The importance of building inspections in property transactions

Whether you are buying or selling real estate the importance of property inspections is paramount in a smooth transaction.

Not being prepared can lead to last-minute disruptions in a sale or purchase and cause major headaches to all parties involved.

For a buyer, a pre-purchase building inspection report (whether it is for a house, a strata unit or a company title unit) is used to ensure that the property is in good condition and does not have any major defects that may affect the property’s value or cost money to rectify in the future.

For a seller, providing a pre-sale building report (including a pest report if necessary) is always a good idea. It demonstrates transparency and honesty on the seller’s behalf and means that prospective buyers don’t have to order and pay for one separately, often at the last minute. Some buyers may still wish to request an independent report, but that is their decision.

There have been cases where the seller has provided the report in the contract of sale as an annexure and included a condition that the cost of the report should be reimbursed by the purchaser. This seems a bit miserly to me. What the seller should do is concentrate on achieving a good sale price through a smooth exchange of contracts and write off the relatively low cost of a building report. The benefits of providing the report in advance far outweigh the outlay involved, so it should be included at no charge.

For buyers it is critically important that they request an inspection report (if one is not already available) as soon as possible once they are interested in a particular property. The process can take two to four days, during which a physical inspection or inspection of strata or company title records is finalised.

I have seen many cases where the successful purchasers of a hot property among several interested buyers were the ones who first obtained their inspection report. Once they were satisfied that the property had no major defects they took the plunge and exchanged contracts.  It often comes down to a race between who gets the report first and is willing to go ahead, not who will pay the highest price.

Legislation in NSW provides a five-business-day cooling-off period from the time of exchange of contracts until the exchange becomes unconditional at 5pm on the fifth day. This short period can be used to obtain a building inspection report, but it is cutting it very short.

In the case of auction properties it is particularly important for buyers to have already ordered a building report they are happy with before they bid successfully on the day (or exchange contracts on the same day after it is passed in).

In summary:

  1. Sellers should attach a current inspection report to the contract of sale (and provide it free of charge).
  2. Buyers should be aware of the importance and urgency of obtaining or viewing an existing inspection report before purchasing a property by private treaty or at auction.


Read more here