may be a clue that they’re actually hiding places for your valuables, so make sure your library is large enough to serve as a tedious place to search.
  2. a false VHS tape or VHS carton. Who watches VHS tapes anymore? Again, follow the rules above for books. A few can be a clue, but many can be a time-consuming distraction.
  3. false containers in the kitchen cupboard, under the sink, and in the bathroom, such as fake food cans and boxes, false cleaning product bottles, and personal hygiene items, and even in a heavy tub of “cat litter.” Some false containers available on the market today actually look like false containers, so you might want to save yourself the expense and create your own.
  4. in the false bottom or under the plastic liner of a bathroom or kitchen trash can. No one wants to go pawing through your trash in the slim hope of finding something worth pawning.
  5. wrapped in plastic and aluminum foil and stored in the back of the freezer. This is also a good place to store documents and paper currency in case of a house fire.
  6. in a floor safe in the bedroom closet. While this location may be obvious, a burglar would have to exert a lot of time and energy—and create a lot of noise—trying to break into a floor safe, which is also generally of the heavy variety, making it not only hard to open, but hard to steal whole, if the thief had plans to break into it later.
  7. inside a house plant. Using the same method as for trash containers, a plant’s soil can be contained in a waterproof liner that can be lifted up to hide items underneath. Just make sure the items you’re hiding are in a waterproof container, too.
  8. inside a false wall outlet. Make sure it’s not a live receptacle or in the way of any electrical wiring.
  9. within hollowed-out/removable building components, such as wainscoting, floor panels, door jambs, window sills, and cabinet doors.
  10. in the garage inside boxes marked with mundane labels, such as “Xmas Ornaments,” “Kid’s Clothes,” “School Projects,” etc. Again, the more boxes you have, the longer the burglar will have to search—if he’s so inclined—to find something worth stealing.

Hiding Places to Avoid:

  1. areas that can damage your valuables with water or invasive matter, such as the water tank of a toilet, inside a mayonnaise jar that still has mayonnaise in it, or a paint can filled with paint. There are high-quality waterproof containers on the market that will allow you to hide items in water (and possibly other places), but err on the side of caution. Documents, jewelry and electronics that become wet or permeated with chemicals or food matter may be damaged beyond repair in your zeal to outsmart a tenacious burglar.
  2. a jewelry box. This is a good place to store jewelry that you can afford to lose, but not your diamond tennis bracelet or your grandmother’s antique wedding ring.
  3. your desk drawer, bedside drawer, or underwear drawer. Too obvious.
  4. inside CD cases. It’s true: burglars still prefer CDs to MP3s.
  5. inside DVD cases. DVDs and Xbox-type games are worth between $2 and $10 at pawn and re-sale shops; count on being cleaned out of your collection during a home burglary, regardless of the titles.
  6. a wall safe. Unless it’s high-end and professionally installed, a wall safe can be dislodged by cutting the drywall seam around it, and wall safes are typically small and light enough to easily transport off site to be opened later. Opt for the heavier and harder-to-access floor safe.
  7. inside picture frames with false backs/interiors. These tend to be thicker than typical picture frames, so they’re easy to spot as a hiding place.
  8. a cookie jar. Put cookies in it, not your grocery money.
  9. an electrical item or heated area, such as a lamp base, toaster oven, or A/C duct. You could accidentally ignite your valuables and put your entire home at risk for a house fire.
  10. any locked box or locking file cabinet. A box that has a lock on it will be stolen regardless of what’s inside, and the lock on a file cabinet can be popped out with the right tool and a little effort.

Other Precautions

For valuables that you can’t hide or lock up, such as a flat-screen TV, stereo system, and computers, make sure they’re insured through your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. Unless you invest in a home security system (and sometimes even if you do), it’s not possible to protect every item in your home. But you can take precautions to password-protect and GPS-activate laptops and smartphones so that their recovery is more likely, should they be stolen.

Also, firearms should be properly locked in an approved gun safe that is stored out of reach for the safety of the home’s occupants, as well as to deter theft.

Place a pole in the bottom track of your sliding glass patio doors so that they can’t be forced open wide enough to permit the entry of an intruder. Install burglar-proof window locks that will allow you to leave your windows open slightly for fresh air, but not wide enough to allow a person to get through.

Remember that burglary is a crime of opportunity, so don’t tempt fate by leaving any exterior doors unlocked (including sliding glass patio doors, and the door between the garage and the living area), hiding a spare house key outdoors (under the “Welcome” mat, a large potted plant, statuary, or a solitary or fake rock), leaving the doors to your attached garage open (even when you’re home), or leaving the curtains or drapes open so that your valuables are in full view of prowlers and passersby. Your personal safety is at risk as much as your personal property.

Also, don’t over-share personal information with the world by advertising your absence from home on social media. When leaving on vacation, have a trusted neighbor, friend or family member monitor your home and bring in the newspaper, mail, and random take-out menu hung on your doorknob. Install light timers indoors and security/motion detectors outdoors to illuminate your property’s exterior. And go ahead and apply security company stickers to your windows/doors that advertise that your home is professionally protected, even if it’s not.

In short, do what you can to make your home a difficult, inconvenient and time-consuming target that will force a would-be burglar to move on. And do your part to keep your neighborhood safe by reporting suspicious activity on your street to the police.

BENEFITS OF A PRE-SALE (VENDOR) BUILDING REPORT

Selling your house can be an emotional experience. Those ‘four walls’ have housed a lot of memories and you have an investment in the property that goes well beyond monetary value.

The process of selling is therefore a big exercise. Apart from the rather daunting number of decisions you now face – how much, who with, how to – you need to step back and look at your home objectively. It helps to remain detached throughout the selling process. Easier said than done! With your inner sanctum now open to public view, it can be confronting when the response is not as gratifying as you expect. And when a potential buyer arranges a pre-purchase inspection, sometimes there are surprises you didn’t see coming.

To help you stay on the front foot and avoid being caught unawares, it can be wise to arrange your own professional inspection of the house prior to listing – what can be referred to as a “Vendor Report”. That way, you can find out any issues that require attention before you go out to the market. You then have the opportunity to address problems early so you don’t hold up a potential sale. You are also in a stronger position to negotiate the price as you are now fully aware of the condition of your home and can be upfront about any issues. Some situations too may not be as alarming as first thought. You may be aware of cracking, for example, and are unsure about how serious it might be. An inspection may determine that the cracking is only of a minor nature and you can then advise your potential purchasers with confidence. Resi Inspect has a Vendor Report Program to assist vendors through the inspection process. We know the dilemmas and costs you are facing, so we have specifically designed a program to help ease the way.

So What Does A Vendor Report Involve?

A comprehensive inspection will give an assessment of the structural elements both inside and out, as well as the general condition of the property. The inspector will alert you to any areas that need attention and can offer you advice or recommendations as to how these might be tackled. You may want to rectify the issues prior to sale, or instead alert the purchaser and negotiate the price accordingly. Make sure the property inspector you choose is a qualified building inspector with on-the-job experience in the industry. A building inspector has the know-how and the experience to assess a situation and determine whether it is serious or not. They can look beyond the cosmetic, and focus on the structural and maintenance aspects of the building. And most importantly, they will take the emotion out of the equation! They can look at your house with an objective eye and give you a factual assessment so you know where you stand.

Resi Inspect Vendor Report Program

With Resi Inspect Vendor Report Program, we work with vendors to prepare the initial inspection report and then make this available to prospective purchasers on request. In this way, buyers can be reassured in advance about the condition of your property and if there are any issues, these can be clarified by our Inspectors and put into context.

Inspections

We will then arrange a time for our Inspector to meet you at your property and carry out the inspection. Once the Inspector has completed his assessment, he will go through the report with you so he can explain things in more detail and answer any of your questions. Remember that our Inspector is working for you and can help you through the process. From that point on, your real estate agent will be able to promote the report to prospective purchasers and interested parties can contact Resi Inspect to source a copy.

So What Does The Inspection Cover?

Some of the essential items covered by a pre-sale vendor inspection include:

Site Elements

These are the elements in the immediate vicinity of the house, e.g. fences, surface drainage, retaining walls, driveways, garage, carport, shed, surrounding trees.

House Exterior Elements

The Inspector will pay particular attention here to any signs of movement and cracking on the house exterior. Elements would include roof, gutters, flashings, valleys, eaves, downpipes, brickwork, weatherboards, paintwork, weepholes and vents, sills, balcony/veranda.

Underfloor Space

Often there is restricted access to the underfloor space, due to height limitations and services such as ducted heating. The Inspector is looking particularly at the condition of the subfloor structure, footings, stumps, piers, ant caps, the level of ventilation, any obvious dampness, and rubbish that might be inviting termites.

Internal Structural Elements

The interior inspection is extensive and covers ceilings, doors, walls, windows, skirting boards, architraves, fireplace, staircases, and tiling in each of the rooms.

Wet Areas

Water leaks can cause all manner of problems so careful scrutiny of seals and fittings is essential. Specific focus is given to elements in the kitchen, bathrooms, toilets and laundry.

Benefits of a Pre-Sale (Vendor) Building Report

  • Allows you to rectify any major issues (if any) prior to other inspections or reports which may be arranged on the property. This allows you to maximize your sale price potential.
  • No last minute reductions on the buyer’s offer
  • Saves you time arranging access for various companies inspecting your property during the pre-auction or pre-sale period
  • Increased clearance rates at auction as prospective buyers know more about the property and feel safe to proceed

You can be confident you know the condition of your property, and there are no surprises that can upset the sale negotiations. We are able to liaise with your solicitor, real estate agent and the buyer on your behalf to assist in a hassle free sale.

CHOOSING HOME INSPECTION PROFESSIONALS: WHY ARE CREDENTIALS IMPORTANT

If you are looking to purchase or sell a home in the Australia, you will need to engage an experienced home inspector to conduct a thorough job.

Choosing a home inspection service not a decision that you will want to take lightly. The first factor that you will want to look into is whether the home inspection companies that you are looking at perform services that are in full compliance with the Australian Standards.

Qualifications and Experience

While the average home inspection fee amounts to anywhere between $350 and $500, which may be quite steep for some individuals, the value of a home inspection is priceless. A professional home inspection could make all the difference in converting a potential purchase or sale. Nowadays, there are a number of home inspection services available, but not all of these services have the requisite qualifications and business practices. It is the responsibility of the buyer or homeowner to find a service that has developed a firm reputation within the industry for ethical and compliance practices.

The Process

When you first choose a home inspection service, it is wise to ask for references. You will want to discover the kind of experience a home inspection service has, with regard to the nature of the property in question, and their qualifications. You will need to determine their process and the duration of time taken by them to conduct a home inspection. Finally, you will also want to fully identify the cost of the home inspection, and whether the company offers any indemnity on valuation.

Monitoring a Home Inspection

Even though asking for credentials is important, when a home inspection takes place, it is a good idea that you are present to supervise it. Home inspections will usually involve checking the plumbing, structural integrity of the property, the electrical wiring, the roofing and the HVAC efficiency. When these inspections take place, you should be able to communicate with your home inspector regarding any issues or damage that the property has sustained. If your home inspector has experience valuing other properties in the area, you may even want to get in touch with other nearby property owners to find out the average for which the property is being sold.

PRE-PURCHASE BUILDING INSPECTION REPORTS: WHAT SHOULD POTENTIAL HOME-OWNERS BE ASKING FOR?

Home inspectors are required to provide a range of services relating to the interior and exterior of a property.

A professional home inspection does not come particularly cheap in today’s market. Choosing the right home inspector will begin with asking a few straightforward questions.

It is the responsibility of the home buyer or seller to determine whether a home inspection service has the necessary experience as well as skill and knowledge, while also falling within the budgetary constraints. Let us take a look at some important questions to ask home inspectors.

What will the inspection cover?

One of the most important questions you will need to ask your home inspector is if the home inspection will fully comply with state and local property laws. Before hiring a home inspector, you will naturally want to determine the protocols used, as well as request for a thorough checklist of what the inspection will cover.

How much experience does your home inspector have?

In many cases, real estate agents are incented to suggest a particular home inspections service, one with which they might have worked previously. However, it is the duty of the home buyer or seller to ask a home inspection service about its experience, with regard to the property in question, and its location, and their independence. The home inspector must be able to provide a detailed history of the company’s services, as well as proof of qualifications.

Does your home inspector conduct repairs as well?

This is a tricky question to ask because it naturally assumes a conflict of interest. Home inspection services that also provide renovation and repair services, are incented to uncover deficiencies in a property, so that they can offer their repair services to home buyers. While this may not necessarily be a bad thing, home buyers must be wary of this conflict of interest.

How much will a home inspection cost?

Home inspection costs vary greatly depending on the location of a property, its size and other factors such as the breadth of services that a home inspector will be required to perform. While most home inspection services fall anywhere between $300 and $600, determining the actual cost, without any hidden fees, is an absolute must. It should also be noted that the cost of the inspection service does not necessarily decide quality of the work.

INVESTING IN THE RIGHT PROPERTY WITH THE RIGHT PRE-PURCHASE BUILDING INSPECTION TEAM

Though most people get a full home inspection done before buying or selling a property, many are still not aware of what the inspection actually includes and the aspects of a home that an inspector will assess.

Professional home inspections are worth it. If you are looking to purchase a home, a home inspection can be your ace up the sleeve. You can use the report from a home inspection company to drive down the tabled bids so that you save significantly.

That being said, it is important to understand what a home inspection service can offer you.

The exterior

When a home inspector visits a property, he/she will be required to create a detailed assessment report. A home inspection may take anywhere between one and three hours depending on the size of the property, and the location. When it comes to exterior of the property, a home inspector will first go about inspecting the walls of the property. This is important in assessing whether a property may be prone to timber pest infestations or water seepage. A home inspector will also check whether the foundations of a property are safe, and void of any cracks or damage. Grading is another important part of the home inspection process. A professional home inspection service will determine whether the grading around your property slopes away from it. This is important because it will give potential homeowners and buyers a better understanding of the damage that may be caused by flooding. Finally, a home inspector will also inspect the roof to check whether roofing or tiles are secured and safe.

The interior

With regard to the interior of a home, a home inspector will be primarily concerned with the plumbing. An inspector will check for leaks in faucets, showers and other plumbing. Once the home inspection is complete, a professional service will be able to provide detailed information regarding the repair costs associated with a property. However, it is important to remember that home inspection is a completely visual process. Unless deficiencies are visually noticeable, they will go undetected by a professional home inspector

HOME INSPECTION SERVICES THAT YOU SHOULD NOT PICK

Studies have shown that almost two out of every five homes suffer from some deficiency or defect.

Before you consider buying a property, it is extremely important to conduct a thorough home inspection. If deficiencies are not identified prior to purchase, a homeowner may be set back by thousands of dollars, when conducting repairs relating to unanticipated issues. Part of the home-buying process involves understanding what your home inspector will or will not do for you.

Errors and Omissions coverage

Even the most professional and experienced home inspection services can also overlook an aspect of a property, and make mistakes. As a layman, you will not be able to identify if a home inspector has conducted an inspection thoroughly. To avoid paying hefty repair costs, as a consequence of a home inspector’s mistake, you should protect yourself by hiring services that come with Errors and Omissions coverage. This kind of coverage is different from basic liability coverage. With this form of coverage, homeowners will go some way towards getting protection from home inspection mistakes.

Home inspections and repair work

Some home inspection services also provide repair and renovation services. As such, these kinds of home inspectors are far more likely to find deficiencies and flaws in your property, so that they can market their own repair services. The ethical factor involved must be weighed out by the home buyer. While there are numerous home inspection services that go about their services ethically, you should be aware of the risk involved with hiring a home inspection and repair service. Ideally, you would want to keep the two services independent of each other.

What does a home inspection cover?

A home inspector is only required to provide services relating to the immediate interior and exterior of your property. As such, he/she will not consider other aspects of your property such as fencing, or sewer systems. When you are negotiating with a home inspector, you need to identify what exactly the home inspection will include, and what it won’t. In doing so, you will be in a better position to negotiate and drive down home inspection rates.

Home inspectors and real estate agents

One of the most common mistakes that potential property owners and sellers make when looking for home inspection services, is to ask their real estate agents about them. In reality, home inspectors are incentivized towards getting on the good side of real estate agents. By pointing out deficiencies or flaws in a property, they acknowledge that they may be potentially endangering a real estate deal, or forcing price reductions. As such, they also know that if the deal gets canceled, they may not be referred to by the particular real estate agent again. The best way to protect yourself from this kind of risk is to conduct your own research, independent of your real estate agent. 

DO NEWLY DEVELOPED HOMES REQUIRE INSPECTIONS?

Home inspection should be an integral part of the pre-purchase process for any home buyer.

Irrespective of whether you are looking to buy a home that is under construction or one that is already fully constructed and has had people living in it for years, inspections are necessary. From the buyer’s perspective this is not just an additional safeguard to ensure that his investment is wise, but also a means to get an objective appraisal of the home’s viability.

Inspection at every stage of construction  

If you are looking to buy a property that is being developed, the best option is to have it inspected at various stages during the construction. When the foundation is being laid, the inspector evaluates the slab, the drains, framework, reinforcement and foundations. This is also the stage when the inspector may check if termite protection is being provided by the builder. The inspector will ensure that the setback and boundaries are in line with the prevailing legal requirements.

Once the framework is up, the inspector makes sure that the room dimensions and ceiling height are being provided as per the plans given to you at the outset. The next stage is the lock-up stage where the inspector verifies that the roof, windows, doors, brickwork, mortar, plumbing and electrical are all in line with established standards.

Before you take possession of a new home

If you are considering buying a brand new home that has just been completed, a building inspector still has a very critical role to play. Before you take possession, he will inspect the tile laying quality, paint, sealing jobs, door/window installations, woodwork and cupboards, kitchen slabs and so on. Most importantly, the inspector will review whether or not the home has been constructed with first grade materials and in line with Australian Standard and the LEP.

You may be unaware of what exactly these regulations and standards imply, but an experienced and qualified building inspector is fully aware of all the legal as well as safety requirements currently in force. He compares your home against these guidelines so that you do not end up investing your life savings in a home that is unsafe or that has been constructed in violation of the prevailing rules. In effect, whether you are buying a home that is already being lived in or you want to invest in a brand new property, home inspection by an ethical and experienced inspector should be your first step in the purchase process. 

WHAT ARE “VENDOR-FRIENDLY” HOME INSPECTION REPORTS?

The conventional work of a real estate agency involves getting a commission of the amount paid by the property seller.

In NSW this can vary between 2% and 3.5% – depending on where you are. So, when a house is sold for $350,000, the real estate agency can make upwards of $12,000 as commission. There are times when a specific home inspector is referred to the buyer by the real estate agent. At times, even a list of two or three recommended inspectors is provided.

So, the question is ‘who are these inspectors suggested by the agent?’ and ‘what are their qualifications to get into the agent’s list of approved inspectors?’. As a buyer, you may doubt whether the agent is recommending an honest , non biased home inspector or if the home inspector is an ally of the agent in earning the sale commission.

The truth is that a complete and honest home inspection is sometimes viewed as a hindrance to the sale process and the  commission to be earned by the real estate agent. Vendor-friendly inspection reports are essentially biased reports produced by a home inspector recommended by your real estate agent. Such inspectors may not do a thorough and honest inspection of the house being sold to you, so that the deal is finalized and he gets a commission.

Hiring your own home inspector

While it is untrue that every home inspector recommended by your real estate agent would produce a dishonest or biased inspection report. However, it suggested that you do some research and decide to hire your own home inspector based on the recommendations of friends, neighbors, family and colleagues.

If your real estate agent says that you cannot hire an inspector of your own choice, or forces you to pick somebody from the list of approved inspectors recommended by him, chances are that there might be some issues with the property. In such case, you can get in touch with your attorney.

It is quite obvious that if a real estate agent or sales official is making aggressive efforts at controlling the process of hiring an inspector, he has hidden motives which might not be in the best of your interests.

To avoid falling prey to ‘vendor-friendly’ home inspection reports, you must understand that real estate agents get their commission from the seller of the property, so they try to work in favor of a sale. Sometimes they do it by  employing dishonest ways. Similarly, a home inspector hired by you is paid to work in the best of your interest and is likely to give a completely honest home inspection report.

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