6 Things to Know About Home Inspections: Benefits of Inspections & What to Expect

What to Know About Getting a Home InspectionThe vast majority of home buyers make their offer contingent on the property passing an inspection. However, home inspections may not only vary from neighbourhood to neighbourhood but also from inspector to inspector. Someone purchasing a home who understands the main objectives of each inspection will have a better chance of getting the information they need to make a decision than those don't.

For informational purposes only. Always consult with a licensed real estate professional before proceeding with any real estate transaction.

The Benefits of Home Inspections

A home inspection is an important part of owning, selling or buying a property. Contrary to what many think, this assessment should be carried out routinely and not just when you are going to buy or sell a home. There are a number of good reasons for getting a home inspection, including the need for a maintenance report, a new building project, or selling your home.

People have different reasons for requesting a home inspection. Many call in an inspector every few years to check their homes. This routine allows the owner to deal with home safety concerns as well as plan a repair schedule for current damages. The information offered is also valuable for analyzing the current value of a property.

Buyer Benefits

Buying a new home can be quite an undertaking. A home inspection gives you a clear picture of the property you're about to purchase. Before signing any legal documents, make sure you are well-informed of all underlying property issues. Faults on any property can be used as bargaining points to the buyer's advantage.

Seller Benefits

Property sellers can also use a home inspection to their advantage. It offers the seller more marketing power when they discover property liabilities and then fix them before buyers can use them as a negotiating tool. This also attracts potential buyers since nobody wants to purchase a defective property.

There are many types of inspections that you can perform in a home, but you should keep in mind that this process does not act as a guarantee for the home's future condition. It is a report offered on the home in its present state only.

What Does a Home Inspector Look At?

The goal of a home inspection is to make sure that the home adheres to all government regulations and is safe to live in. The question is: what exactly do home inspectors look for when they examine a house?

Make sure you spend time reading and understanding the contract before the inspection. This is very important because the contract will detail what the inspector will be looking for and the requirements they must follow.

Exterior Elements

Home inspectors will examine the outside of the house to get a better idea of its stability and overall condition. From major structural damage to flaking paint, a good inspector will note it all in their report. Even if the home hasn't sustained specific damage, the foundation or structure may have shifted over time. Inspectors include the following elements in their search:

  • Roof
  • Porch
  • Walls
  • Foundation
  • Floor sills
  • Joists

Internal Elements

Inspectors will check the entire interior of the home, including the electric panels, distribution piping, and insulation. They'll look for signs of water damage and general safety hazards that may pose a threat to the potential home buyers. For example, if the insulation of the home is too thick, it may interfere with the quality of the ventilation. Inspectors will note if the drainage is working properly and if the circuits are in working order. Home buyers are highly encouraged to get to know their inspector and to be there on the actual day of the inspection. Asking questions and learning more about the home is a good way to prepare oneself for homeownership.

Appliances

Home inspectors will look at the quality of your home appliances. For example, they may examine your water heater to ensure it is functioning properly and that it adheres to the government code. This can be helpful in negotiating the price of the house. If you have to replace outdated appliances, you can ask the home sellers for a discount on the cost as a concession for taking on that responsibility.

Energy-Efficiency

Some home inspectors may also look at a home's energy efficiency. This includes determining if a home has adequate insulation in the walls, if the windows and doors have proper weather stripping, and whether or not the appliances in the home are energy-efficient, among other things. A home that is lacking in these areas can lead to high utility bills.

Once you have received your report, keep in mind that very few resale homes are absolutely perfect. You shouldn't be surprised or shocked to see small issues coming to light on the report. As long as there are only one or two problems that are priced less than $1,000 each and they don't need to be resolved on a right-now basis, it should be considered as a very favourable report.

Home Inspection Limitations

A home inspection can give buyers a good idea of the condition of the home, but it also can't give home buyers any guarantees. Home inspectors aren't allowed to alter the home in any way, so they won't be able to follow the electrical wires into the walls to ensure they haven't been compromised. They may not be able to check the septic tank if it's not readily accessible or assess how level the floors are.

If there are hidden surprises (e.g., discarded food items, small rodents, etc.) in the walls or floor registers, a home inspector won't be able to tunnel into the home to find them. Once a homeowner knows what the inspection doesn't cover, they may be able to perform some additional inspection work of their own.

As you go through this process, a good home inspector won't miss anything, but they are still human. The most overlooked home issues include:

  • HVAC problems
  • Floors beneath carpet
  • Major appliance issues
  • Roof Leaks
  • Siding & Windows

Sometimes it has nothing to do with how good or bad the inspector is, but what's included in the contract you sign. Make sure you get everything you need, but understand many home inspectors don't look for some of these things because it would include ripping up carpet or floorboard and taking chunks out of the walls.

The key to having a better home inspection is by taking the time to learn what the inspector does and what their limitations are. Even the best inspectors in the province may still miss an important structural issue that was buried deep in the inner layers of the home.

What to Look For in a Home Inspector

It goes without saying that one of the most common homebuying mistakes is not getting an inspection before the deal closes on your new place. In order to help you find the right home inspector, here are a few simple guidelines to follow. Make sure you hire an expert who is well qualified and certified by the relevant authorities, and always work with someone you are comfortable with on your property. Getting a home inspection means inviting someone into your home who is trustworthy and has a great reputation.

Provinces such as Alberta and British Columbia regulate their home inspectors, while provinces such as Ontario do not. While it's important to know the qualifications and reputation of whoever a homeowner hires, it's especially important to find someone trustworthy in unregulated provinces. Some inspectors might leave certain facts off their report or flat-out lie about what they find. They may do this because they have some loyalty to a third party, such as the lender or the title company, or simply because they didn't thoroughly inspect the home. Home buyers should plan for the inspection to take about three hours.

Find an Inspector While Searching for a Home

While you are searching for a home you should also be looking for a home inspector. This way, if you find the home of your dreams, you'll already have an inspector in mind that you can call immediately.

Look at the Credentials

There are home inspectors who have been doing their jobs for decades, and then there are new inspectors who are just getting started in the industry. Try to locate an inspector that has a track record behind them. This way, you'll be better able to trust their findings and conclusions on the home in question.

Ask About Availability

Some home inspectors are busier than others. Find out how readily available the inspector is. Once you've picked out a fantastic home you won't want to wait for very long to see the results of the inspection.

Check the Price

Get a feel for the pricing of the services by calling different inspectors and companies. You should be looking for a middle-of-the-road price that isn't too expensive but at the same time isn't questionably cheap.

Homeowners who do the research on the reputation of their home inspector and who ask questions along the way will undoubtedly be more confident in making the right decision about whether or not to purchase the home.

Inspections for Homeowners

Home inspections aren't only useful for purchasers of resale homes in Calgary. They can be invaluable once you have lived in your home for a certain amount of time and can help you protect your investment.

If your home has suffered any type of flood damage at all, a good home inspection now would make a lot of sense. You'll be advised about any long-term damage that may not be obvious and this can end up saving you a lot of money in the long run.

Even if you only had a small amount of water entering your home during the flood, a home inspection is recommended. Small amounts of moisture that are visible to the naked eye following a flood can indicate larger amounts that have pooled and remain hidden underneath the flooring and behind the walls. If this is the case, especially in the attic or basement, the structure of your home can be compromised by mould and rot. This in turn can influence the air quality in your home.

When you work with a home inspector following a flood you'll be able to attack any issues proactively and you may or may not be able to make a claim with your house insurance company. An inspector can also make recommendations about downspouts, back flow valves for your sewer service, and other home drainage solutions.

You'll know for certain after the inspection what the damage has been to your home. These professionals use high-end equipment including moisture meters and infrared cameras to determine the damage that is water-related in the house. This can help minimize any problems that could potentially turn up in the future.

Why You Need a Home Inspection

(Content for this section provided by Nalliah Thayabharan, Registered Home Inspector)

It's easy to get caught up in the speed, drama and pressure of bidding on a house that you are willing to skip a few steps to make sure you acquire the house of your dreams. You're suddenly willing to pay a few thousand more than you had intended. You're willing to go for a quicker closing date. You're even willing to skip the home inspection process, and just ask a knowledgeable family member to check it out for you. Slow down. Relax.

Don't let yourself fall in love with a house until you've had the house examined by a professional. The house could have any number of problems in structural, roofing, exterior, foundation, heating, plumbing, electrical, insulation, etc. Even with newer homes, or ones that look flawless in your eyes, you'll never know what lies beneath the surface unless you hire a registered home inspector to check it out for you.

Home inspections have been around for quite a while, and for good reason. This process, which can cost between $300 and $500, is often a condition on buying a house. It usually takes a few hours and is easy to arrange. Hiring a professional home inspector is a small investment of your time and money. But, it's well worth the expense because you won't have to deal with costly and unexpected surprises once you've bought your home. Also you can gain a wealth of information about the condition of a property before you buy it. A home inspection is not intended to provide warranties or guarantees, and is not to be mistaken as a warranty on the house.

The final sale of a home can hinge on the results of a home inspection—even for a million-dollar home. While a home inspection is a critical component of buying and selling a home, knowing your home inspector is just as important.

Recent surges in the popularity of home inspections have created an over-populated inspection industry where not all inspectors have the training or experience to do a good job. Be wary of low-priced home inspectors whose only credential is a certificate acquired online, or by correspondence, or from attending a three-day course. There are some people in the home inspection industry who are not fully qualified—if at all—and they should not be recognized as home inspectors.

Home inspection is a discipline that requires special training, knowledge and communication skills. Anyone can say that they are a home inspector. That is why it is important to choose an inspector wisely.

Reputable home and property inspectors generally belong to CAHPI-Canadian Association of Home & Property Inspectors, which has set standards and is recognized by the Real Estate Associations and federal and provincial governments. CAHPI is the only national non-profit professional organization in Canada that rigorously tests home inspectors about their technical knowledge and diagnostic expertise prior to joining the organization as well as requiring continuing education after admission to keep current with new technology and building practices. Membership categories are based on the individual members' qualifications and experience. A member cannot advertise or promote his or her membership until they have reached the minimum standards of a practicing member. To become a member of CAHPI, an inspector must meet professional and educational requirements followed by a review.

Home inspectors should have a general understanding of all the various systems and components in a home. Many have practical experience or a background in engineering, construction and related building trades. Look for people who belong to CAHPI and who have taken some courses, such as defect recognition, building sciences or civil engineering. The more experienced a home inspector is, the more they have seen, the more likely it is they will be able to detect any less obvious problems.

Seasoned, professional home inspectors will be full-time home inspectors and are bound by a strict code of ethics and must adhere to specific standards of practice. You should ask to see proof of their membership in a provincial association. In most provinces, a member cannot advertise their membership in the association until they have reached the minimum standards of a practicing member.

To guard homebuyers against incompetent, negligent and bogus home inspectors, the association in your province will be pleased to clarify their membership categories and any particular inspector's membership level. Determine if the inspector intends to meet the CAHPI national standards of competency.

Hire a "Registered Home Inspector"

What home buyers need most is a source of trustworthy, competent, qualified home inspection professionals. Ask your real estate agent to recommend a good home inspection company. Talk to your family and friends about their experiences with home inspectors. It's also well worth contacting the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors (CAHPI), a national organization that has links to the provincial associations. Check out www.cahpi.ca. The site will refer you to a list of Registered Home Inspectors in your area. Visit www.ashi.org to find more detailed information about home inspection.

Be present when the professional home inspector assesses your potential home. Ask questions and take notes of what repairs need to be done. They will give you their initial reactions as they are inspecting your home, and will follow up with a comprehensive package of information on the condition of your home. It is an invaluable piece of the home buying puzzle.

Newer Homes Also Need Inspection

Since the 1980s, when Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) ended its consumer protection role through construction inspections, housing quality has suffered. For instance, CMHC estimates that more than 65,000 homes in B.C. suffered serious water infiltration problems in B.C.'s leaky condo crisis of the 1990s—a crisis that continues to this day.

While B.C.'s crisis is perhaps the best-known disaster in Canadian history, defective homes are a serious problem across Canada. In 2005, the Canadian Home Builders' Association (CHBA) estimated that 10% of Canada's builders are problematic. Other estimates find 20-25% of home builders as problematic. Although there are good builders in Canada, consumers and Realtors have no reliable means of knowing who they are.

Consumers who find themselves with a defective home and an unresponsive builder naturally turn to their home warranty program for assistance. This too can be problematic. In Ontario, for example, new home purchasers face a mandatory payment to TARION for warranty coverage. Purchasers should recognize TARION as an insurance company that will require that you prove your claim.

TARION does not serve as an advocate for the purchaser. The TARION claim process is complicated, and, therefore, must be pursued with great care in order to avoid pitfalls. Municipal government officials involved in the home construction process usually acknowledge home construction industry and warranty program problems, but often simply advise the homeowner that they can settle their issues through civil litigation. Given the time and high costs involved in the legal system with no guarantees of success, the courts are not a viable option for most Canadians.

Given a system that is not conducive to construction dispute resolution, many homeowners conclude that they have no option but to quietly sell their flawed homes without disclosing the known problems to potential purchasers, despite the fact that sellers are required by law to disclose known defects. Home buyers protect their investment by retaining a competent registered home inspector to inspect the home, regardless of whether it is newly built or a resale home. While some problems may remain hidden behind drywall, a registered home inspector can often detect problems unrecognizable to the average consumer.

Deal With the Bad News

It can be heartbreaking to find out all the problems after a home inspection, but be realistic. Remember that no home is perfect. What you need to decide is whether or not you are willing to fix the problems. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Can you afford the recommended renovations or repairs?
  2. Does the house meet your needs in its current condition?
  3. Knowing these problems, is the house still a good investment?

Once you've had a home inspection, you'll have peace of mind that you've made an educated decision on buying a home. It's worth it!

Ready to Get a Home Inspection?

An inspection is a critical component of the home buying process. To make sure a home is built right and safe for occupancy, hire home inspectors to check your house. Otherwise, you won't have any recourse for any problems that you notice later, even large ones. You cannot forgo the inspection just because the home is brand new, either. You still need to make sure the house is inspected because mistakes are often made by builders, even the most experienced ones.

Whenever you make a big decision, such as buying a new home, you need to make sure you protect your investment. Getting an inspection is one of the best things you can do to feel good about buying your dream home.

For informational purposes only. Always consult with a licensed real estate professional before proceeding with any real estate transaction.

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