A building and pest inspection, which is a normal part of the conveyancing process, will identify any major structural defects to the house, but you can take some extra steps to ensure what you think you are buying is what you actually receive.
A good tip is to conduct an inspection of the property before you sign the contract and check in careful detail exactly what condition the house is in. There’s no harm in taking a camera and shooting lots of pictures. Look for any holes in walls, missing pavers, cracks and especially chattels. Chattels are the permanent fixtures of the house and should remain a part of the house as ownership changes. Be sure to clarify exactly what fixtures are to be included with the property, such as a dishwasher, light fittings, blinds and TV aerials.
A lawyer can prepare a special condition to be inserted into the contract detailing exactly what fixtures are included in the sale if you’re in any doubt.
As part of your inspection, ensure that any fixtures are in good working order; try flicking on all the lights, turning on the taps, or starting the dishwasher quickly. If you find something isn’t working then you should notify the seller’s agent straight away and don’t sign the contract until it’s fixed or you’ve spoken to your lawyer.
Once you’ve conducted this inspection and are satisfied with all the results and any other issues are sorted out, you can sign the contract. A few days prior to settlement, attend the property again to conduct a pre-settlement inspection. This is your chance to check over the property before the sale is finalised to ensure everything is as you thought it would be.
Go through the property again as you did before and check that no new damage has occurred and that none of the fixtures are missing. Remember to check everything is still in good working order. If you find any issues then raise them with your lawyer straight away. Usually pre-settlement negotiations by your lawyer can sort a problem out. If not your lawyer can advise you on your rights, any possible legal action that can be taken after settlement has occurred, or if settlement needs to be delayed.
It’s all about conducting due diligence and liaising with your lawyer to ensure that nothing creeps up on you by the time settlement comes around.