The days of getting a knowledgeable relative to do a "building inspection" on a house you're thinking about buying are numbered.

The latest version of the Auckland District Law Society and Real Estate Institute of New Zealand sale and purchase agreement, used for most of the country's real-estate transactions, has become available this month.

It requires that any building report is done by someone suitably qualified.

In other words, you can't just ask your handy uncle to come and check out the property.


Barrister and solicitor Peter Nolan, who helped draft the agreement, said the stricter requirement was protection for both parties.

"It needs to be objective. It needs to be fair to the vendor that if the buyer is pulling out on the basis of a building inspection that it was done by an objective person with proper qualifications."

But the directive has created problems and the Certified Builders Association has warned members not to do building reports because the risk of liability is too high.

Operations manager Jason McClintock said there had been too many cases of things such as leaky buildings where the person who wrote the inspection report was the "last man standing" after developers went out of business.

Awareness of leaky building problems had made homeowners more litigation-savvy. "Practitioners are exposed to liabilities they are underinsured for," said McClintock.

"We're protecting both parties by saying builders shouldn't expose themselves, their homes and their businesses to potential liabilities."

Master Builders Association chief executive Warwick Quinn agreed: "Under the building regime we are responsible for undertaking construction work. Our liability increases significantly if we undertake consultancy work."

He said that was the domain of registered surveyors. He expected building inspection companies would do the bulk of the inspection work.

Sorry Dad, take a step back

Amy Flower has been relying on her father's opinion to decide whether it's worth bidding on properties at auction.

She is looking to buy her first home on Auckland's North Shore. But if she decides to make a conditional offer with the new version of the sale and purchase agreement, his opinion won't be enough to satisfy the building report clause.

Faced with the front-page option of inserting the clause, she probably won't bother. "A lot of what I've been looking at are brick-and- tile units and I'm happy that those are well built."

But Andie Spargo, a prospective home-buyer from Christchurch said inserting the condition was essential for peace of mind.

"We have mates who are builders but we figured it was important to not just get a registered builder, but also someone whose professional focus is house inspection. It's too much money to gamble."