The 5 Most Common Types of Damage Found During Pre-Purchase Building Inspections

04 December 2023

Buying a house should be the one of the happiest and most exciting parts of every Australian’s life. It’s often a lengthy process of hoping and waiting - you’ve found 5 or so houses that you absolutely love, feeling almost spoilt for choice. You narrow them down to two which are actually in your budget. You’ve looked and looked, negotiated, and now you’re ready to put down an offer!

But hold on, an older house could be full of issues that you don’t want to, nor have the budget to fix. Even if a house has recently been built it might not be up to scratch, or it could have already started to show signs of structural failure or internal damage.

What can you do to ensure your future home is going to hold? Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of 6 common types of damage to look out for before buying a house. If you know the signs to spot, you’ll feel more confident when conducting your inspections, and before signing off on anything when it’s already too late.

1.  Termite Infestations

Dampness and damp areas are a breeding ground for termites. Holes in the roof, cracks in the walls, issues with the guttering can all lead to leaks which then attract termites. Maze-like patterns or small holes in wood, old wings, and pellet mounds on the floor which look like salt or pepper could be tell-tale signs termites have made a home in the building before you have. They will breed and eat through wooden furniture at an alarming rate, so can be an incredibly expensive problem to fix if not dealt with promptly

That’s why you might want to think about organising a termite inspection. It can be hard to know what to look for exactly, so inspections carried out by a professional will put your mind at ease and ensure you receive a thorough check. They’re often found underneath the timber structure of the house as well as the stumps, and in the roofing and flooring too. It is also a good idea to check the areas surrounding the property. Nearby trees can sometimes be home to a termite colony, which may migrate into the house when searching for a new nest.

2.  Water Damage

Water damage can be one of the most destructive forms of damage, and have a significant effect on the structural integrity of a house. Water can cause wood to rot, and even to fall apart if the problem is left to worsen. This can affect the strength of load bearing walls or even the foundation of the house itself.

Showers can leak behind the walls they’re connected to and cause issues that aren’t even seen. It’s a smart idea to check and see if plasterwork and paintwork on the other side of the shower cubicle walls is bubbling or starting to peel off. Ask your agent during the inspection if these areas were recently painted, so that you can determine whether the seller has just done a sloppy paint job, or if it’s indicative of a leak. If you woke up one morning in your new home to discover the ceiling above your shower had fallen in, that would put a real dampener on things.

Aside from water damage being unsightly, it can have invisible affects on our health. Mould grows in damp conditions, which is incredibly harmful if ingested, and can cause respiratory issues if inhaled. Make sure to look out for any wet spots on walls or ceilings. Be sure to also keep an eye out for gutters and downpipes; anywhere water would collect and pool if not draining properly. Check for rust and cracks in all pipes and fittings that are visible on the outside of the house. 

3.  Sloping Ground

The area around the property is as important as the property itself. It’s vital to check the grounds around the house to see if they are damaged or sloping the wrong way, which will cause problems in heavy rains, as you may find your home ends up flooded. Grounds should slope away from the house to ensure water doesn’t collect close to the actual property. If the style of the property makes that impossible to avoid, then ensure that there is adequate and functioning drainage to keep the external walls dry. 

It’s a good idea to test this before making any commitments. This can easily be done by filling up a bucket of water and throwing it on the ground near your house, then following the trail of the water and ensuring it’s drained away. You don’t want to wait until a big storm to find out you have a problem.

4.  Roof Damage

Everyone wants a solid roof over their heads, and in Australia, we often experience some crazy weather and wild winds. Extreme weather conditions can damage roof tiles and shingles and lead to larger issues. When the tiles and shingles become loose, they can cause water to seep through the roof and into the ceiling, and whilst one loose tile may not seem like a huge problem, once the number starts to build you can quickly end up with a roof that’s unfit to adequately protect your home. Roof damage is often ignored by buyers and sellers as it frequently gets left unchecked, so make a point of asking about it and taking a look for yourself if you can during your inspection.

5.  Cracks in Wall Junctions

When you’re conducting a pre-purchase building inspection, have a look at the wall junctions and ceiling cornices. This is often a hotspot for cracks. Generally, where the wall meets the ceiling, vertical cracks that start close to the joining points are usually caused by the settling or slight movements of your home's foundations. Over time, this is a relatively normal occurrence and not a cause for concern, but it’s important to look out for them nonetheless.

In most cases, these sorts of cracks are not a serious issue, and will also normally not cost a lot to repair. However, they can be unsightly, and actually help you in bringing the price of the house down. Plus, it’s always a good idea to check that there’s no integral structural issue going on, or prevent a potential one from getting any worse.


When it comes to making a decision as big as purchasing a new house, it’s always important to be as well informed as possible. Double and triple check every inch of the area to ensure you’re buying a property that’s suitable to transform into a home, and not a costly and stressful renovation project. By following our guide and knowing what problems to look out for, you’ll be much more confident when it comes to the final step, and that all-exciting moment when you write your name on the papers.