What is a defect?
What constitutes a defect in a building and pest inspection?
The dictionary definition of a defect is: an imperfection that impairs the worth or utility. It describes a lack of something necessary for completeness, adequacy, or perfection. In terms of housing and real estate this definition means a condition that may impair the structural integrity, construction or the safety or health of the occupants of the building. From the view of a building and pest inspector a defect is defined in the australian standards and is set by state law where applicable.
What is a “significant” defect?
There is often some confusion when the term significant defect is used to describe a defect in the contract to purchase a property.
The use of the word “significant” can mean a lot of different things to those involved in the transaction of the houw. The buyer, seller, agents, and inspectors may all have a different perception of the severity of the defect.
i. If a power point happened to be missing a cover. It could be said that it would be cheap to fix and take very little time. On the other hand it is possible that someone could accidentally touch the power point and get electrocuted. While the cover to the power point may seem insignificant on the surface it can be very dangerous and even fatal.
ii. How about down pipe that is missing from a roof gutter. Once again there is a relatively cheap solution to this that takes little skill and time to rectify. If this is left unfixed water could be able to penetrate the foundations to the home causing structural movement and cracking. Repairs to damage in these areas can be very expensive.
Here are just a couple of examples of different conditions that can be reported by building and pest inspectors that could seem minor or significantly major depending how it looked at.
Who decides what a defect is?
Now we know the definition of a defect. Who decides what items that are found in the inspection are labelled as a defect: the inspector, the seller, the buyer, or the real estate agent?
The real estate agent is not in a position decide.
Sometimes we find real estate agents attempting to categorize the defects that are discovered during the inspection. They will try to explain to buyers that certain types of defects can be used to renegotiate a lower purchase price and that some cannot.
Some home buyers are also told that unless the building and pest inspector uses the word “defect” in the report when describing the property, the buyer will not be entitled to raise this particular condition as a concern and that no action will be required by the seller. This is not true.
If a dishwasher did not function at the time of the inspection and condition of this was clearly written in the report, the buyer will have every right to request that the dishwasher be fixed to proper working condition, or allowed for in the contract unless it was disclosed prior to the inspection. This will be the case whether the word “defect” was used or not in the inspection report.
It is risky for real estate agents to try and decide what constitutes a significant defect for a property. They will often give their own opinion in an attempt to close the sale. You should listen to the inspector in all of these cases as they are working for you and not the seller and will provide an opinion that is in your best interest.
The home inspector will decide.
The home inspector will qualify what constitutes a defect and what does not. We will do our best to lend some logical perspective to homebuyers regarding the conditions of the property.
As building and pest inspectors we provide a report on the condition of the property. We outline all of the conditions that are substandard and should be of concern. Many of the conditions that we discover during a pre-purchase building and pest inspection may require further evaluation by a specific tradesman or specialist in order to determine the significance of a reported condition.
As the home buyer you determine how you follow up any of these defects.
Some home buyers will want every defect that is discovered the inspection report to be repaired for the contract is finalised while others will accept a house that has a lot of defects without even renegotiating. Most home buyers are quite reasonable and only bring up the major, costly issues.
If there are a few minor electrical problems that need repair and the person buying the home doesn’t want to deal with any electrical issues, they can get the seller to make the necessary arrangements to get the repairs. The buyer can have the seller do this for them even if the repair costs are low.
If the yard has a negative gradient that causes poor drainage conditions that brings water back to the house and foundations. This could be quoted at thousands of dollars for rectification works depending on the solution. The buyer may be willing to accept this significant condition because they are happy enough to buy some top soil and adjust the drainage gradient because they don’t mind doing work in the yard.
These are the types of decisions that can only be made by the buyer. All of the other parties involved in the home buying process do not have the right to determine how defects are handled by the buyer.
It is the responsibility of the building and pest inspector to state the condition of the property and it’s components. It is not up to them the decide how any of the defects are handled throughout the transaction process. It is the home buyer that is the one spending their money on the home and it is up to them to decide which conditions require a renegotiation of the price, which are acceptable and which are objectionable. It is up to the buyer to decide how they approach each substandard aspect of the property.
Here is a video that shows some of the defects that are discovered while carrying out a building and pest inspection. The defects shown in this video are significant and would cost a considerable sum of money to be repaired and rectified. It is important that you have one of our professional building and pest inspectors assess your home before you buy. A building and pest inspection by Aegis Safe could be the best investment you will ever make.
Top ten defects found during building and pest inspections
Employing the services of a licensed Building and Pest Inspector can translate into big savings at the negotiating table. Firstly, you will need to make sure that the building and pest inspector is suitably qualified and experience to identify subtle defects that are very difficule to pick up by the typical home buyer. Buyers who inspect their prospective homes by themselves are rarely qualified to conduct a thorough home inspection and even if they have a good knowledge base to work from, they are too emotionally involved in the purchase and are usually blinded by the glitter of the cosmetic issues.
Buying the home of your dreams usually consumes all of your available resources as well as everything you can borrow. You sure don’t want to wake up to an unexpected $3,000 repair bill for a new heating system three months after you move in.
Identifying subtle defects before you sign a contract can translate into a reduced selling price, or repair of uncovered defects at the sellers cost. And don’t believe that the seller is offering the house “as is”, there’s always room for negotiation. Of course, there is a limit to what any inspector can uncover because home inspections are visual investigations and destructive probing is not the standard of practice in the industry. However, there may be times when destructive probing may be recommended by the engineer and this must be undertaken with the seller’s approval. The purpose of a pre-purchase home inspection is to reduce risk to the buyer, the visual inspection can not eliminate risk.
It is important to accompany the engineer during the home inspection because one picture is worth a thousand words and there’s a unique opportunity to learn about the home; the engineer will be sure that you are not blinded by the glitter. Familiarize yourself with the following top ten list and you will have an idea of what your home inspection engineer should be looking for.
Wear on a roof may be readily apparent if the wear is very advanced but a roof that is starting to age is a more subtle defect that the engineer can uncover. Resurfacing a roof costs thousands of dollars, and will cost much more if the existing roofing surface needs to be removed prior to re-roofing. If a roof will need to be resurfaced in the foreseeable future, this may be a negotiable item. Similarly, the siding of the house should be carefully inspected because residing a house can also cost thousand of dollars. Replacement of old defective windows can cost thousands of dollars, don’t overlook this obvious defect. Eliminating problems before they start is smart, for example, the home inspector should be sure that the land around the home is properly graded to divert water away from the home, this will help to reduce the possibility of water intrusion into the home.
If there’s one defect you don’t want to find out about after you move in, it’s a basement that floods. The basement areas of the home should be thoroughly checked for signs of water intrusion, such as water stains, mildew, an odor of dampness, efflorescence on the walls and floors, and damaged and cupping floors. In addition, look for water proofing systems, sump pumps, etc. in the basement; these systems can help to reduce the risk of water flooding in the basement but may not be able to eliminate water intrusion under all conditions. If a house needs water proofing measures, the cost can run into the thousands.
Proper insulation and ventilation in a home should not be overlooked; proper ventilation in a home is more important than most home buyers are aware of. Inadequate ventilation in an attic can result in accelerated deterioration of the structural roof deck; if this occurs, a major expense will be incurred to remove and replace the roofing shingles and roof deck, and in extreme cases, the roof rafters. This is one defect that should not be overlooked.
The condition of the paint surface on homes constructed prior to 1978 may contain lead paint which can be a problem if there is wide spread deterioration of the paint surface; your home inspection engineer may suggest an X-ray evaluation of the paint surface for lead content. If you are planning renovation of walls, etc. after you move in, lead paint is an issue to consider.
Bulges, deflections, and other irregularities in the roof framing, exterior wall framing, and interior framing, or cracks in the foundation wall may indicate a serious structural problem that may be the result of poor structural design, poor construction techniques, improper structural alteration, water damage, or termite damage. Jacking up a house to replace damaged structural components, or underpinning a defective foundation wall is a major expense. The home inspection engineer has the experience, education and expertise to evaluate structural problems; this is one of the reasons why retaining the services of a Licensed Professional Engineer (P.E.) to conduct your home inspection instead of a home inspector who is not licensed to practice engineering is advantageous. Sure, anybody can report that a structural defect exists, but only a P.E. is licensed to offer a professional engineering judgment and design to correct the problem. Home buyers who do not retain the services of a P.E. may have to pay a second fee to obtain a professional engineer’s opinion.
First, the engineer should determine the size of the service to determine if it meets current standards; bringing an upgraded electrical service into a home can cost one thousand dollars. The electrical system should then be checked by removing the cover from the electric service panel. Once the wiring is exposed, be sure that the home inspection engineer looks for problems in the panel such as burned wiring, overfused circuits (the fuse or circuit breaker is too large for the wire size), improper wiring connections, openings in the panel (where a child can put their finger into the panel, ouch!), home owner installed wiring, etc. In addition to checking for an adequate quantity of electrical switches and convenience outlets in the house, the outlets should be checked for open ground and wiring reversal conditions. Throughout the house, dead ended wiring and exposed wiring should be on the list of defects to look for. Homes wired in the mid 60’s to mid 70’s may have aluminum wiring and if so, the engineer should determine if an approved retrofit has been installed at the wiring connections; if not, a potential fire safety hazard exists. If the home is very old, it may have knob and tube wiring, this is ancient wiring and may be hazardous. Extensive wiring replacement can cost thousands of dollars.
First, the home inspection engineer should determine the type of pipe that supplies water to the house from the municipal main in the street. Be wary of old lead and galvanized steel water supply pipes, replacement costs thousands of dollars. Be sure that your home inspection engineer checks the piping distribution in the house for type of material and condition looking for deterioration, incompatible piping materials, and leaks. Your engineer should carry a moisture meter to evaluate any suspect plaster or wall board on the ceilings and walls caused by water leaks; replacing the piping network in the walls and ceilings is a major expense that can cost thousands of dollars. Be sure that the engineer checks all of the fixtures and faucets for proper operation, and also checks tiled bathtub and shower enclosures for integrity. Replacement of tiling in a bathroom, or replacement of a shower pan can cost a couple of thousand dollars.
Deferred Maintenance Defects
Be very careful of homes where deferred maintenance is clearly evident; if a home has been poorly maintained and there are obvious problems, proceed with extreme caution, this could be your worst nightmare where you wake up in the middle of the night screaming (the home of your dreams has become the home of your screams). If there are obvious problems, imagine what you can’t see; it’s your money pit, keep your check book handy. A handyman’s special is best acquired by a handy man.
Be careful of homes where there is obvious plumbing and electrical work, as well as structural additions and renovations, that were not professionally installed and were most likely installed by the home owner; correcting these defects can cost thousands of dollars. This is a situation where the seller of the home is a weekend warrior who is well intentioned but has no clue regarding proper construction and trade practices; don’t end up writing checks for work that the seller did not want to pay for.
It is preferable to retain the services of a home inspector who issues a full written report detailing what is wrong, why it’s wrong, and what needs to be done to correct the uncovered defects. Home inspection reports that consist of check lists handed to you at the end of an inspection are often void of needed detail; checking off good, fair poor, adequate, inadequate, etc. often leaves you wondering what to do next. Be sure that you retain the services of an engineer whose door is open for future questions.
Take a copy of InspectAmerica’s check list when you preview homes, when you see a home that you might consider, use the check list to make notes; you will find this check list to be an invaluable resource to help you remember what you’ve seen and will be an important aid when you accompany your Professional Engineer (P.E.) during your home inspection. Remember, smart home buyers understand the advantages of retaining the services of a P.E. instead of an inspector who is not licensed to practice engineering.