Inspecting a property

COVID-19 update

Real estate auctions and open house inspections can proceed, but with certain conditions.

See the SA COVID-19 website for more information.

When finding a property you're interested in buying you should inspect it for any indication of repairs, maintenance or other problems that could be expensive to fix.

What to look for

There are a number of things that you should investigate before you sign a contract of sale for a property. Not all problems may be obvious at the time but they could have long-term effects.

When inspecting a house look out for:

  • cracked walls or sloping floors may indicate foundations sinking or that stumps may need to be replaced
  • large cracks could indicate structural problems
  • mouldy walls, lifting tiles, peeling paintwork or pools of water could mean problems with drainage or excessive moisture
  • blistering or bubbling paint, or mud splatters around door jambs and skirting boards could indicate termite activity
  • fretting or cracked brickwork may indicate major structural problems
  • sagging roof frames, cracked or broken roof tiles could mean costly roof repairs or replacement.

The buyer's information notice

Vendors of residential property must provide prospective purchasers with a Buyer's information notice (form R3) (39.7 KB PDF). This notice will help you find out if there are features that could affect:

  • how the property is used
  • your enjoyment of the property
  • safety considerations you should be aware of
  • the property's value.

This notice draws your attention to things you may wish to consider such as:

  • the possible presence of asbestos
  • structural problems caused by termites or salt damp
  • if any illegal building work that you would be responsible for is present
  • if there is a septic tank on the property.

Pre-settlement inspections

The vendor must hand the property over to you in the same condition it was in when you signed the contract of sale. You are entitled to make it a stipulation in the contract of sale that you will carry out a pre-settlement inspection. This can be done at any reasonable time one week before settlement.

Building inspections

It is strongly recommended that you make the sale of a property subject to receiving a satisfactory building inspection report. You should organise for this to be conducted by a professional. Surveyors, architects or building consultants can carry out a building inspection.

The building inspection report will detail any potential repairs or maintenance that may be required and give an estimate of how much these are likely to cost.

If you suspect that the property shows evidence of termite activity you can make the sale subject to a satisfactory report from a licensed pest inspector.

If you suspect there are serious structural problems you can make the sale subject to a satisfactory report from a structural engineer.

If the property has recently been renovated or extended you can contact the local council to ensure that planning permission was given and that these additions are legal.

Any illegal building work, including additions and alterations, will become your legal responsibility if you buy the property.

Other things to check

Many people don't notice the imperfections in their new home until after they have moved in. Some of these can be minor problems but others can be costly to repair or replace.

Other things to check include:

  • is there a TV aerial point inside, or a satellite or cable connection outside
  • where are the phone points
  • check that the electric sockets work, where they are and how many of them there are
  • check that all the light switches work
  • run the shower, flush the toilets and run the taps - do the pipes rattle, water that is discoloured or rusty could indicate rusting in the pipes
  • are the downpipes and gutters in good repair
  • are there energy or water saving features - eg solar panels, rainwater tanks
  • are trees growing too close to the building - roots can cause structural problems and can clog water and sewerage pipes
  • are there stains on the ceilings, internal or external walls
  • are there any common walls shared with a neighbour
  • investigate what is underneath carpets, rugs and linoleum
  • is there air conditioning - where are the vents and do they work
  • is there heating and does it work
  • are there any fireplaces - do they work or are they sealed
  • does the hot water system work and how long does it take to heat up
  • do doors and windows open and close properly or are they warped
  • are there patches of new paint or plaster - these could indicate problems that have recently been repaired
  • are tiles, walls and floors smooth and level
  • ask to see behind large pieces of furniture or wall hangings, particularly if they seem to be in an odd place.

Contact CBS

Online: Contact CBS

Phone: 131 882

GPO Box 1719
Adelaide SA 5001

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Page last updated 23 June 2020

Provided by:
Attorney-General's Department
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