Professional check before buying
You have found a home that you are keen to buy and want to take it to the next stage. A professional property inspection is recommended next.
Why have a building surveyor inspect your house?
A professional inspection of a home should identify matters that need attention.
Who are building surveyors?
The property should be inspected by a qualified, experienced building surveyor. You can find one in the Yellow Pages under Building Consultants or Building Inspections.
An inspector should have practical experience in the building industry, be a member of a relevant professional or trade organisation, or hold relevant building trade qualifications.
Members of the New Zealand Institute of Building Surveyors meet these criteria.
Check the person or company you hire has the qualifications and experience to give a report.
Some members of the following professions are also qualified to undertake building survey work:
Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand www.ipenz.org.nz.
New Zealand Institute of Architects www.nzia.co.nz.
New Zealand Institute of Building Surveyors www.buildingsurveyors.co.nz. New Zealand Institute of Quantity Surveyors www.nziqs.co.nz.
Make sure the inspector has professional indemnity insurance to cover legal costs and damages. This is important if you bring a claim against them for professional negligence where you act on advice they give you which proves to be inaccurate.
The four general areas identified in a property inspection are:
Significant defects. Particular attributes of the property. Gradual deterioration. Significant maintenance needed. The inspection is done visually and is non-invasive, meaning it cannot pick up problems behind walls.
Who pays and how much does it cost?
The person who commissions the report pays for it.
It is important that the inspector engaged by you or the vendor is independent of both buyer and seller.
What gets checked?
A property inspection will inspect the parts of the house which are reasonably accessible, as well as those areas that you specifically request.
The normal inspection will cover:
Interior services. Exterior – roof. Roof space. Subfloor. Site potential for flooding. Drainage. Site conditions (retaining walls, trees, or slopes etc). Run-off from adjacent ground. Other buildings such as the garage. Property inspections should include a list of the services, and comment on their general condition. Standards New Zealand has developed a standard for the inspection of residential property.
Contact SNZ for the new standard.
What defects will the inspector look for?
Nails popping. Damaged surfaces. Cracking. Dampness and damp damage. Leaks. Squeaky boards. Rot. Insect infestation. Uneven surfaces. Loose grouting, tiles and sealants. Sturdiness of stairs and hand rails. Glazing.
They will also look at the operation of:
Meter box, lights and switches. Plumbing, for example, toilet flush. Doors, drawers and joinery. Mechanical or passive ventilation. Water outlets. Heated towel rails. Heating.
Residual current devices and shaver sockets.
The meter box will give an indication about whether the house has been rewired or not.
If the house you are looking at has the old style of meter box with old-type fuse fittings (eg. ceramic fuses), it might pay to have the wiring checked by an electrician. Asking for a special-purpose survey Building surveys won’t usually include anything that is concealed, such as the underground portions of the foundations, electrical installations, underground or concealed plumbing and drainage and gas fittings.
Nor will it usually include airconditioning and heating units, pools and spas, fireplaces and chimneys, alarm systems, soft furnishings and appliances.
You can specifically request an inspection of these areas and items.
You can also ask for comment on locality aspects, for example:
Common property areas and services. Neighbours. Sunlight, privacy, views. Noise and nuisance from flight paths, railways and busy traffic.
Soil toxicity, lead in paints, the presence of asbestos, and other contaminants. Security in the neighbourhood. Swimming pool fence compliance. Energy efficiency. Any issues about heritage protection (you can research this yourself at the council).
If you don’t want to do the research at the local council you can ask the inspector to look into any possible illegal or unauthorised building work, such as work done without building consent.
You can ask for a review of the plans to check sewerage and drainage information, and to see if the section had a proper survey.