Building and Pest Inspections- finding the right balance

Outside of the wild west of 2020 and 2021 when people (often interstate)

Outside of the wild west of 2020 and 2021 when people (often interstate) were much more willing to take properties on no matter the condition (as long as they got the home), we are back in the land of building and pest conditions being a regular inclusion on most residential contracts.

As easy as it might be to scoff that it was better before (at least for sellers and agents), the ability for a buyer to have the benefit of this clause is much more indicative of a “normal”, more balanced playing field and for me, makes for a fairer outcome in a lot of cases.

I don’t mean this in the way that some buyers will weaponise their building report to go back and start cutting into the sale price for every last rusty roof screw or wonky cabinet door (“we want at LEAST $30,000 off!”) but more in the case of both sides being able to identify genuine issues (many of which might either not have been previously known, or if known, not properly quantified) and being able to deal honestly with all the information on the table.

There are times that the findings of a building inspection report will be more than a buyer is financially able to take care of post-purchase, and they will request a repair or reduction to allow them to repair in lieu of termination. Sometimes they might just go straight to termination. Those cases can be very hard for the sellers – particularly with properties that are in a niche market or have taken an extended period to make it to contract.

Other times, a buyer might be happy to proceed with a contract as-is, satisfied that they can better budget for works ahead or even feel more justified in an instant renovation of the kitchen now knowing that the existing cabinetry is shot anyway.

On the sellers’ side, I have seen plenty of frustration with the broadness of a clause which in spirit was designed to identify major structural issues only but has been stretched every which way in the meantime. On the plus side, there ARE limits, and (subject to the appropriate legal advice) there are certainly places you can push back rather than needing to accept whatever a buyer proposes.

As a seller, you can also get ahead of the curve with your own pre-sale building report. Whether used as a roadmap to repairs prior to sale or to guide setting prices, its one way to take out the uncertainty and give yourself a better crack when the time comes.