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Key questions for house inspections

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How to inspect a house

Buying a house soon? Don’t forget to do a thorough house inspection before you put pen to paper. Find out what to look for and the right questions to ask at a house inspection. 

A house inspection is a crucial part of the home buying process, as it’s a good opportunity to get a proper feel for the property and to examine the interior for any things you like, things you don’t like, and faults in the property that could change your mind on whether you want to buy it or not.

Here’s how you can inspect a house, questions to ask during the inspection, and some red flags to look out for when conducting your inspection.

How to inspect a house

It’s generally not recommended that you buy the house before doing an inspection, as even if you think the place you want to buy is perfect, you never know until you really look through it. Alternatively, you can hire a professional building inspector to do it for you at a cost, as they can look for things you might miss.

House inspections generally last for around half an hour, and are usually conducted by a property manager or real estate agent who is in the home while you inspect it - this could be as a part of a larger group with an open home or in a private inspection. If the home has tenants living in it, then they might also be present, so you need to be mindful of this.

Once you’ve reached settlement for the home, there may also be a pre-settlement inspection were you give one final look at the property before you take ownership.

8 questions to ask during an inspection

During a house inspection, you should try to ask the agent some important questions, such as the ones below:

1. Have any modifications or renovations been made?

This can give you a better idea of the true value of the property, and give you some ideas for when you decide to renovate the property yourself in the future.  If you do plan on making renovations in the future, asking about previous work can also give you an idea about any council restrictions or subdivision limitations that could affect your decision. 

2. Why are the owners selling?

Asking this, as well as “how long has it been on the market”, can perhaps give you a bit of an edge if you find out the owners are desperate to sell, for example. The more you know about why the current homeowners want to sell will give you a better idea of what kind of offer they will be open to. 

3. What sale price are the owners expecting? 

Asking what the expected sales price of the home will help you to get an even better indication of whether the house is in your budget or not. 

4. Are there any significant signs of structural issue? 

Take note of any defects or signs of potential structural issues in the property. Water stains, sagging or cracked ceilings, mould and other issues that may need repairs once you purchase the property should be factored into your decision. 

5. Do you have copies of any recent property reports?

Seeing reports such as soil reports, pest inspections and condition reports can help you avoid buying a property with structural issues.

6. What sort of amenities are nearby?

Although you should look at these yourself by driving around the area, this can help you find out how close the property is to things like public transport, shops, schools etc.

7. Are there similar properties listed for sale right now?

Asking this might let the seller know you’re a serious buyer, and can let you know if the property’s market price is its true value or not. If you're not successful with the current house you're looking to buy it can also give you a leg up on the next opportunity. 

8. What direction does the property face?

The direction your prospective house faces can make a huge difference when it comes to how much natural light you get through the various seasons. 

Things to look for in a house inspection

In addition to asking the agent those key questions, you should also keep an eye out for the following things:

  • Any signs of water damage or mould (check inside cabinets and under sinks for this), as it could indicate a leak somewhere

  • Check the walls for any cracks (inside and outside walls), as large cracks are cause for concern

  • Check the bathrooms for mould too, as too much mould is bad for your health and could also indicate a bathroom with limited air circulation

  • Open all doors and windows to see if any are hard to open (or break)

  • Turn all lights on and off to see if any are broken (or flickering)

  • Go into a quiet room and check for noise (if it’s near a busy road or train station there could be a lot of noise pollution, for example)

  • Check the number and size of the rooms and measure them to see if the listed sizes are correct

  • Look for any sags in the ceiling and any signs of damage to the roof if possible

  • Check the gutters for rust if possible

  • Check the taps to see if they run properly

  • Look for any loose carpet or rotting floorboards and steps

  • Check for any peeling paint

  • One of the most important things to consider when considering buying a property - whether it is your next property to live in or an investment property - is “location, location, location.”

  • Check the level of natural light the property gets

  • How close is the property to to essential amenities, such as public transport, shops, hospitals, good schools, cafes, restaurants and parks.

  • What is the floor plan like? Are you happy with the layout of the house and are there enough rooms?

And more. You can also think outside the box, like checking for any weird smells or even doing an internet test if there’s existing internet there.

What are some red flags in a home inspection?

Although a lot of things mentioned can be minor at the worst of times, there are some serious red-flags to look out for when conducting a home inspection, like:

1. Extensive pest damage

Pests like termites, possums, mice and rats can be noisy, messy, and in the case of termites can actually compromise the integrity of the house. A pest inspection can help identify the existence of any annoying critters.

2. Noticeable structural damage

Big cracks in walls or rotting floorboards and stairs can be fixed if you buy the property, but they could be indicators or deeper issues in the property. If a defect is big enough it could cost you a fair bit to fix it.

3. Noticeable water damage

Evidence of lots of mould and water damage might indicate sloppy ownership from the previous owner, but it could mean something worse, like the property having poor drainage. In a storm, this could cause problems.

4. Odd smells

Keep your nose on the lookout (smellout?), for any weird odours, like the smell of pet urine or smell from a nearby facility like a sewage plant. The agent might try to hide stuff like this.

5. Botched DIY work

The previous occupants might’ve added a new room themselves with a slanty floor, or put in some dodgy new plumbing. This might not be immediately obvious so you’ll need keen eyes.

There are other red flags to look out for too, such as weird stains on walls or a single wall being painted over, which could indicate something being hidden, or things you might notice on the property report, like the fact that a major crime was once committed in the home, which can lower the value of the house.

If they're really bad, then some of these red flags can become deal-breakers. Buying properties with major defects such a these can lead to additional costs in the future to fix them, the inconvenience of repairs, and of course health and safety problems.

If you’re looking to start your home loan journey and conduct a home loan inspection, they why not calculate your borrowing power with loans.com.au, and download one of our free property reports.

While you should still have an inspection done (either by you or by an expert), this report will include extensive information about the property, including an estimated price range, similar sales in the area, a profile of the suburb and an aerial view of the property.

Download property report

About the article

As Australia's leading online lender, loans.com.au has been helping people into their dream homes and cars for more than 10 years. Our content is written and reviewed by experienced financial experts. The information we provide is general in nature and does not take into account your personal objectives or needs. If you'd like to chat to one of our lending specialists about a home or car loan, contact us on Live Chat or by calling 13 10 90.

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