Inspect properties before you buy

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Why should I inspect the property?

Inspecting a property will tell you about its features and condition and give you a sense of the local area.

You should make several visits to a property before deciding to buy it. If you are inspecting a number of properties in one day, take a notebook and record any identifying features - make sure you ask the agent for permission before you take any photographs.

The first visit will give you an initial impression and determine if the property meets your basic requirements, such as:

  • location
  • size
  • age
  • access to facilities
  • style.

Further visits will give you an opportunity to check whether repairs are needed and for signs of any structural problems. For example:

  • sloping or bouncy floors may mean stumps need replacing
  • damp brick walls can indicate rising damp or salt damp
  • blisters or bubbles on paintwork can indicate termite activity
  • cracked walls may indicate issues such as the house sinking, requiring the replacement of stumps. If there are large cracks, seek advice from a structural engineer
  • mouldy walls, lifting tiles, peeling paint or pools of water in wet areas can indicate excessive moisture
  • fretting - where the mortar between the brickwork falls out - can indicate major structural problems
  • a sagging roof, or cracked or broken roof tiles may involve costly roof repairs or replacement
  • materials containing asbestos - if these are damaged or deteriorating, they will need to be repaired. For more information, visit Asbestos Victoria.

If the property has been renovated or extended, check the Section 32 statement and contact the local council to find out whether relevant planning or building permits were obtained for the works.

Any illegal alterations may become your responsibility once you sign the contract of sale.

You should also check whether the property is in a bushfire-prone area. To find out, visit Property and land titles.

If the property is in a bushfire-prone area, the seller must declare this in the Section 32 statement.

Due diligence checklist

All sellers, or estate agents acting on their behalf, must have our 'due diligence checklist' available to prospective buyers at open for inspections. The checklist helps buyers identify any issues that may affect their decision to buy the property, such as buying into an owners corporation, flood or fire risk, or whether there is insurance coverage for recent renovations. View our Due diligence checklist for home buyers.

Attending an open for inspection

Open for inspection times are usually advertised in newspapers’ real estate sections, in property listings on online real estate advertising websites, on the estate agency’s website, or in real estate apps. You may be able to arrange an alternative inspection time with the agent if the one advertised does not suit you.

When you go to an open for inspection, the estate agent may ask you for proof of identity and a contact number. This is a security measure. It is not a legal requirement for you to leave your details with an agent at an open for inspection, but sellers can make this a condition of entry to their property.

Professional building and pest inspections

Before signing a contract of sale, consider engaging a qualified building inspector, surveyor or architect to provide a professional building inspection report. To find a registered building practitioner, visit Victorian Building Authority (VBA).

The fee for a professional inspection service is small compared with the cost of buying a property that needs extensive unforeseen repairs. A qualified inspector will know what to look for and will see through any cosmetic improvements that cover up faults.

The written building inspection report will list:

  • any faults in the property
  • whether they can be repaired
  • how much these repairs are likely to cost.

The report will also highlight any unsafe or unauthorised renovations and/or extensions.

You may be able to use the report to:

  • negotiate the price and conditions in the contract with the seller
  • develop a maintenance program if you decide to buy the property.

Use an inspection service with full professional indemnity insurance. This will protect you if the inspection misses a problem that must be fixed.

Be wary of any property inspection report offered by the agent or the seller. Getting your own report is the only way to make sure it is independent and accurate.

Consider getting an asbestos assessment done if the property was built before 1990. For more information, visit Asbestos Victoria.

You should also consider getting a professional pest inspection to check for termites or other infestations. For more information, visit Termites - VBA.