How to Choose a Home Inspector and What to Expect in the Process

August 22, 2019

Shopping for a new home is an exciting and monumental moment in your life. It’s likely one of the largest purchases you’ll ever make. This is why it’s important to identify any issues with a property that might affect your decision to buy it or the price you pay.

Whether you’re in the market to buy or sell now, or will be soon, having a home inspection done will determine the condition of the home and identify any hidden damages you need to know about.

When should a home inspection be done?

A home inspection should occur after you’ve made an offer but before you’re fully and financially committed.

Have your realtor submit your Offer to Purchase conditional on a home inspection — so you can get out of the deal if the home is not in good shape. You can even include a timeline for this request before your offer would expire (typically 5-7 days following an offer.)

A home inspection also gives you an opportunity to learn about the riskier aspects of the home that could affect your insurance premiums. Plastic pipes and certain types of wiring may cause higher insurance premiums. If the cost of carrying the home is something you are carefully considering it is important to understand what the home is made of.

What to expect?

A certified home inspector will study and analyze all the areas that make a home function optimally. This typically includes checking all the mechanical systems, structural faults, plumbing, electrical, ventilation, insulation, roof, interior conditions and more.

A thorough inspection will identify problems related to water entry, roof leaks, insect infestation, unsafe wiring, failed septic systems, poor plumbing, mold and mildew, and any other safety hazards or construction issues. The examination should take between 2-4 hours or more, depending on the size and complexity of the job.

From here, a certified home inspector will conduct a “diagnosis” and assess the general condition of the home. Next, they’ll provide you with a comprehensive written report outlining everything they’ve inspected and recommendations for improvement.

The report should include photographs or detailed descriptions of any damage or defects discovered. Pictures help you to understand the scope of the damage and visual proof makes it easier to get repair estimates. For ease of sharing or documentation for negotiation purposes, request an electronic copy of the report as well.

What to look for in a certified professional?

In Canada, only British Columbia and Alberta require certification of home inspectors, so there might not be any mandatory standards for the home inspector professionals if you live in other provinces.

However, home inspectors can still choose to be certified by the Canadian Association of Housing and Property Inspectors, so look for that designation when hiring someone. Ask your realtor, friends and family for recommendations of industry professionals. Once connected to a home inspector, ask questions regarding their years of experience, the number of inspections they’ve performed and what sort of report they’ll provide.

Look for inspectors who have a broad knowledge in home systems and structures or are familiar with the particular type of house you’re considering. Homes of different ages, designs and materials can pose varying risks of hidden damage. An experienced professional will know how to spot these problems.

Who pays for a home inspection and how much does it cost?

Generally, the buyer is responsible for the cost of a home inspection unless otherwise discussed with the seller. Costs range from $300 to $800 for typical homes in Canada but can be higher based on age, size and the type of structure. Buyers can use the home inspection report to negotiate who pays for the property damage that’s discovered.

Should condos get a home inspection?

Condo boards will take care of the inspection for common areas of your building. However, you should still have someone review your individual unit (especially in regards to plumbing and electrical).

Most condominium buyers decide not to have a home inspection and choose to focus on the building’s status certificate that identifies any major issues and costs to be covered by the condominium corporation. The certificate review is a critical part of the condo purchase process and your realtor should be well-versed on reviewing this documentation to determine if appropriate coverage is included.

Home inspections are a cost-effective investment in your future. As you know, problems that go unnoticed and unresolved can lead to continual degradation and cause greater damage and detriment over time. It’s important to know exactly what you’re buying, inside and out, above and below, before the deal is done.

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