Things to Look out for when buying a home.

Mr Inspector is a qualified building inspector and has conducted thousands of building and Termite inspections Melbourne wide. 

Do I get a Building Inspection? –  Mr Inspector is in the house inspection industry and you will think “of course he’s going to say you should”.  It doesn’t concern me if  you do or don’t but I think you would be somewhat crazy not to, considering you wouldn’t buy a $20,000 car without getting it assessed.  Any defects found can provide a number of options for you, especially if purchased subject to a satisfactory building inspection. You can request money off the value, exit the contract or have a very good list of things requiring rectification.  Termites is my scariest inspection as i have seen the damage they can do and a building inspector can not afford to miss termites. Houses constructed on slabs get termites as well and people think brick homes on slabs wont get them….they are wrong.  6 months ago we dod an inspection on a home built on a slab in Frankston and the termite damage bill was $148,000.

Termite Issues.

You won’t know a house has got termites.  A lot has to be done to locate termites. They are difficult to find.  If the house is on stumps the sub floor needs to be accessed and thoroughly searched. All accessible timbers have to be tested for hollowness including floor frame, roof frame and internal timbers.  Moisture reading have to be taken in wet areas as active termites emit a lot of moisture. We also have thermal imaging and the termtrac radar meter that can detect termites behind walls.  When looking through the home observe any timbers that appear to have been replaced, including skirting and floor boards, window and door frames.  this can be a sign of a past problem with termites.  Also look at the paving around the home for drill holes every 150 to 200 mm apart and close to the homes walls.  This means a termite treatment has been carried out at some stage.

Drainage Issues.

Drainage at any dwelling should slope away from the home or have adequate drains installed.  A sloped block will have more drainage or damp issues that a flat block.  Water should not flow towards the homes walls or under the home.  Downpipes should be connected so no water flows into the footings and foundations as this can cause settlement cracking.  Any drains around the home should be clear of debris.

The Boundary.

A pre-purchase building inspection does not ascertain if the boundary fences are where they should be. A land surveyor is required to ascertain if the boundary is where it should be.  In some circumstances, over the years parts of the Boundary fence may have intruded into the neighbouring property or vice versa.  A good solicitor or conveyancer will advise you regarding this.

External Walls.

Masonry wall cracking is common in most old homes. Some cracking is major and some cracking is minor, dependent on the width, the location, the pattern and the number of cracks. Too many people si cracking in a home and think is a major issue when a lot of the time it is not.

Rising game is a common issue in older solid brick homes.  Whilst at your potential home look for signs of rising damp which include brick mortar fretting, salt residue on lower external and internal walls as well as paint flake on lower internal walls.

With weatherboard homes check for any extensive bowling or unevenness.  This can indicate a stumping issue ,for example rotten stumps or it can mean there was some movement due to rot and stops and the dwelling has been re-stumped and nothing was straightened.  We observe a lot of old weatherboard homes with blowing and unevenness. To rectify cladding would need to be removed and studs straightened.

Internal Leaks.

Outside shower recesses look for swelling in timber door frames and skirting boards as well as patching or lower wall paint flake. This normally indicates a current or past leak from the shower recess.  During our building inspections we use a moisture meter to locate leaking from showers and bathrooms to see if leaking is still occuring.

Safety Hazards.

Look at all timber framing in the pergolas, decking, balustrades, carports. balconies a meter off the ground require adequate barriers or balustrade to prevent falls. There can be no gaps greater than 125 mm in these circumstances and balustrade should be a meter high.

Internal Areas.

Common things to look for while inside the house are uneven floors, diagonal cracks above windows and doors, doors and windows that find or do not open and closed properly.  This can indicate a past or current footings/Foundations issue. Cracks that have been patched are easily visible with a torch. This can also mean there is a current or past footings issue. It is common to see patched cracks in old lath plaster homes.

Look force staining on the ceilings which can indicate a leak and as stated above, look for deterioration on lower walls around bathrooms and showers.

Getting your Builder Friend to Inspect for you.

This can be fraught with danger. Firstly and importantly your friend will not be adequately insured so if something were to go wrong, you’ll end up suing your friend.  He won’t supply a building inspection report to the standards and will deny any negligence of it were to surface. Not a good scenario.  To carry out a thorough building inspection at least one and a half hours is required on a standard 2 to 3 bedroom dwelling a torch is required to see under the house and in the roof space.  A moisture meter is required to detect for leaks and termites. All timbers, As stated above, need to be timber tapped for hollowness. Your builder friend probably isn’t getting paid or is getting paid little and not providing an inspection report as per the strain standards. If a friend asked me, a qualified building inspector to inspect their home for a slab of beer I would refuse. We have heard horror stories of friends inspecting homes who are now no longer friends.  We have seen Friends of buyers inspect a home for 15 minutes, not get in the roof void, not get under the house and not carry out adequate testing for moisture and termites.


In my opinion getting a thorough building inspection by a qualified building inspector (degree or diploma building surveying) is paramount. You will see things wrong with the home whilst walking through but are they serious issues.  We’re heard people say the house is going to fall down because this minor cracking. We have heard people see timber rot outside a house and believe it’s termites.  Being ill informed can mean miss out on a good property originally good price.  We’re also inspected homes people have bought without getting a building inspection and found extensive termite damage and major defects costing thousands of dollars because they thought the home was fine.  For Less than .1%  all the value of the home you may save yourself tens of thousands of dollars in repair costs or you may receive tens of thousands of dollars off the sale price.