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Property buyers looking to build a new home or purchase a house and land package from a volume building company can easily fall victim to the pitfalls they produce through poor workmanship and hidden defects. The emotional turmoil and financial destruction created by building with or purchasing a shoddy home from a volume builder is something that is hard to witness in the building inspection industry. It is a real tragedy when you come into contact with a family who have put their investment into a home only to find out later that the slab is broken and that they have to rebuild the property. This is just one of the ways in which these cut-cost builders compromise the quality of their service.

The financial stress placed upon these unlucky buyers is hard to bare. Therefore, it is important that you have a team of professionals conduct a thorough building inspection at each stage of the construction process, or before pre-purchase of a house and land package. This will save you from the potential nightmare of having to rebuild a whole new property in the future due to a massive defect created by the building company. 

Downfalls of the volume builder 

The standard promise of major volume building companies is that they can give you your dream home for a fraction of the price. You see it everywhere: billboards, newspapers, home magazines; every day you are subjected to advertisements from these companies offering you the perfect home. However, the design and workmanship often fall short of this promise.

Due to the high number of homes being built at rapid rates by volume building companies, there is often a lot of pressure on the builders and staff to complete a project as quickly as possible. This can quite easily result in shoddy workmanship, and homeowners often find that after building a home or moving into a home built by volume builders that there are major defects to the property. This realisation comes too late, and by this stage so-called guarantee periods can have passed and the onus is on the property owner to cough up for these defects, and cough up big

We can help you 

It is troubling to see the disappointment, emotional turmoil, and financial loss people suffer as a result of the shoddy work done by volume builders and staff. This can be avoided. Building Masters Inspections not only provide defect inspections to complete homes from volume builders, but also for homes during each stage of their construction. They check every aspect of the builders work to ensure that they are not breaching the National Construction Code or compromising the quality of your investment, as this can be the worst thing for an investment.

If you are building a home or are interested in purchasing a home that has been built by a volume building company, it is a great idea to get in contact Building Masters Inspections so that they can conduct a thorough defect inspection for the property.

Call them on 1300 567 315 or fill out an enquiry form on their contact page and  they will get back to you with all the information you require.

 Unless you’re a big-time investor, you probably don’t purchase real estate often at all. On average, people buy a new property every seven years, but it can often stretch into decades between drinks. As a result, it’s easy to feel unfamiliar with the process when you start looking on the market after a long absence. Choosing a building inspector is no exception.

When searching for an inspector and comparing the results, a natural response will be to choose the one that offers the cheapest rate. If you choose to take this road it may seem like you’re getting the same service regardless of cost – but you don’t know what you don’t know. You may never discover what you should have received without digging a little deeper. It’s natural to want the best price on a service, but don’t let it compromise the standard. Choosing an inspector on price alone is a quick way to land yourself in hot water.

You get what you pay for

As we’ve mentioned in some of our previous blogs, not all building inspectors are the same. Those emphasising bottom-dollar rates are often inexperienced and possibly unqualified – at the very least, they are giving you the bare minimum. The industry is also unregulated, which only serves to make the waters even murkier. 

The cheap inspector is probably either the one recommended by the vendor’s agent or the highest bidder – or the lowest, in this case – found through your Google search. You should already be hearing alarm bells if you find yourself in the first scenario.

The devil is in the detail

These inspectors commonly use a standardised report known as a Pre-Purchase Template, which contains a huge number of pages filled with endless disclaimer clauses, standardised comments and large photos – but a profound lack of useful information. When they do make a comment, it will be couched in such cautious, ‘don’t-sue-me’ language that you may very well read through the entire report without getting an accurate portrayal of the condition the property is in.

Remember: an inspection report is next to useless unless it’s thorough and unbiased. While you may make a small short-term saving on a cheap inspection, you could end up paying for it down the track in the form of unexpected repairs and maintenance issues. On top of that, any problems missed in the inspection report mean you are losing negotiating power that could potentially lower the price of the property.

To say men are strongly represented in the building inspection industry would be an understatement. According to the most recent data available through Job Outlook – an initiative of the Department of Employment – more than 89.6% of architectural, building and surveying technicians are male. The Workplace Gender Equality Agency tells a similar story, reporting that men make up 88.3% of the entire construction industry. Considering the total Australian workforce is over 46% female, these numbers tell a compelling story about the dramatic underrepresentation of women in the building industry.

To take a more anecdotal perspective, the building industry tends to attract the ‘blokey bloke’. While there are certainly building inspectors that show respect towards their clients regardless of gender, the unfortunate reality is that there are still too many who condescend or show off to their female clients. To put it more bluntly, misogyny is not uncommon in this male-dominated industry.

Society is moving forward, but some are lagging behind

Thanks to cultural shifts and the ever-evolving values of society, women are more involved in home purchase decisions than ever before. However, the building industry has failed to keep up with the steady increase in female home buyers, with rampant misogyny still affecting the accuracy and integrity of inspection reports.

The trouble is, it’s still imperative that home buyers get an independent building inspection. Committing to a purchase without this third-party knowledge runs a massive risk and could lead to significant financial losses down the track. As a result, women can’t afford to simply forgo an inspection – nor should they have to.

Taking a stance on sexism

Sexism in the workplace is not a newfangled concept, but it’s one that is taking far too long to stamp out. Such workplace cultures tend to both echo and effect the culture of society in general. Progress has been made over the decades, but there is still some ways to go, and it’s vital for individuals – particularly men – to take responsibility for their behaviour and that of others. This means setting an example for others to follow by taking a zero-tolerance approach; labelling something as a ‘joke’ or ‘just a bit of fun’ is no excuse.

From an inspector’s perspective, there is no place for judgements based on gender. Whether this be in the form of inappropriate remarks or assuming a lack of knowledge, it shows a distinct lack of professionalism and absence of respect.

For men in general, it’s important not to react defensively to the idea of sexism by distancing oneself from the issue. Acknowledging the existence of sexism is not about hurling accusations: it’s to take the first and one of the most important steps in the journey towards gender equality. This approach is much-needed both in the workplace and out of it.

Choosing the right building inspector

It should go without saying that misogyny has no place in building inspections, let alone any other setting. The building industry and men in general are ultimately responsible for a much-needed shift in attitudes towards women to ensure today’s female home buyers can remain confident that their gender does not affect the outcome.

It’s important to look for an independent building inspector with extensive experience, and not just because their reports are more likely to be accurate and unbiased. Generally, the more confident they are in their knowledge, the less they will feel the need to compensate by showboating or talking with condescension.

Employment of both genders and a significant amount of female clientele is a good sign that an inspector values equality. Talk to other home buyers who have had an inspection and encourage word-of-mouth referrals. Ultimately, the building industry will need to accept its downfalls and adopt a workplace culture that wholly reflects where we need to be as a society.

Standing in the living area of a two-bedroom apartment in Southbank, it quickly becomes obvious why this building’s residents are having trouble sleeping. The click, creak, click emanating from the walls is frustratingly persistent and enough to drive you mad during the day, let alone in the middle of the night.

During inspection, the culprit was found to be a loose section of roof flashing which vibrated in certain wind conditions. Add that to a stressed trussed roof system, loose panels and rails, a rattling extraction fan and several other issues, and you’re left to wonder how a two-bedroom property so plagued by poor workmanship could be sold for close to one million dollars.

During another inspection of a multi-story apartment building in Melbourne’s CBD, we identified incorrectly manufactured joinery used in the installation of the windows. This caused significant condensation on the sills of all aluminium windows throughout the apartment.

In this case, the builder advised the resident that the problem could be addressed by “opening a window to circulate airflow in the apartment”. However, excessive moisture was found, despite the window staying open for seven hours prior to the inspection.

Is this a sign of things to come?

These two cases are not anomalies. Sadly, they represent an increasing trend towards inadequate building practices in a city that takes pride in its architecture. In terms of both workmanship and materials used, ineffective industry regulations have allowed builders and developers to exploit home buyers and produce some of the worst buildings we have ever seen.

Builders Collective of Australia president Phil Dwyer spoke to the ABC, saying he believes the building industry is heading towards an "endemic failure" in the decade to come due to a focus on profits over safety.

“There will be so many defects and problems in buildings that we won’t be able to cope,” he said.

Aside from insufficient regulations, this exploitation continues to occur due to a lack of understanding on the part of home buyers. This could be attributed to inexperience, low expectations or a tendency towards accepting whatever is on offer, which is why a building inspection is so important.

Another explanation potentially lies in the perception that new homes, or even those bought off the plan, are not likely to have defects. As it turns out, the opposite is true on an increasingly frequent basis.

Awareness is a start, but not a long-term solution

While home buyers will benefit from unbiased building inspections and an improved awareness of the issue, the industry faces a challenge to turn the trend around as soon as possible. Some fear that any change may cause housing prices to rise even further, but the cost of ignoring safety could far exceed any monetary value.

 Real estate agents have long been plagued by a reputation for dishonesty, but is this perception well founded?

It’s worth noting that real estate agents are trained to not tell outright lies to home buyers. There are all kinds of laws that are drilled into new agents to ensure they don’t land in hot water, and they soon build an extensive understanding of what they can and can’t say.

The key is that instead of lying, real estate agents perfect the art of not telling the whole truth. Here are five examples of deceptive behaviour that you may encounter as a first home buyer along with an explanation of what the agent may really be trying to achieve.

Discouraging inspections for new homes

Many newly-built homes are pushed to be sold under the logic that a recent construction does not require an inspection. After all, new buildings would automatically meet all standards and regulations, right? On the contrary, more than 50% of new homes fail our inspections due to all manner of shortfalls. Don’t be fooled—always get an inspection from a third party regardless of how new the building is.

Clouding your judgement with flashy interior design

Hopeful first time buyers are often lured in by agents who dress up an interior in order to distract you from the more important issues. While the use of décor is a great way to demonstrate what can be done with the space, it can also make you forget the essentials and overlook certain factors, such as a lack of renovations or poor upkeep over the years.

Encouraging offers before the auction

Another classic form of temptation: some agents encourage potential buyers to make an offer before an auction without any intention of telling the vendor to accept it. This tactic is used to force the buyer’s hand and show their intentions, allowing the auctioneer to be fully briefed on who has offered what. As a result, the buyer is effectively set up and loses a significant amount of negotiating power.

Quote it low, watch it go

“…quote it high, watch it die”. This industry saying refers to the practice of agents “low balling” an expected selling price to draw larger numbers to an auction. Hocking Stuart in Richmond was recently fined $330,000 after misleading house hunters by significant amounts in order to build audiences at upcoming auctions.

Generating urgency

Been told that another buyer is interested in the same house? While there are certain laws pertaining to this area, real estate agents who are able to choose their words carefully can falsify this information and push you towards making an offer than you otherwise wouldn’t. It’s possible that there is another buyer, but keep in mind that the agent could be trying to take you for a ride.

Why Home Buyers Can’t Rely on Consumer Protection

From an overall standpoint, Australian consumers are strongly protected by legislation. Common law is designed to cover all manner of contexts, while many different policies have been introduced by the Government to support specific industries. But bureaucracy often stands in the way of these measures, leading to exploitation of the process and a system that is far less favourable to the home buyer than it should be.

What’s in place to protect home buyers?

Building industry regulations such as the Home Owners Warranty policy have been introduced in an effort to protect home buyers from defects in newly constructed buildings. However, despite the positive intention of this industry-specific legislation and general consumer law, most measures are poorly implemented or subject to manipulation. In practice, they do not favour the home buyer in a system that is already stacked heavily against them.

Warranty claims are a maze not worth navigating

One of the major problems for home buyers in regard to these regulations is the difficulty involved in submitting a claim to the builder or their insurer. Most builders and insurance bodies are experts at dealing with claims and, on the balance of probabilities, will be more prepared to deal with the complaint process than you are. Through a combination of defence, avoidance and other abuses of process, they commonly wear home buyers down to the point where only the most resilient and vigilant complainants achieve any sort of outcome after a long and arduous battle. Even those who push on through the procedures and reach a result often wish they had never tried in the first place.

Don’t be fooled by newly constructed homes

Many house hunters assume that building inspections are only necessary for older structures. After all, new buildings are always constructed according to current standards, right? Wrong. While there are comprehensive standards in place to ensure buildings meet a certain standard, there are many instances where even new homes have been sold for far more than they are truly worth due to shortcuts or loopholes in the building process. Many first home buyers get excited at the prospect of owning their dream home that they sign on the dotted line only to find that they have to spend thousands rectifying defects they weren’t initially aware of.

How a building inspection can save you the trouble

Despite everything, it isn’t all doom and gloom. Defect reports from an independent building inspector are an extremely powerful negotiating tool in the buying process, and can allow you to purchase a home at a price that reflects its shortcomings. These extra savings in your pocket can then be used to pay for any rectification work yourself.

If you choose to take on the system with a claim and are lucky enough to succeed, you will ultimately achieve a similar outcome—but not without the time, money and frustration involved in submitting a claim. Being proactive with a building inspection puts you in a position to either negotiate a fair price before making a purchase or turn your back if the vendor won’t budge.

Buying a new house is a daunting prospect at the best of times, especially if it’s your very first property. Many young couples for example, tend to feel that the entire home buying process is stacked against them – which it is. Every professional involved in the process, from lawyers to conveyancers, buyers to vendors and real estate agents, are all interested in one thing and one thing alone – making a profit. If they are successful in convincing you to purchase a property then they stand to make a commission and at the end of the day, this is their primary objective.

Building inspectors on the other hand, have no such biases and are purely concerned with doing the right thing by the potential home buyers. They are obliged to be forthright with their findings and completely transparent with any reports, meaning you get the truth and not some over inflated sales pitch. A building inspector still gets paid the same regardless of whether the property is sold or not, which means they stand to gain nothing by misleading a home buyer.

Don’t let the agent talk you out of a property inspection

It’s an unfortunate reality that many real estate agents convince home buyers to forgo a property inspection in an effort to score a higher offer. It is in their best interest to get as much money as possible for any given property, but their ability to do so is jeopardised if a building inspection reveals any defects.

Keep in mind that almost all new houses have defects due to young or inexperienced builders who are still learning as they work on any given property. A professional building inspector is likely to identify 15-20 defects on a new house, whilst older houses may have as many as 20-30. These issues can include issues with asbestos, poor wiring, inferior light fittings that are a fire hazard, termites, and mould, just to name a few.

Once a home owner becomes aware of such defects, and they have a more comprehensive idea of how much it will cost them to get them repaired, they are automatically in a better position to negotiate a more favourable price. This is something that the real estate agent would prefer to avoid.

Why you’ll never find a reliable building inspector without grey hair

Many young building inspectors are too scared to be completely honest in their inspection reports regarding certain defects for fear of being sued. This is why it’s important to choose the older, veteran inspectors who have the confidence and the experience to offer a comprehensive and brutally honest evaluation.   

 

 You know the problem.  It’s going to be your first home purchase –  an existing house.  You have settled on the basic features you want and the suburbs where you wish to settle.  After much research and attending many ‘Open House’ inspections and auctions, you are now starting to get a better idea of the real price range of houses being sold in the area – not what the real estate agents would like you to believe – and what you get for your money.  Having determined how much you can afford to pay for a mortgage; set an upper limit on price; and gained a pre-approval mortgage limit from your Bank or financier, you are now ready to get serious about buying a property.

After a few inspections, it is easy to become confused as to what features were in which houses.  Even if you started out keeping meticulous notes about each house you have visited, it is too easy to slacken off so recollections becomes increasingly blurry.  Houses today are increasingly becoming better presented and staged.  One can be easily misled by a fresh coat of paint, modern light fittings, and new carpets, colourful scatter cushions, prints and elegant accessories.  They are all designed to sell you on an image … of what you might create. The vendors all try to create an emotional tug to their property that can also blind prospective purchasers to the real condition and suitability of the property.

When you are about to take your first step on the property ladder you soon start to realise that you don’t know enough to recognize the true state of a property.  Get it wrong and you could be up for tens of thousands of dollars in remedial work.  No kidding! 

You might regard yourself as a bit of a handy-person – reasonably good with the hammer and saw.  But that does not equip you to tell if there could be dangerous asbestos fibres in the ceilings and walls; there are  drainage problems which could be affecting the foundations or causing dampness and rot ; whether the house may needs a complete rewiring – or even worse, there is evidence of termites or that an building extension or outbuilding does not comply with building regulations and may need to be demolished.  

If you are ‘time-poor’ – as most of us are these days, you simply should not run the risk of committing to buy a house without knowing whether it is fundamentally sound.

If you were considering buying a $30,000 used car, you would probably call in an expert – a mechanic or a motorist service organisation – to run their eye over the car before you committed.  So why, then, haven’t you brought in a retired builder with years of experience in home renovations to cast their eye over your short-list homes – where the average price might be 20 to 40 times greater than the $30,000 car?  No – it doesn’t make sense.

Do you know a good, retired builder who could provide you with objective feedback about a property or properties you are considering buying?   Someone who is available at short notice and not in any way tied up with the real estate agent or vendor?   Someone who can tell you what you need to know; clearly, succinctly and provide visual evidence of the problems they have identified.  That person should also be able to advise on the range of cost to make the repairs.

They are about but good ones are hard to find.  A good place to start (and finish) is Building Masters Inspections.

Building Masters Inspections is a group of proven, licensed builders who have retired from the demanding, stressful field of home renovations to channel their experience to help prospective house and commercial building buyers make sound purchases.  After years of successful and successive building renovations, they know the traps and recognize tell-tale signs.  They don’t need to pull a building apart or pore over plans.  A visual building inspection shows up most of the likely problems.  Looking at the switchboard tells them  much.  Fresh paint over a wall might be disguising rising damp.  The sound of a tap on the walls here and there tells them much. Termites?  They can quickly spot drainage and foundation problems – but can you?   Don’t let an a real estate agent tell you the squeaks in the floors are not a problem – your Building Masters Inspector is the one to trust.

Give Mike Heathcote a call on 1300 780 931.  Mike leads a small team of top building inspectors who are strategically located around Melbourne to promptly carry out building inspections prior to auction or sale.  His inspectors photograph all reported faults and welcome a face-to-face or phone discussion immediately following their building inspection.  You know will where you stand, the likely repair costs and be better equipped to confidently decide whether to proceed with the purchase, seek a lower price or walk away altogether.  More information about Building Masters Inspections can be obtain be obtained via their website www.buildingmastersinspections.com.au.

For all building and pest inspections of any property in the Melbourne Metropolitan area, Mornington Peninsula and Geelong, Building Masters Inspections are but a phone call away.  1300 780 931.

 For most people, a home purchase is the largest single financial transaction they will ever make during their lifetime.   According to the Real Estate Institute of Victoria, the median price of existing homes sold in Melbourne during the September 2013 quarter was nearly $600,000. With so much at stake, it is smart to get expert guidance that might help you avoid buying a ‘lemon’.

Most existing homes have defects of some form.  Some will be minor or cosmetic in nature while others can be significant and costly to rectify.  Few people would continue with a purchase if they knew the house had serious defects. 

House sales can be like a ‘cat and mouse’ game.  Most vendors know what is wrong with their homes and will often try to disguise or divert attention away from them. 

  • A new coat of paint might have been applied without proper preparation. 
  • Rugs may be placed over problem floor areas. 
  • Gardens might have new plants and mulch that disguise drainage problems. 

Elegant staging of the home shows potential buyers how the home might look – not what it will look like on the day the new owner takes possession of the house devoid of all furnishings.  Yes, there are many traps for the unwary.

Never start thinking about where to place your various items of furniture.  Your first decision should always be to ensure the property will not cost you much more than your purchase price over the ensuing three to five years.  You might even set a limit on what that over-spend should be – for example, 5% of the purchase price.   

Unlike a new home where you can see the build quality as construction proceeds, existing homes have to be primarily assessed via observation.  The method of sale usually determines the extent a buyer can delve into the condition they are thinking of buying.  Few vendors would permit intrusive inspections that involved opening up wall panels, flooring or confined areas.  Consequently, most building inspections involve informed observation, sighting, measuring, tapping and if required, a little scratching around the base of the building and other structures.

Offers to vendors selling by private sale can often be made conditional upon the receipt of an acceptable building inspection within seven days of acceptance of their conditional offer.  Of course, the vendor must accept this condition.  With sale by auction, there can be no conditions required by the purchaser.  Consequently, there is only a short time-frame during which purchasers can seek an independent, expert opinion about the underlying condition of the house in question.   When you have a short-listed property in mind or are about to make an offer, bring in an experienced building inspector for a pre-purchase inspection

But who do you call?

Look for a qualified builder; a ‘warrior’ with many years of relevant, hands-on experience in the building industry – preferably someone who has had a successful career buying and renovating homes.  Few older builders like to stop work overnight – they like to ease back but still keep a less demanding involvement in the industry that engrossed them during their prime.  Building inspections provides an invaluable way to channel back the extensive experience they accumulated over the years.

A good group to start and proceed with is Building Masters Inspections.  This group of grey-haired, blue-eyed ex-builders comes complete with rough hands, a big heart but above all, an attention to detail that helps them spot and interpret visible and hidden problems.  Building Masters Inspections operates in Greater Melbourne, Mornington Peninsula, many major Victorian regional centres.  They can usually undertake a house inspection within 48 hours of your call, subject to vendor access.  You can discuss any particular concerns you might have and the scope of their inspection.

While inspectors from Building Masters Inspections always include photographs of each defect type noted in their reports, they often provide a guide as to likely remedial costs.  The inspectors encourage prospective purchasers to accompany them during their inspection so that a frank discussion can be held immediately following the conclusion of the inspection.  In this way, prospective purchasers can gain a better understanding of the nature and likely causes of major defects and remedial options ahead of receipt of the inspectors’ formal report.

To begin the process, you are invited to have a word with Mike Heathcote, principal of Building Masters Inspections on 1300 780 931.  Mike can explain what a pre-purchase building inspection normally covers and how their observations and opinions might help you make a better, more-informed decision.  Alternatively, you can leave your details on their website www.buildingmastersinspections.com.au so Mike can make contact with you, later. 

Good house-hunting!

 Buying a home requires careful research – lots of it. Research can take many forms – online research, open house inspections, feedback from local real estate agents and other people with good knowledge of the area of most interest to you. Once you have found the house you want there is still more research you should consider.

An apparent bargain may not be one if the home has defects that are hidden or visible but not understood – problems that might cost thousands of dollars to remedy. Had you known about them in advance, you probably would not have purchased the home or wanted to negotiate a much lower price. Similarly, paying top dollar for what appears to be an outstanding home does not guarantee that it is free of any unpleasant surprises.

A pre-purchase inspection carried out by a licensed building inspector with real world building experience could save you anguish and serious money. These inspections can be undertaken within a couple of days and represent valuable safeguard against buying an obvious lemon.

Pre-purchase inspections not only provide an invaluable assessment of the property by a building professional, they can also be part of a buyers’ negotiations strategy.

There are certain situations where pre-purchase inspections can be carried out with the consent of the property vendor.

If the property is being auctioned, the vendor might agree to a prospective purchaser arranging a pre-purchase inspection particularly if you were the first person to express a serious interest in the property soon after listing and indicated you might make a conditional offer prior to the auction, subject to a favorable pre-purchase building inspection report. The prospect of saving on auctioning costs and fewer occasions the home must be kept in pristine condition for open inspections, should appeal.

If you forget to commission a pre-purchase inspection prior to entering into a Contract of Sale on a residential property that is not subject to auction conditions, you still have a three working day cooling-off period in Victoria in which to get an inspection done and decide whether to proceed or withdraw from the contract.

If the property is listed for private sale, there could be greater scope to use a pre-purchase condition report to get and expert inspection to identify visible problem areas and provide an estimate of the remedial cost. Armed with this information, you are in a better position to negotiate a lower price – or to walk away from the sale altogether.

Building Masters’ inspectors are not only licensed building inspectors, they are builders with extensive experience in home renovations. They know what to look for and can advise on remedial options and provide a guide to costs.

For further information, call Building Masters Inspections on 1300 780 931 or visit the website www.buildingmastersinspections.com. Discuss and agree with them the scope of their inspection, the timing of the inspection and receipt of their report. Building Masters Inspections are good people to talk to and most helpful, too.

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TESTIMONIALS


Hi Mike,

Thanks for your help yesterday. If it wasn’t for you we would have been saddled with a lemon. We have exercised our right to withdraw in the cooling off period and barring any other tricks we have hopefully managed to save thousands of dollars. We feel like we’ve learned a bunch and will most definitely be using your services again in the future (and telling all our friends!).

Thank you very much,
Sincerely,
Cameron 

 

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