Ins and outs of home inspections

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What exactly is a home inspection?

A house inspection is an objective and impartial examination and evaluation of a residential structure and its various operating systems. Rather than an inspector designating a pass or fail grade to a property after doing the inspection, a detailed overall assessment of the property’s present condition is presented. The objective of having a home inspection done on a home you are considering purchasing is to minimize, if not eliminate, surprises. It will provide you with the information necessary to guide you to a wise and informed purchasing decision.

What about the report?

The inspector’s resulting report may be verbal or written, and is usually both. Not only will it point out defects which may be major and give rise to revaluation of your purchasing decision but it will also point out minor deficiencies which may be easily and inexpensively rectified. You will receive an accurate and detailed assessment of all the repairs that should be undertaken sometime in the future. In addition, you will likely receive an estimation of the age of the operating systems, their anticipated life expectancy and an approximation of replacement costs.

What gets inspected?

A home inspection examines the residence from basement to roof, inside and out. Particular areas of concentration include: plumbing, heating, electrical, roof, insulation, windows, foundation, walls, steps, porches, doors and floors — just about everything.

Who is qualified to do building inspections?

Unfortunately there is little legislation currently in place governing home inspectors in the Province of Ontario. Be careful. Anyone can hang out a shingle and call themselves a ‘qualified’ Home Inspector. Not everyone however, can call themselves a ‘Registered’ Home Inspector.

The Ontario Association of Home Inspectors (OAHI) was established as a self regulating professional body in 1994 and has stringent requirements for membership. OAHI maintains the exclusive right to designate their members “Registered Home Inspectors”. Our recommendation is to ensure that the inspector you hire is a member of this organization. Their website has a membership directory at: www.OAHI .com. They can also be contacted at (416) 256-0960. Even from within that organization you should investigate and evaluate prospective inspectors before committing yourself. What expectations should you have of the home inspector? We have attached to this section a checklist of questions you should ask to facilitate your evaluation of potential inspectors.

Which home inspectors should we call?

We can also provide you with a list of recommended inspectors.

I know a thing or two. Can’t i do it myself?

Many people know a great deal about house construction and perhaps are particularly well versed on some of their operating systems. One may therefore feel confident in doing their own inspection. However, very few people have the broad based experience and expertise to make an accurate across the board assessment and evaluation. What if you miss the termite dust? How about the fine crack inside the furnace boiler? Don’t risk it – have a thorough inspection performed by a qualified professional. Even if the inspection only reveals minor deficiencies and the inspector gives the house a resounding vote of confidence, an inspection will give you peace of mind.

How much will it cost?

Just as experience levels, attention to details, time spent, quality of report, etc. vary from inspection company to inspection company, so do their fees. You have to ask each individual inspection company about the fees they charge. Budget $300-$500 for the standard Toronto residence. We think it reasonable that the cost of an inspection vary relative to the size of the house (and therefore the time required to complete the inspection) but less fair that the fee correspond only to the house’s selling price. Don’t forget that a good inspection usually pays for itself and can even save you a great deal of money through the advice it provides.

When do i have the inspection performed?

Most home inspections are made within a few days of the property being sold conditionally upon building inspection. Some savvy buyers are having inspections performed on a property even before they submit their offer. This can significantly enhance their bargaining position by alleviating the need to include a building inspection condition in their offer. This strategy is of particular significance if there is a good likelihood of multiple offers. Some Purchasers feel that the relatively small amount of money paid for an inspection is very good value for the strategic advantage of not having to include an inspection condition in the offer. In addition, vendors have confidence in selling to purchasers who have shown the serious interest and undertaken the expense to have an inspection completed prior to submitting an offer. It establishes a good framework for fruitful negotiations.

Who is present at the inspection?

Normally either the Listing or Selling Salesperson is in attendance along with the Purchaser and the Inspector. I will try to make arrangements for the Vendor not to be there as Vendors have the capacity to potentially restrict the free flow of information between yourself and the inspector. It is however the vendor’s home and not always possible to “kick them out”. I will also make every effort to further support you by attending your inspection myself. My presence will give me a fuller understanding of any deficiencies which may have to be addressed and I will likely be able to suggest questions you could ask of the inspector.

Should i go to the inspection?

We recommend that you personally attend the inspection so that you can see the inspection first hand and pose questions directly to the inspector. The written report will be easier to understand if you’ve seen the property from the inspector’s perspective. However, it is not absolutely essential for you to be there. You could speak with the inspector afterwards and receive a verbal summary report to be followed up by a more comprehensive written report. If at all possible, however, you really should be there while the inspection is being performed. You will be amazed at how much knowledge you can glean in such a short period of time about something that likely will become the largest investment of your life.

Should i do a home inspection on my condominium?

While it is not unheard of to have an inspection done on a condominium apartment it is quite uncommon. Older condominium buildings could perhaps be inspected for peace of mind. However it is not unusual to see inspections performed on condominium townhouses.

What if there are problems?

Let’s face it, there will be some problems. No matter how well a property is maintained there will be areas of concern. Hopefully, the areas needing attention will be minor in nature. If the concerns are more major then you must consider your alternatives. A common response to a report indicating substantial deficiencies of which you were unaware would be to ask the vendor to consider contributing to the costs to remedy the problems, in essence renegotiating the offer. One would do this if you like the house but just don’t have the desire or the capacity in your budget to undertake major repairs. Further factors to be considered include: What absolutely needs to be repaired? What is unsafe? What are the priorities of items requiring repair? What are the repair alternatives? Who should make them? Are there further investigations that should be made? Perhaps the property’s shortcomings are relatively minor. Perhaps you aren’t surprised that the plumbing has to be replaced. Required repairs might not be too much of an issue if they were going to be addressed in renovations you are undertaking.

Please realize that virtually any defect can be corrected. The issue is the viability of undertaking the cost of repairs. View the whole picture. You may be in a position to make some of the repairs yourself. If the cost to rectify is very significant then you might decide to terminate the transaction and find another property.

Who should pay for the repair costs?

You must decide who most appropriately should pay for any repairs. Make your decision based on the information you receive and the determination of your own comfort level in buying the property in its present state.

Don’t nickel and dime a vendor

If all parties to the transaction know the condition of the house prior to initial offer negotiations then there generally is a lesser need to re-negotiate at all. The best policy might be not to ask the vendor to chip in, for example, for leaky eaves troughing which you may have noted prior to submitting the offer anyway. Home inspections should not be considered an opportunity to take advantage of a Vendor after they have accepted your offer in good faith. Your offer should be drafted and presented in good faith as well. Please understand that every house needs something. Save re-negotiations for big ticket items which will cost significant dollars to rectify, and of which you aren’t aware before submitting the offer. Wise purchasers maintain good will with their vendors right through to completion of the transaction.

Any other benefits to doing an inspection?

Typically, home inspections are most valuable for their capacity to allow you to establish a long term maintenance schedule and to plan a budget for improvements. You will know the areas which will likely have to be addressed over the next several years.

An inspection can also include advice on how to avoid future costly repairs or identifying other potential problems which may develop. It will increase your confidence in the property and decrease anxiety. Great value for your money. We would like to make our recommendations clear on this one: do a house inspection.


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