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A need for private building/home inspectors
27/10/2006 By National House Buyers Association
Published in Iproperty Magazine

For many people the purchase of a house or an apartment unit is the most important financial decision of their lives. What happens if you have paid for your house and discover defects later which are going to cost thousands of ringgits to repair? This would not have happened if you had used the service of the building inspector to give you a report on the condition of the house or check for permitted renovations against shoddy renovations before you buy. The report would have given you room for negotiation with the seller too.

Most people are under the mistaken belief that the local council issuing the Certificate of Fitness for Occupation ('CFO') will discover problems such as defects & shoddy workmanship when they issue it. They do not. Their job is strictly to ensure that there are no by-law violations or safety issues. They
are not quality assurance officers nor do they have that authority. Further, there could be problems with the house that are not necessarily By-law violations, yet have serious consequences for the new owner.

We believe that it takes three types of know-how to make a wise decision on a purchase: financial know-how; legal know-how and technical/engineering know-how. In the first two, consultations with financial or legal experts are not a problem as these professionals are already in the market. However, when it comes to the technical part, there is a lot of tension from the layman's point of view and the vendor's as getting a professional home inspection report has yet to be practised by house buyers as one important process of the purchase.

The layman is only guided by his untrained eyes (to inspect) and nave assuming attitude. When it comes to quality and workmanship, new homeowners' problems are compounded by the fact that there is no degree of benchmark on buildings and its components for the layman to rely on.

In countries like America and Canada, home inspections are standard practice in the purchasing process. Home inspectors conduct inspections of newly built or previously owned homes. Prospective home buyers hire home inspectors to inspect and report the condition of a home's systems, components, and structure. They typically are hired either immediately prior to a purchase offer on a home, or as a contingency to a sales contract. In addition to structural quality, home inspectors inspect all home systems and features, including roofing as well as plumbing, electrical, and heating or cooling systems.

Different kinds of inspections

A valuation report is the formal process of estimating a property's value as it relates to a mortgage loan. It does not itemise defects or reflect potential problems in the home whereas the CFO is an official document issued by the Local Council under the Uniform Building By-laws to certify that a certain building is safe and can be occupied

In newly completed residential projects, the architects' roles is to certify that the building has been constructed and completed in accordance with the relevant Acts, by-laws and regulations and that all conditions imposed by the Appropriate Authority in respect of the issuance of CFO has been complied with. In purchases from housing developers, it is not uncommon to hear of buyers' claims of vacant possession being given 'pre-maturedly'. In circumstances, like this, a home inspector would have come in handy to report outstanding works and the possibility of the issuance of CFO being further delayed, so that buyers can take action quickly to remedy the situation.

When to get an inspection

Get an inspection of the property before accepting vacant possession or even before you buy. For owners of strata titled buildings it is equally important that a joint inspection be done before the transition from the developer to the owners' management corporation. An inspection is meant to evaluate, at minimum, the structural and mechanical condition of a property.

People involved in real estate transactions need unbiased information about the physical condition of property they plan to buy or sell and your contract should include a contingency that you obtain a satisfactory inspection report. Private home inspection protects the buyers' interests, just as a bank's valuer's report protects the lender.

Where to find an inspector

The Institution of Surveyors, Malaysia has a Building Surveying Division of professional building surveyors who can provide a home or building inspection service.

The Institution of Surveyors, Malaysia
3rd Floor, Bangunan Jurukur
64-66, Jalan 52/4, 46200
Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia

The Association of Consulting Engineers Malaysia (ACEM) - do have a list of their members who offer home inspection services. For building failures, there is a joint panel between ACEM and Institute Engineers Malaysia (IEM) who will undertake consultations on building failures.

Association of Consulting Engineers, Malaysia
63-2 & 65-2, Medan Setia 1,
Damansara Heights, Kuala Lumpur, 50490 Malaysia.
There are also licensed architects who doubled up as building inspectors as well as companies who offered this service. Look them up in the telephone directory.

What the inspection, at minimum should include

Every inspection should include, but not be limited to, an evaluation of at least the following:

  • Foundations

  • Plumbing and electrical systems

  • Doors

  • Ceiling, walls and floors and their components

  • Roof and their materials

  • Hazardous materials concerns

  • Common areas (in condominiums)

How much does it cost

According to Sr Zarim Ibrahim of the Building Surveying Division, a general condition survey which takes about an hour cost RM350 to RM500 for a residential home. The cost will vary with the type of report, comprehensiveness and the size of the property.

Getting a home inspection can be a 'peace of mind' which every house buyer should be including in their house purchase process.


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