Buying guide

Buyer’s pre-settlement inspection guide

Everything you need to check before you buy

Last updated: 2 May 2024

When anyone buys a house, whether as an investment or a home, the buyer needs to carry out a few inspections of the property. 

One of the most important is the pre-settlement inspection. Here’s everything buyers need to know to make sure they do it right, including a house inspection checklist. 

What is a pre-settlement inspection?

In NZ a pre settlement inspection is a chance for the buyer to look through the property to check that everything is in the same condition as when they signed the agreement and that the seller has met the conditions of the agreement. It is not a chance for buyers to raise issues they did not notice before the agreement was signed.

Pre settlement inspections should be performed at least two days before settlement with either the vendor or their real estate agent. This is important - performing the inspection in advance gives the vendor time to fix any problems you find before the settlement date.

For that reason, once you have a settlement date and a signed agreement it’s a great idea to contact the vendor or real estate agent right away to arrange this inspection. 

Full NZ pre settlement inspection checklist

During the pre-settlement inspection you should look for any new damage that was not there when the agreement was signed. Take the sale and purchase agreement with you so while at the property you can check all exclusions and inclusions as well as the conditions of the agreement.

Interior - NZ house inspection checklist 

  • Look for damage to surfaces such as walls, carpets, curtains, benchtops, sinks or any other surfaces that were not present before the agreement was signed. 

  • Checking that taps work and sinks drain in the kitchen, bathroom and laundry.

  • Flushing toilets with toilet paper to check that they work and running the shower to see that it sprays and drains. If toilets or drains drain slowly that may indicate a blockage. 

  • Look for signs of new water damage or leaks. 

  • Check that electrical sockets and electrical systems work by plugging stuff in. 

  • Check that keys to the property are available. 

  • Check that dryers are properly vented and that washing machines drain if they’re included in the chattels list. 

  • Check that the ventilator fans in bathrooms and kitchens work properly. 

  • Double check that all heating, air conditioning, HVAC and ventilation systems work. If there’s a fireplace check that the door opens and the dampeners shut. 

  • Take a quick look at the hot water cylinder to check if it's on and for signs of leakage. 

  • Check that doors and windows still open and close properly. 

  • Check that any security or alarm systems are working properly. 

  • Turn on oven hobs and/or gas burners to see if they work. 

It's worth having a good look around a home before you settle.

Exterior - NZ home inspection checklist

  • Take a good look around the home’s outside to check that the cladding is in good condition. 

  • Inspect fences to ensure they’re still in good condition. 

  • Check exterior drains are draining properly. Make sure gutters aren’t blocked or damaged. 

  • Take a look at the piles and floor insulation and check for rubbish or building materials  if you’re brave enough to go under the house. 

  • Double check retaining walls for sagging or cracks. 

Additional things to check - Pre Settlement inspection checklist NZ

  • If any appliances are included in the agreement, double check that they work (unless the agreement specifies that they don’t). 

  • Check that the belongings of the vendor or previous occupants are gone. 

  • Double check that the vendor has carried out any maintenance or repairs to the property that were required as part of the sale and purchase agreement. 

  • If there has been an earthquake, flood or other natural disaster carefully check that no damage has occurred since the agreement was signed. 

Once your inspection is done and settlement is complete you're good to move in.

Raising issues after completing your pre settlement checklist

If you find any problems once you’ve completed your pre sale home inspection checklist you should contact your lawyer. Your lawyer must provide notice to the vendor’s lawyer of any requests no later than 5pm the day before settlement, so it’s a good idea to raise issues as soon as you find them. 

 Reasons to contact your lawyer include: 

    • You found damage that wasn’t there when the agreement was signed. 
    • Chattels that were included in the sale and purchase agreement aren’t in the same condition, aren’t working or are not in the property. 
    • The vendor hasn’t carried out repairs or maintenance that was stipulated in the sale and purchase agreement. 
    • The vendors have left rubbish or their possessions in the house. 
    • The property is not in the same state as when the agreement was signed (note, unless specifically stipulated in your agreement there is no requirement for the property to be clean). 

Your lawyer will let you know what your options are and contact the vendor’s lawyer to rectify the problem. At this stage the vendor may remedy the problems or agree to deduct the cost of a remedy from the purchase price. If the works required are extensive the vendor may also agree to a ‘retention of funds’, where funds are held in your lawyer’s trust account and not released until issues are resolved. 

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is general in nature. While facts have been checked, the article does not constitute an advice service. The article is only intended to provide general information about pre-settlement inspections in New Zealand. Nothing in this article constitutes a recommendation for any specific person. Before making decisions about a home, we highly recommend you seek professional and legal advice.


Ben Tutty
Ben Tutty

Ben Tutty is a regular contributor for Trade Me and he's also contributed to Stuff and the Informed Investor. He's got 10+ years experience as both a journalist and website copywriter, specialising in real estate, finance and tourism. Ben lives in Wānaka with his partner and his best mate (Finnegan the whippet).