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Home Inspections

Inspectors, what do they do and are they worth it?

Although inspections can be performed on behalf of sellers or on behalf of buyers, they are usually requested by the buyer. An Offer to Purchase is often conditional on a successful inspection. This allows the purchasers to send in an inspector to check out the property. If no significant problem is found then the condition is waived by the purchaser and the deal becomes final. If a serious problem is found then the purchasers have the right to back out of the deal. If minor problems surface the seller is often given the chance to remedy the problems.

Inspections are sometimes not performed on relatively new buildings or on condominiums.

There are several type of inspections that can be done on a home, general building inspection, termite, electrical and more. These are done to reassure buyers, or mortgage lenders that the building is safe and sound and that there is no serious flaw to undermine the value of the property. Inspections also help estimate what renovations are required or help establish that the building is a reasonable risk for an insurance company.

Inspectors do not value a property. Because of the experience many inspectors bring to the job, they may be able to give an INFORMAL opinion on the cost of various renovations and repairs but this is not their primary function.

The most common inspection is the general building inspection. It is done by a licensed individual who usually has a building or engineering background. He will go through the home and check the various systems (electrical, heating/cooling, water/sewage,) look at structural elements such as foundations, walls and roofs, look at drainage, estimate the condition and life expectancy of various elements such as roofing, cladding and finishes. Check for the presence of UFFI (urea formaldehyde insulation) and asbestos. Typically the inspector will check the water pressure and verify electrical outlets, windows, outside cladding. The inspector will also look for damage. The inspector will prepare a written report and present it.

Inspectors do not see through walls and do not see hidden problems, however their experience will often allow them to suspect some hidden problems even if there is no obvious signs to you.

They may also have inspected similar buildings and know that some problems are likely to occur even if there is no visible sign yet.

Because of their experience and training, inspectors can alert you to potential problems. For example if the span between 2 posts is too large for the beam because a post has been removed in a reno, an inspector might be able to warn you that the beam is likely to sag over time.

When are inspections done?

Sometimes an inspection is performed before an offer is presented

Sometimes a SELLER has his home inspected to reassure potential purchasers that there is no problem. In termite areas a report might be presented to show that the home is free of termites.

Similarly, a seller might offer an electrical inspection as proof that the wiring in an old home is safe.

A buyer might have a potential home inspected BEFORE putting in an offer. This happens in the case when a home is likely to have multiple offers. It allows a buyer to present a clear unconditional offer which is more attractive to a seller, rather than making the home conditional on inspection. The disadvantage of inspecting a home before presenting an offer, is that if the offer is not accepted, the buyer still has to pay for the inspection.

Usually however an inspection is ordered by the buyer and performed after a home has been purchased with a condition added that the home must have a successful inspection before the deal is final. This means that if the inspection finds no major flaw the purchase will become final. It also allows a purchaser to identify minor problems with a home. Clauses are sometimes placed in an Offer to Purchase that allow sellers to correct minor flaws before the sale becomes final.

Are building inspections worth it?

A building inspection is a small price to pay for added security in a large purchase such as a home. Building inspections cost about $500. The size and age of home will influence price.

Regulating bodies for home inspectors

There is presently no uniform certification and no requirement for home inspectors to take any courses or to have passed any tests. 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 a provincial or regional industry association.

Nick Boothby has a list of reputable inspectors whom he can recommend to potential buyers.

The Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors (CAHPI) has developed courses and requirements for home inspectors. BC has just implemented the requirement for certification of Home inspectors.

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