What you need to know about home inspections

Furnace and hot water tank
The furnace and hot water tank are part of the inspection

When you are buying a home in Canada you are strongly advised to have a home inspection done before committing yourself to buy the property. Typically one of the conditions in your offer will be “subject to home inspection”. This means that you, as the buyer, will get a home inspection done and depending on the results you can choose whether or not to go ahead with the purchase.

As the whole home purchasing process, from offer acceptance to a firm deal, typically takes 7 days, the home inspection is often one of the most pressing things to get organized during this subject removal period.

Before April 2009 home inspectors in BC were not licensed. Thankfully now they are and you can check prospective inspector’s licenses. Most likely you will choose from a list that your realtor supplies. We have a list of inspectors, for instance, based on ones that our clients have used.

Your choice may be limited a bit by their availability, after all you need to get the inspection done within the short time period available. Ideally you will need to be present for some or all of the inspection. Many inspectors will come out on the weekend when it is necessary. For example last weekend I attended home inspections on both Saturday and Sunday mornings!

The home inspector typically takes 2-3 hours to complete their inspection, depending on the size of the property.

If a house is being inspected then the inspector will examine the outside, looking for drainage issues, water being the enemy of wooden homes! He will also go up on the roof, where possible. Roofs can be a major expenditure and knowing what shape it is in is important.

Inside the home, the inspector will look at the mechanical systems: the heating and hot water systems. He will test gas fires, run the appliances (as these are included in the purchase) and test for moisture in bathrooms, laundry rooms etc.

Many home inspectors now use infra-red cameras. These are the must-have boys toys of the profession! They are useful in being able to show up areas where insulation is lacking, and may show things like the heating pads in a heated floor.

Inspectors will also climb up into the attic. It is one of the amusing parts of the inspection, for me, as I watch the inspector struggle through a small hatch, often located in a closet, and climb up into the attic. One of my sellers this week even warned me that the buyers would need to find a skinny home inspector as the hatch was particularly small.

If the inspection is a condo or townhouse, then access to the roof and common areas may not be so easily available. Some buildings do not allow anyone on the roof or into the boiler rooms. The inspector should be able to get into the underground parkade however.

In most cases home inspectors will give the buyers a verbal report on the spot. This takes the form of a guided tour of the home, pointing out the findings. (Usually you do not have to go on the roof!). This is a useful way for you to understand the property. If you are not familiar with Canadian homes then you will probably learn a lot about how to look after it.

You will also get a written report. The inspectors we recommend will email reports to you. These include photos too, so you have a visual reminder of the findings.

The usual convention here, unlike the UK for instance, is that the home inspection findings are NOT an excuse to renegotiate the price. Of course if there are big ticket items found, then that may not be true. Then your choice might be between getting a discount off the price or not going ahead with the purchase.

At the end of the day, the home inspection is part of your due diligence. If you want to go ahead with the purchase you will at least know the basics about your new home and be ready to take on the responsibilities of looking after it.

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