How should you approach a home inspection?


Heading along to a home inspection requires at least some degree of preparation. Unless you’re doing it as a kind of hobby, then viewing a home is for the sole purpose of seeing whether or not it’s up to your standards for purchase, as either an owner-occupier or an investor.

Having all of the right equipment and reports is also going to be an indicator of how valuable the property will be in the future, which is fantastic for people wanting to see solid capital gains.

Keeping in mind all of the requirements for your perfect property is one step toward having a successful home viewing. It might be an open home or a private tour organised by your Cohen Handler buyer’s agent, but coming away from it without the intention of buying does not mean it was a failed venture.

You don’t want to buy a home, only to view it later and realise it’s not what you thought it would be.

People need to look at every single aspect of a home in order to determine whether or not it will work for exactly what they want. If you approach a new house inspection thinking the patch of real estate is going to be perfect, but walk away disappointed, then don’t fret! You’ve viewed the home, seen that it won’t work for your needs, and can put your time and effort into finding other houses or units.

You don’t want to buy a home, only to view it after settlement and realise it’s not what you thought it would be. Nothing beats viewing in real life, and if you want to be sure of what you’re buying, it’ll do your mind a world of good to see it for yourself.

Some overseas investors are unable to do that, because it wouldn’t be cost-effective to fly to Australia for only a few new home inspections, only to find that none of the places are suitable. In this instance, employing a buyer’s agent, and supplying them with your exact requirements, is going to give you peace of mind that you’ll end up with the right property, and at the right price.

Why are home inspections a vital part of the buying process?

From finding imperfections to visualising how your own belongings could fit into the space, home inspections are one of the most important parts of buying a piece of property.

After you’ve sorted out your team of buying professionals (a solicitor, mortgage broker and buyer’s agent), you’ll know what you’re working with. This can be in terms of finance, how quickly you’ll be able to make a move and purchase the property you want, and, above all, where the best place to buy for your specific requirements is.

After compiling this list, your agent will present you with a range of options. From a shortlist, you can select those that jump out to you as the best, and then arrange viewings. Many of the properties that a buyer’s agent presents you with might be off-market, which means you won’t have the same sort of competition to get the winning bid in, but you’ll also not have the luxury of an open home. A private viewing will be required in this case.

Does the property you’re inspecting meet all of your requirements?

From the seller’s perspective, they’re purely wanting to make their home more impressive than it actually might be. That’s not to say their home isn’t lovely, but there are always tips and tricks that people employ to make a space bigger or seem like it needs less work.

These can include placing rugs and potted plants in strategic positions to cover stains and marks on the floor, painting over damp spots on the walls, even removing furniture to make it seem more spacious.

To combat these interior secrets, make sure to look for a rug or plant that is out of place. If you’re by yourself, lift it up and see what secrets it’s covering up. Inspect the walls carefully, looking for places where the paint looks to be bubbling up or doesn’t feel quite as smooth as it should. And in terms of furniture placement, think more about where your belongings would sit, than where their couches and tables are, and you’ll get a much better idea about whether or not you’re going to have enough room.

Some people will completely take away a lounge suite just to open up the space, but to the savvy inspector, the absence of sufficient seating in front of a television will be a dead giveaway that not all is as it seems.

There are even more tricks for the outside, although these are going to be helpful (if the seller has fixed them) if you decide to purchase. From fixing peeling paint to clearing away cobwebs and repairing broken gates or fences, these are all going to minimise your own work when you move in (or in order to prepare the home for renters).

Something that virtually every seller will do on the day of the inspection is clear the garden of weeds and leaves. While weeds are a part of living in the tropical climate of Australia, it’s more important to look at how much garden maintenance is going to be required each week. A property with an absolute forest for a backyard will be much higher maintenance than one with only a few trees and some easy-care shrubs.

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Clever photography can easily make a home look far better than it is, and more suitable for what you want. Without going along and seeing for yourself, there’s no real way that you’re going to notice what’s wrong.

What else can be done to make a property inspection more successful?

Aside from figuring out if a piece of real estate will suit your needs down to the ground, a home inspection can show you if the place has been well maintained and is structurally integral.

Employing the right people for this pre-purchase inspection is vitally important, but it will cost money.

If these sorts of problems are discovered by a professional, it could work in favour of the buyer significantly. Where serious work needs doing, you can actually negotiate for a lower price because of how much more you’re going to have to spend to bring the place back up to scratch. Employing the right people for this pre-purchase inspection is vitally important, but it will also cost money. You don’t just go for an inspection such as this without actually wanting to buy the property.

There are also things like pest inspections and a stage inspection to go through. The former is self-explanatory – simply looking for evidence of pest presence around the home, internally and externally, that might cause problems down the track. An example of this would be with cockroaches. The insect breeds and resides in damp, dark places, such as under the floor of a home. Not many people inspect the underside of a house on their hands and knees during a new home inspection, so having a professional do this for you could pay off. Fumigation to get rid of these critters is an expensive and time-consuming process, so it’s going to be worth your while to potentially shave a few dollars off your bid to compensate for this cost.

Pro Inspections Australia reports that there are plenty of safe ways to remove pests that don’t affect the environment or any people in the vicinity, so having a professional looking after this aspect of a property inspection will be invaluable.

What will a home inspector be looking for?

The full inspection process is simple enough – but understanding what your professional inspector is going to be looking for is going to be a great help at many levels. A building stage inspection is done as the property is being constructed in five steps. These are all separate inspections, and the presence of one when you are buying a property could be a very positive thing. It means that during the build, standards were adhered to and reported on, so your potential new home is going to stand strong for a long while to come.

The five stages of this inspection are:

  • Foundation, which looks at the structure or support the residence is being constructed on;
  • Frame, showing the strength, stability and suitability of the building frame before wall linings are installed;
  • Lock-up/waterproofing, which makes sure a building is weatherproof and safe for habitation when everything has been put together;
  • Fixing, the penultimate step that goes over cosmetic changes that should be made, such as paint patches; and
  • The final hand-over, which is a very detailed process, ensuring the home is ready to be lived in by the new owners.

Taking the time to familiarise yourself with the various steps of this process and how they interrelate is an important step for prospective buyers. They will each form their own part of an important whole – but don’t worry, it isn’t as complex as it sounds at first.

The presence of a report on this incredibly detailed inspection could outline to any you potential problems that might arise during your time of ownership. On the other hand, it might be something that gives you peace of mind that you won’t encounter any major issues over the course of your title holding period, and you may be willing to pay more for this sort of assurance.

What you’re looking at is a comprehensive process – and there are a variety of ways to scale this process back that will save time and effort without posing any undue risk down the line. It all comes down to the property you’re seeking to buy, your plans for that property once bought, and the degree of certainty you want in making your purchase.

What should the buyer look for themselves?

According to NSW Fair Trading, there are a huge number of things that even a professional inspection might not include. People are protected from dodgy dealings by a 2004 move to ensure only licensed consultants under the Home Building Act 1989 are able to legally carry out a pre-purchase inspection. That means you won’t be seeing cowboys doing a botched job and wasting your money.

Even with consultants needing this accreditation, the buyer will need to be on the lookout for a list of issues that will potentially arise, and be covered up by the seller.

There are things that are going to be on every house inspection checklist regardless of where you’re buying. A pre-purchase inspection will look at things like the toilets, storm water run-off, garage integrity and the safety of steps, among other measurables. However, there are going to be some items or areas that cannot be inspected, or things such as termite detection. The costs of repair for minor damages are also not going to be included in the report, as consultants do not offer quotes for work that needs doing.

What a pre-purchase inspection will not cover also includes the pool and pool pump systems. Over time, this can end up being a real money drainer because it requires highly specialised skills to repair, and might even call for the complete draining and refilling of your pool – in itself an expensive process. Without experience of owning a pool yourself, it might be tough to spot pitfalls, but inspecting the bottom of the pool carefully will reveal cracks in the lining or places where repairs might need to be done. Further, if there are piles of leaves either on a pool cover (which you should remove to inspect the area) or on the bottom, it will show you that keeping your pool looking great is going to be a tough task. The people currently living in the house haven’t been able to do it!

Plumbing and drainage is not going to be looked at, so you should try to flush the toilet and runs the taps a small amount to see if anything looks suspicious. The intercom and alarm systems will not be tested, so having knowledge from the selling agent could be valuable here. It’s not recommended that you just punch in a few numbers on a random alarm pad to see if it works! The inspection consultant will also not be looking at damages or stains on the carpet or other flooring surfaces, so keeping an eye on this, as suggested above with lifting up of rugs and potted plants and even furniture, is a great idea.

You should check that every window is actually able to be opened, and, quite importantly for many people, that the television has sound reception. It can be costly to install your own satellite reception for a television unit, and if you’ve got it ready to go already, that’s just another thing you can tick off your list.

The selling agent, or even home owner themselves, will be able to help you out.

Finally, consultants do not check appliances, such as the stove, a waste disposal unit, ovens, dishwashers or ducted vacuum systems. Some of these will be far easier to check than others, but the selling agent, or even home owner themselves, will be able to help you out here if you want to test anything yourself.

And you should be diligent about doing so. Not having to worry about avoidable costs building up is going to be important in the long run.

If you don’t feel like you have enough time to go through an inspection yourself, then reschedule to a more suitable time. Open homes are usually around 60 to 90 minutes long, and there’s nothing wrong with spending that whole amount carefully checking everything out. It’s the same with a private inspection – you should feel comfortable walking around and making sure absolutely everything fits your bill and meets your own set standards.

These are just the main points, however. There are plenty of smaller fittings and conditions you should keep an eye on. Regardless, compiling these points into an inspection checklist is vital to ensure that you’re buying a house that you’ll love – not one you’ll just tolerate.

Things you might have missed

A property inspection checklist from the Department of Commerce in Western Australia highlights a few other factors that you might like to keep an eye on during your time walking through a home.

These include the age of the property, where the sun hits in the morning and evening and if there are enough power points. In particular, this last item can be a real pain to have installed by a professional, so make sure there are plenty, and all in the right place!

You should also be looking out for the amount of usable storage space, and how convenient it is to reach. If the only hidden storage is in the attic, and it requires a ladder to access, then you might have to buy your own shelving or place cupboards in the right areas. In the bedrooms, one of the biggest factors, particularly for fashion-conscious buyers, is how big the wardrobe spaces are. If the master has a walk-in robe and ensuite, that’s fantastic. However, if your kids need the same sort of thing but a certain home has only cupboards with railing to hang clothes on, it might not be suitable.

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Finding a house inspection checklist that works for what you want, or even creating your own one, and walking through the property inspection with it is a fantastic idea.

Something that many buyers neglect is a report from the neighbours. This can be done anonymously or face-to-face, but it might be in your best interests to meet the people you’re potentially going to be living next to anyway. From this meeting, you can gather a lot of valuable information.

The neighbours themselves are probably going to have some sort of bearing on whether or not you love your time in the home. After all, they are living just over the fence, or even down the bottom of the driveway.

There are other factors that buyers are always trying to include, too. Things like the surrounding area and proximity to shops, schools or even access to highways and routes into the CBD are things that can take a long time to research on your own.

Know the area like the back of your hand before you commit to buying a property.

A buyer’s agent is the perfect resource for this sort of thing, because they’ve been in the industry for years and are regional experts. If you want a great public school and need to be zoned for that, then it will be incorporated into your shortlisted homes.

Domain Group recommends knowing the area like the back of your hand before you commit to buying a property, so maybe spending some time in the community or down at the local park could help you decide whether or not a certain suburb is the right option. For international buyers or people with very little spare time, however, that is rarely an available luxury.

What does a buyer’s agent offer?

For time-starved people. and there are a few of them in Australia, a buyer’s agent offers an invaluable service. They can take your requirements for a home and do all of the legwork and research for you, so you don’t have to waste time trawling through pages and pages of on-market options.

Because a professional buyer’s agent is always out looking for new properties that clients could benefit from, they will likely have a list of homes that are going to work for you at the ready. This is going to save a serious amount of time, so you can spend it with your family, or doing the things you love. Instead of six months of searching, as 36 per cent of South Australia residents experience, according to Canstar, it will take less than two.

A Cohen Handler buyer’s agent is going to be working to get you into a new home in a very short space of time – we take your deadlines into account as well. If you need a home quickly, there’s no better option. Rather than looking for months and months on end to no avail, a buyer’s agent could get you into a new home, and that’s with the purchase completed, within just eight weeks.

The same thing goes for overseas buyers. Whether you’re looking to make a purchase that’s going to earn you money in the long term, or are making the move to this beautiful country, you aren’t going to want to be throwing money away. Properties have the potential to gain considerable value, so ensuring you don’t buy a lemon is important.

It’s also costly to fly over for a property inspection, only to be left with the knowledge that it wasn’t what you were after in the first place. There’s no point in doing that, when a buyer’s agent offers a helpful alternative. They can also incorporate your desires to have a property that adds considerable value over the next few years. It might be buying in a suburb that’s about to boom, or investing in a style of home that’s on the cusp of becoming extraordinarily rare or popular.

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Without someone who has their finger on the pulse of the property industry at all times, your chances of successfully buying are less.

While you can take all of this knowledge into a property inspection of your own, and come out feeling satisfied that the home won’t crumble around you when you move in, there’s no substitute for the experience and industry expertise of a buyer’s agent. They will help you buy in a timely manner, and buy into something worth your while, too.

Get in touch today, and get your house inspection checklist ready!


Your house inspection checklist

While there are certain things that anyone buying a home should include on their house inspection checklist, there’s a lot that’s subjective to you. Things like the amount of natural light, the amount of storage space and the amount of noise in the neighbourhood are all things each person will have their own idea of, so as you’re checking for water damage and looking for cracks, keep in mind how you want to live in this space, not just want you need to do to make it liveable. 

With that said, here are some items that should be on any home inspection checklist:

  • Termites – evidence of termite damage is a huge red flag during a home inspection. Structural termite damage can be expensive to fix and disastrous if ignored. 
  • Asbestos – the presence of asbestos alone should give you cause for concern. Exposure to asbestos fibres can cause various kinds of lung cancer, leading to the material being banned in Australian constructions post-1989. 
  • Fences and retaining walls – a collapsed fence or retaining wall can not only be expensive to fix, it can cause significant secondary damage to adjacent structures. 
  • Garages, carports, and garden sheds – the last thing you want is your garage collapsing on your car
  • Plumbing is intact – a drippy tap shouldn’t stop a purchase entirely, but make sure that pipes aren’t leaking water into the interior of the walls. 
  • Rising damp – a common form of water damage, rising damp can make your home more susceptible to mould, wood rot and ultimately structural failure. 
  • Surface water drainage around property and driveways – Related to the above, incorrect drainage of surface water can cause subterranean water damage to the foundation with potentially disastrous consequences. 
  • Doors and windows – can these open and shut cleaning? Are the locks intact? These are all key security concerns
  • Roofing, gutters, and downpipes – are they loose or damaged? Not only do these features assist with drainage, a collapsing gutter can be damaging to your home and dangerous to you and your family. 

The above list is a solid start and covers all of the most common concerns that you should be aware of. But as we touched on earlier, there are also some secondary things to think about. We encourage you to keep an eye out for details such as:

  • Power points and electrical outlets – not so much the condition this time as the number and placement. It can be a real headache to have more outlets installed at a later date.
  • Natural light – take a moment to consider the time of day during your inspection, and whether the house will get the sort of natural light you’d like throughout the day. The direction of any feature windows will shape much of this.
  • Stains, scratches and more – it might appear simply aesthetic, and it largely will be. But fixing up multiple bits of damage like this can quickly become very costly.
  • Storage – built in wardrobes and other storage can make all the difference for those making the move into a significantly upsized or downsized home. 
  • Location and proximity to the things you need – a home might be perfect on its own. But if you want to be close to shops, public transport, or parks, it’s vital that you do your research here.

We encourage you to consider what you want from your home in particular. There will be a variety of things that you will want from your home that will be aspects of a prospective purchase that you will be able to spot ahead of time with some careful thought and preparation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should be included in a new home inspection?

The objective of a home inspection is to identify any areas requiring repairs after purchase. As such, it should be as broad as possible, taking into account structural elements like the roof as well as utilities and systems such as the air conditioning system. Cohen Handler can help you conduct a thorough home inspection to ensure the house you’re paying for is the house you get. 

Who should pay for a home inspection?

A pre-purchase inspection is at the buyer’s expense. Some – not all – sellers may try to hide or cover up defects throughout a sale, meaning the onus is on you to undertake a full inspection prior to purchasing a property. Cohen Handler can support you through the purchasing process – including inspection. 

What are the most common home inspection problems?

The most common problems discovered during home inspections include plumbing issues and water damage, damage to insulation, structural damage, defects in the heating and cooling system, electrical issues and more. Conduct a thorough inspection beforehand and know that you’re getting a home that’s ready for you, not one that requires months of repairs.


Depending on the size of the property, the features to be inspected, the age and outward condition of those features, and a number of other considerations – the length of an inspection will vary. But typically, a building inspection will take somewhere between one and two hours.

When looking for a professional to inspect your home, be wary of any hard guarantees. It is far more important that you’re getting a thorough inspection than a fast one. Your choice of house inspector should be able to give you an indication of the time the inspection will take once the basic details are established.


A pest inspection will typically involve a variety of visual and instrument driven integrity checks. One common issue is termites – a timber pest inspector will often complete a visual inspection of any accessible features of the timber work in and around the structure. Taking note of any prospective issues.

Other pests, such as rats and mice, cockroaches and bed bugs, will all have their own tell-tale signs – and your pest inspector will be able to outline any issues the home may have along these lines and propose viable courses of action to address those problems. 


A professional inspection is the surest way to catch any problems before you have made a hard commitment to a property. They can provide an impartial assessment of anything you might have noticed and catch the thing you might not have thought to look for.

A professional home inspection is an important step for both purchases made as an investment, and for homes bought to live in. Reach out to us at Cohen Handler to get started.

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