Property inspections

A building inspection, also known as a pre-purchase building inspection, is a non-invasive visual inspection of a property with the aim of assessing the condition the building is in. It is worth noting that there are no formal or legal restrictions to become a building inspector, nor is there any formal code of practice or standard.

A building inspection is invaluable prior to purchasing a property as it will help determine firstly whether you are happy to proceed with the purchase given the condition the building is in and also how much you are prepared to pay for the property. If a report identifies issues that need to be rectified, you are able to either request they be fixed by the current owner or re-negotiate the purchase price taking into account the additional expense that will be incurred once you own the property. In today’s leaky building market, a building inspection can save you thousands of dollars if weathertightness issues are identified prior to purchase.

We would therefore always recommend a building inspection to be carried out by a reputable building inspector before purchasing a home. We do not recommend relying on any building reports provided by the seller or real estate agent.

A building inspector should not be someone who has a bit of building knowledge, has bought and sold a few properties, or is simply a “mate”. A building inspector needs to be someone who has seen hundreds of properties and is able to identify the problems that can come with different styles and ages of property, and can recognise sub-standard building work.

A building inspector should be a qualified building professional, experienced in assessing residential property.

They will complete the inspection to the New Zealand Standard NZS 4306:2005 and have up-to-date professional indemnity insurance. This insurance will cover you if, for example, a poor assessment of the property is given or the inspector damages the property during the inspection. It is important that whichever building inspector or building inspection company you choose has up-to-date and adequate public liability and professional indemnity insurance that covers damages and legal costs.

When choosing a building inspector, we would recommend you check the following:

  • Does the inspector have any building inspection qualifications and/or are they a member of any professional group?
  • Do they follow the New Zealand Standard for building inspections?
  • Do they have up-to-date professional indemnity insurance and public liability insurance which will cover any damages and legal costs? Are there any exclusions to their policy?
  • Are there any exclusions in the contract you will be signing?
  • How much of their work is building inspections?
  • What type of report will they produce (tick-box, brief comments or full narrative)?
  • How long will the inspection take? A full inspection should take at least two hours.
  • Will the inspector explain the report to you?

It is important when choosing a building inspector to ensure that they are independent of the real estate agent and seller.

 Some inspectors are members of professional organisations, such as:

  • New Zealand Institute of Building Surveyors (NZIBS) is external) this organisation specialises in co-ordinating and regulating building inspectors and, as a member, the building inspector will have a relevant background, a qualification and will complete the inspection to the New Zealand Standard NZS 4306:2005 (see below).
  • New Zealand Institute of Architects (NZIA) is external) and Architectural Designers of NZ (ADNZ) is external). NZIA and ADNZ designers can be consulted in relation to the potential for alterations or additions or any limitations in this regard that may influence your buying decision or the price you are prepared to pay.
  • New Zealand Institute of Quantity Surveyors (NZIQS) is external)
    Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ) is external)
  • NZ Institute of (land) Surveyors (NZIS) is external) Land surveyors can confirm the boundaries of the section and can assist you in determining the building envelope available to you if you are considering alterations or additions to the house you are interested in buying. They can also assist in determining whether or not the section is sub-dividable if this is of interest to you.
  • Drainage Surveyors – there is no association governing the work practices carried out by firms carrying out surveys of drainage, sewerage and stormwater services, but there will be local service providers that can carry out a CCTV survey of the underground services. We highly recommend that this is done as part of you due diligence.


As there is no formal code of practice or standard for building inspectors and there are no formal or legal restrictions on becoming a building inspector, the quality and cost of a building inspection report can vary quite considerably.

Some inspections are simple tick-box forms which offer little more than you would notice from wandering around the property during an open home. Other building inspectors offer full written reports. It is important to remember that the results of a building inspection can save you, in some instances, thousands of dollars and cheapest is not always the best.

In general a building inspection should identify significant defects, overdue maintenance, future maintenance issues, gradual deterioration and any other areas of concern. The examination is visual only, with the inspector checking areas of the building that can be accessed through safe and reasonable means. In reality this means an inspector will not remove wall linings or floor coverings to check below. A building inspector will not guarantee if the property meets the Building Act or has the necessary building / resource consents – this will need to be checked against the LIM report – but they will be able to identify work that is likely to have needed consents.

It is important to read the building inspection contract to ensure you are aware of any exclusion clauses within the contract to know what the inspection will not be looking at or responsible for.


A building inspection generally takes up to four days to complete, so if you are making an inspection a condition of the Sale and Purchase Agreement you should allow yourself at least five working days to have this condition met.


If you have concerns around the weathertightness of a property it is best to engage a building inspector specialised in that particular area to carry out a weathertightness survey. They will be able to identify whether or not a property is a leaky building and to what extent it has affected the property. In general, weathertightness issues will not be identified in a standard building inspection.

We recommend that you avoid relying solely on a Thermal Imaging Report for indication of leaks or relying on any building reports provided by the seller.


Need help?

We provide independent information and support on all matters related to homes and housing. If you are experiencing a challenge — whether with a defective building, trouble with a contractor/service provider, or issues within your body corporate, our team can help you.  

Phone: 0800 462 269