Home inspections a worthwhile investment—no matter the property
By Jim Peters, Images are courtesy of Trained Eye Home Inspection
If you’re in the market for a new home or condo, you shouldn’t overlook the importance of paying for a home inspection. It may not be considered “fun money” but a comprehensive home inspection can save you thousands of dollars in “real money” in the future. It’s really not fun to be faced with unforeseen costs for structural problems, or issues never disclosed by the vendor, and sometimes even walking away from the home you just fell in love with is the best option.
Most homeowners don’t realize how thorough today’s home inspections can be—with some experts using moisture meters, infrared thermography and even gas analyzers—depending on the assignment. Although Ari Marantz, owner of Winnipeg’s Trained Eye Home Inspections and past president of the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors (CAHPI), says, “Most of the inspectors I know rely on straightforward visual inspections — my principal instruments are a ladder, a flashlight and experience.”
With thorough home inspections, uncovering minor problems and major structural flaws is commonplace. Roy MacGregor, Certified Master Inspector with Owl Home Inspection in Winnipeg says, “It’s very important to inspect a home before buying to identify problems and to prioritize the problems—safety and health issues need to be addressed first, of course. All buyers need to make an informed decision to buy or not to buy. And determining costs for future repairs uncovered by the inspection can also be helpful in the negotiation phase.”
Roy adds that although older homes and condos will typically have more problems — even brand new dwellings need inspections. And in the case of condos, for example, it’s wise to have some of the common areas — such as the roof — inspected, where possible.
So where to begin? Marantz warns that when you hire a home inspector you should be extra cautious and ask a lot of questions about their experience, certifications and referrals. He says, “My experience in this business has taught me that people who have actually built homes or were in one of the trades tend to make the best inspectors. Not exclusively—but that kind of background seems to provide the best foundation for a competent inspector.”
MacGregor concurs, “Inspectors should have a certified building trade background, such as journeyman carpenter, and/or certified by recognized home inspector associations like the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (INACHI). For even more experienced inspectors, don’t overlook the value of Certified Master Inspectors. There’s also no harm in taking that extra step to check with the Better Business Bureau or reviewing the court registry name search for actions against home inspection companies.”
MacGregor adds that the buyer also bears some responsibility when they hire an inspector and it’s important to do your own homework. “Homeowners are more familiar with their own home and have actually lived there. They have valuable information that should be shared with the inspector and they need to be honest in disclosing problems they know about. They can also point out positive changes that have been made — like a new roof or furnace.”
Homeowners should also provide inspectors with their Property Disclosure Statements—part of today’s Offer to Purchase forms. Although not a warranty, the form is based on the vendor’s actual knowledge and recollection of issues in the house.
The average cost for a comprehensive inspection is anywhere from $350 to $500. Single items such as foundations, can be inspected for less — more in the neighbourhood of $200. These costs will vary of course, depending on the size of the home and any travel distance involved.
If you hire a home inspector, here’s what to expect. Firstly, the inspector’s responsibility and duty of care is to their client (usually the buyer) and at all times, the standards of practice and code of ethics must be followed. MacGregor says, “Ultimately, any significant problem, or potential problem uncovered, should be addressed and answered.”
Ari Marantz likes to start from the ground up with an exterior inspection, including foundation, walls and roof. “Roofs are very important,” he says. “If the time of year prevents me from walking on a roof, I’ll inspect it with binoculars. The same bottom-to-top approach is how I do the interiors as well. That just works for me — many inspectors do it in reverse or even randomly.”
Are there any common misconceptions about home inspections —from the client’s point of view? “Plenty,” says MacGregor. “Inspections do not predict the future. They are not warranties and they don’t provide insurance. I always remind my clients that inspections are primarily visual and not technically exhaustive — infrared can’t see through walls!”
In the end, hiring a qualified home inspector is clearly a worthwhile investment. Whether you purchase the house or not, at least you’ll have some peace of mind about your decision — and leave some room in your wallet for fun money.
International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI)