Purchasing a property is a significant undertaking. One crucial step in the process that should not be overlooked is the pre-settlement inspection. This involves the buyer inspecting the property just prior to completing the purchase. In this article, we explore the importance of pre-settlement inspections, when and how to conduct them, buyers’ rights, what to look for, and how to deal with any issues that arise during the inspection.
Aim of Pre-Settlement Inspections
The aim of a pre-settlement inspection is to allow you, as the buyer, to assure yourself that the property is in the same condition as it was when you agreed to buy it. The inspection enables you to identify any defects or damage that may have occurred since your initial inspections. It is also an opportunity to ensure that the vendor has repaired or attended to anything agreed to be done prior to completion.
During the pre-settlement inspection, you can also confirm that all fixtures and fittings that have been included in the sale are present and in good condition. This might include, for instance, appliances, light fixtures, and other items that were part of the deal.
Obviously, the pre-settlement inspection is an important safety net, otherwise you may not find out until after settlement that there has been significant and unexpected damage to the property. Accordingly, buyers should understand their rights to a pre-settlement inspection, and ensure that the inspection goes ahead.
How to Arrange a Pre-Settlement Inspection
The pre-settlement inspection typically occurs in the days before settlement, ensuring that any issues discovered can be addressed in time to allow settlement to occur on schedule. The contract of sale will often specify a time frame in which the buyer can make the inspection.
The selling agent will usually arrange for access to the property to enable the inspection. For private sales, the seller will be responsible for ensuring that you can access the property as required under the contract. Although, as the buyer, you have a right to enter the premises to conduct this inspection, it is a good practice to schedule a time that works for both parties, allowing enough time for a thorough examination of the property.
What to Look Out For
During your pre-settlement inspection, there are certain things that you should particularly note. First, you should make an assessment of the overall condition of the property, ensuring that it is in a clean and well-maintained state (if that was the condition of the house at your previous viewings).
Next, you can look for any structural issues that have arisen since your last inspection. This could include looking for new structural issues such as cracks in walls, ceilings, or floors, as well as ensuring doors and windows open and close properly. The pre-settlement inspection is also an opportunity to check for new signs of pest infestation, which can appear suddenly and be costly to remedy. You should also test that utilities such as hot water and gas are functioning correctly.
You can refer to the contract at the time of the inspection to confirm that all agreed-upon fixtures and fittings are in place and functioning as expected. It is also recommended that you verify the condition and operation of any included appliances.
We note however, that the seller’s obligation to you is to make the property and inclusions available to you on settlement, in the same condition that they were in at the time of exchange of contracts.
Dealing with Problems
Minor issues that arise during the pre-settlement inspection can usually be addressed by the agent and seller. For instance, you may negotiate for repairs or a price adjustment to address minor concerns. At this stage, just days before settlement, both parties are so committed to the sale that a fair compromise is usually quickly agreed.
In contrast, major issues can pose more significant challenges. In the event of substantial problems, such as structural defects or significant damage, you may not be able to settle on the date previously agreed. Major issues may require extensive repairs prior to settlement or may make the home no longer suitable for you.
It is essential to communicate openly with the seller and your legal representative to navigate major issues effectively. In some cases, a decision may need to be reached about delaying settlement or considering your legal options if the property no longer meets your expectations.
The pre-settlement inspection is a crucial step in the property-buying process that should not be overlooked. It serves as the final check to ensure that the property’s condition aligns with your expectations and the terms of the contract.
Understanding your rights as a buyer, knowing when and how to conduct the inspection, and being thorough in your assessment will provide peace of mind and the opportunity to address any issues before settlement. Whether dealing with minor or major problems, open communication with the seller and your legal representatives is key to finding a suitable resolution.
This is general information only and you should obtain professional advice relevant to your circumstances. If you or someone you know wants more information or needs help or advice, please contact us on (02) 4382 2200 or email [email protected].