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Pre-settlement inspection checklist: our complete guide

Alex White

As settlement approaches, discerning buyers inspect their new home to make sure there are no nasty surprises.

6 Cook Street, Glebe, NSW

A pre-settlement inspection is a crucial step in the buying process. Picture: realestate.com.au/buy

Known as the pre-settlement inspection, this step is a crucial one – especially if someone has been living in your new home since you signed the contract of sale, as this makes it more likely that the home won’t be in the same condition as when you bought it, which it’s required to be.

Often, the property settlement period is anywhere between 30 and 90 days, and so you shouldn’t assume that the property is in the same condition in the week leading up to settlement as when you exchanged contracts; you should inspect the site instead.

You should check that the property is in good condition, that all rubbish has been removed from site, and that any special contract conditions have been met.

If the property is in a worse condition than when you exchanged contracts – for example, if there’s a new hole in the wall, broken window or burst water pipe – you can ask the vendor to make repairs accordingly.

Four-bedroom house in Bondi

Pre-settlement inspections take place in the week before settlement. Picture: realestate.com.au/buy

When to inspect?

Each state has different laws regarding pre-settlement inspections. Some, like Victoria, stipulate that buyers are entitled to inspect the property at any reasonable time during the week before settlement; others, like South Australia, stipulate that buyers are only entitled to one if they specifically stated in the contract that the sale was subject to one.  

However, whichever state you live in, you’ll be expected to carry out this inspection at a “reasonable time” during the week before settlement.

It’s best to do it several days before settlement, too, so that the vendor has time to make any necessary repairs.

Three-bedroom house in Bondi

Buyers should conduct their inspections thoroughly, checking everything from light switches and air conditioners to door handles and locks. Picture: realestate.com.au/buy

Who can inspect the property?

You should conduct the pre-settlement inspection yourself with a witness, such as the real estate agent.

You must organise the visit in advance at a time that suits the vendor. The house is not yet yours and so you cannot simply show up unannounced.

What to inspect?

Things you should check include:

  • lights and electronics
  • plumbing
  • water heaters
  • air conditioners and heaters
  • door handles and locks
  • appliances
  • curtains and blinds
  • windows and glass
  • pool and spa filters
  • check for pests
  • smoke alarms.

You should also bring the contract of sale with you, so that you can make sure the property contains all the items the vendor agreed to leave (inclusions) and is free from all the items the vendor agreed to take away (exclusions).

Apart from that, you should ensure the property is clean and tidy, and that all special conditions included in the contract of sale have been met.

Three-bedroom house in Bondi

Buyers should make sure the property includes all the items the vendor said they would leave in the contract of sale (inclusions). Picture: realestate.com.au/buy

What should you do if you find a problem?

If you find something is broken or in a worse condition than it was during the first inspection, you should raise it with your conveyancer immediately.

They will try to negotiate it as a special condition on the contract, which means the vendor must fix it before settlement.

If it cannot be patched up in time, the sale price can be reduced to cover the cost of repairs.

You may be dying to move into your new house, but it’s best to stay clear-headed and carry out a pre-settlement inspection to ensure the property is in the same condition as when you first inspected it.

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