Registered building surveyor, Kathir Sam, discusses the pitfalls of prepurchase inspections and why tagging defects as risks is worthwhile.
It has been said that, “Nothing is easier than fault-finding”. We, as pre-purchase inspectors, only know how hard it is to find all the faults in a given building without missing one. Also, it is probably the only business where we ditch the people who give us the business, the realtors, and get paid for breaking the hearts of our clients who fall in love with a house at first sight.
Fault finding becomes really difficult during a pre-purchase inspection where we have to work with a broad spectrum of limitations, while balancing the sincerity with health and safety concerns.
Although we do not check the compliance of a building with the current Building Code or standards, we still have to evaluate the performance of the building and assess the risks based on the current Building Code / acceptable solutions. Even though we cannot call them as defects as they were correct at the time of construction, we definitely have to tag them as risks. We will see some examples here.
One common example is the lack of kick out flashings at the end of a roof-to-wall junction in 1990’s built monolithic clad houses, which causes moisture intrusion. When the flashing is not there, we can straight away tag it as a risk. Even when we see one in a 90’s house, we cannot say it is good, as it may have been installed as part of repair work. The repair work may have just been to the cladding, and internal framing damage may have been ignored. So we still need to tag it as a risk.
Another issue we came across in houses,even in those built after the leaky home era, is the lack of flashing at the change of roof plane. In almost all the occasions we have seen so far, there was moisture damage / elevated moisture readings on the wall below the junction.
Most of the older decks have barriers which are climbable and have large openings. Even though we cannot say it does not comply with the requirements of Building Code clause F4 Safety from Falling AS1, as it was not existent then, we still have the responsibility to alert the buyer that it is a safety risk, especially for the children.
We also need to be very specific in reporting the limitations / restrictions to inspection and to include them in the terms of engagement. Subfloor access shown in the picture had decaying clothes and rubbish everywhere, which made us not to enter the hatch.
Although we identified signs of leak around the bathroom area, the customer was not happy that we did not crawl inside to evaluate it properly, even though the restriction was clearly reported.
Getting all the wrongs right every time, and simultaneously winning the hearts of parties involved, is a real challenge in this profession which demands the RIGHT ATTITUDE – apart from knowledge and experience.