BuildingPro founder Andrew Mackie-Smith and his wife Trish have been proactive in campaigning for the immediate set up of disclosure laws across Australia—a petition to legalize the obligation of sellers to inform the buyers about any problem in a property.
The Australian Capital Territory has been supportive of the legislation, and just recently, Trish has started a petition with Queensland Parliament in hopes of getting the same positive response from lawmakers.
According to Andrew: “We like what we see with the ACT and the way that works very, very well… [Based] from talking to policy makers and agents and people who work under that system, they find it works incredibly well.”
Both Andrew and Trish are positive that disclosure laws will soon be set up across Australia because of the good examples set by capital cities around the world such as London and California.
“London and California have already adopted quite strict laws around disclosure. What this disclosure simply means is that sellers, if they're aware of a problem, they have a responsibility to tell buyers about it,” the builder said.
“Let's face it. You're buying a property with, say, on average, half a million in Australian [dollars]. Isn't it fair to tell people [about issues that could affect their investment]?”
The couple believes that the current “doctrine of Buyer Beware” is outdated and quite unfair for property investors looking to create wealth and achieve their goals of financial freedom and stability.
Andrew shares with Smart Property Investment their sentiments on disclosure laws, as well as a good alternative for investors to ensure that they are buying the best properties while these legislations have yet to be passed across Australia:
Do you believe buyers have the right to know if there are things that could be detrimental to a property, like, ‘It's in a flood zone. Never flooded, but it's in a flood zone’?
Andrew Mackie-Smith: Exactly. We think it's fair to disclose… The current doctrine of buyer beware, we feel, is out-dated. That suited the nobility a few hundred years ago, but in today's age where people are investing a significant portion of their money, we think it's only fair that they disclose problems they're aware of.
Sure, if an old grandma is not aware of termite damage in the roof, she wouldn't be penalised. But if someone knows that the house was flooded a couple of times, they should be disclosing that… Currently, [according to] the law, they don't have to.
How can buyers ensure the quality of the property they are purchasing while disclosure laws are yet to be set up across Australia?
Phil Tarrant: It's incumbent on the property investor, the purchaser of the property, to make sure that they are completely satisfied, that they know everything they possibly can about a property... A building inspection or a pest inspection can go a long way for that piece of way, a long way to actually understanding [or] assess[ing]… whether or not you want to purchase [a property]. The investor's in control. It all comes down to finding good building inspectors who can do their job.
As a property investor, what do you get from building inspections, aside from peace of mind?
Andrew Mackie-Smith: Under common law, the building inspector has a duty to act professionally and reasonably. There's a certain obligation on an inspector to act diligently, and they will be potentially out for compensating a buyer if there's a problem, if there's a significant issue that they have overlooked… There's a responsibility back towards their clients and we're acutely aware of that. That's why we go to the extent to what we do.
What would you tell investors who are wary of disclaimers on building inspection reports?
Andrew Mackie-Smith: Those disclaimers, unfortunately, they do make reading a report a bit [of] a cure for insomnia, but they're quite necessary so buyers will understand the limits of what an inspection can and can't do. [There are] certain things that aren't covered, like… asbestos or flood zones or electrical wiring, and things like that. That's why people need to be aware of what are the limits of the inspection, and to read the report and understand those, and to see where they might need to make their own further investigations.
Any final advice for potential property buyers regarding building inspection?
Andrew Mackie-Smith: There's a lot of disclaimers often… so they can be confusing. Speak to the inspector. Make sure you make the time to have a chat and understand it, and tell me, "Please explain to me overall the property, the condition, how does it compare to other properties, what are the main points, what are the major expenses I could expect going forward here?" You really need to have that chat. Getting the inspection done is only half the service.
Make sure you a) Read it. Actually read the report, and b) Speak to the inspector to clarify any points from that. I think that's really key.
Tune in to Andrew Mackie-Smith’s episode on The Smart Property Investment Show to know more about the science behind pest and building inspections, as well as the top 10 things every investor should check to ensure their new property is the real deal.