Improving house inspections


3 November 2006

BUILDING INSPECTORS who received low marks from the Consumers’ Institute for failing to properly assess homes for prospective buyers need to lift their game by using the Standard for Residential property inspection (NZS 4306:2005), says Grant Thomas, General Manager Marketing at Standards New Zealand.

The voluntary Standard was published in 2005 in response to events in the building industry relating to weather tightness and durability and concerns that many property inspections were not picking up important defects. “The sale or purchase of residential property is an important decision, which should be backed up with accurate knowledge of the property,” says Grant. “This Standard introduces consistency and reliability into the inspection of residential properties, to ensure that as far as possible, significant defects are identified.”

The Standard is useful for:

  • Property buyers, to ensure they have enough information about a house to allow them to make an informed decision before they buy. “Be sure to ask your property inspection company to use NZS4306:2005,” says Grant.
  • People selling property, to demonstrate their ‘duty of care’.
  • Real estate agents, who can use inspections that have been carried out using the Standard, as a marketing tool.

Consumers’ Institute survey results
The Consumers’ Institute describes the performance of building inspectors as ‘poor’, following a recent survey it undertook of 10 inspection companies, and says that house inspectors missed many potential problems.

“The Standard will help building inspectors and building consultants to identify these potential problems,” says Grant. “It provides clear guidelines to property inspectors and gives home owners, vendors and financiers the assurance they need that any significant defects have been identified.”

Standards New Zealand recommend that homeowners insist that a property inspection is carried out according to the residential
property inspection Standard and that the inspector is willing to certify this in writing.

Written property reports should be accompanied by a residential property inspection certificate (NZS 4306:2005 PADS), which certifies that the property inspection has been carried out in accordance with the Standard and includes a summary checklist of the features inspected.

What the Standard Covers
The residential property inspection Standard covers a range of issues concerning pre-purchase property insections and reportin, including:

  • Competencies required by inspectors to conduct an inspection in accordance with the Standard
  • Minimum requirements for the visual inspection of residential buildings and for the basic content of a property report.
    •  A property report should be seen as a reasonable attempt to identify any significant defects identifiable at the time of  the inspection.
    • The inspection should include an assessment of the condition of each of the following areas, where safe, unobstructed access is provided - site, subfloor, exterior, roof exterior, roof space, interior, services and identified ancillary spaces and buildings. It shall be clearly stated in a property report if no access was available, or access to limited areas only was available at the time the inspection was carried out.
  • A clear list of everything a professional inspector should be looking at when making the assessment, including identification of:
    • Construction defects (structural, instability, weather tightness, durability, workmanship)
    • Gradual deterioration 
    • Deferred maintenance issues as well as other defects
    • Trade specific testing (or reference to) and assurance relating to infrastructure services (plumbing, gas, electrical etc)
    • Positive attributes (insulation, double glazing, plumbing issues).
  • A list of areas and items, which could be the subject of a special (additional) report. Such a report may be needed when items or areas are identified, which are outside the inspector’s area of expertise.
  • Reference Standards and other relevant documents.