There is no doubt that your home is by far one of the biggest investments you will make in your lifetime and with the volatility in today’s real estate market, you need to make sure the house you think you’re buying is the house you get. Every house has at least a few issues, so you need an expert that will spot them (as well as any major problems) to help you avoid surprises after you’ve signed on the dotted line.
Obviously, most home-buyers know that having a home inspection is key; that’s why “subject to home inspection” has become a part of real estate contracts in the last couple of decades. But how do you find a home inspector worth the fee and able to inspect an investment of this magnitude? There are several things to do before you book your home inspector. While you may ask your realtor or those who have recently had a home inspection for referrals, there’s more to do to ensure you have the right person on your side of buying a home.
We’ve identified these seven steps to help make sure you have the right person to complete your property inspection:
- Choose your home inspector before you make an offer on a house.
The home-buying process moves surprisingly fast given the size of the investment. When you find a home you’re interested in buying, you want to already know who to call in order to book the appointment for your house inspection. It’s just one part of the home-buying process, but one that needs to be considered beforehand or you run the risk of scrambling to find an inspector and ending up with someone who isn’t as detailed as you’d hoped.
- Carefully assess who will be doing your home inspection services.
Absolutely ask your realtor and recent home buyers who they recommend for a property inspection, but do the homework too. References are important, but you’ll also want to ensure you’re hiring a certified home inspector who is licensed through the Home Inspector’s Association of BC (or other body in your region), took the Canadian Home Inspection Examination (and passed!), has a written guarantee of their services and holds errors and omissions insurance. Don’t assume. Ask about these details as well as asking about their history. You want a home inspector with real-life building experience for many years, and preferably someone who was involved in various aspects of the industry – not someone who just took the courses and worked at the local home-improvement retailer.
- Ask for a sample report.
You want to see what you’re getting for your money. Home inspection reports are typically incredibly detailed and you want yours to be as detailed as possible. While home inspectors will talk during the inspection process, and afterwards, about what they found, it’s hard to retain everything in the moment. In addition to asking for a sample report, ask how soon after the inspection you’ll receive your report. Most certified home inspectors provide the report immediately, but this is not the time for guessing or assumptions. You will want time to read the report in order to make your decision about the house and that’s impossible if you receive it at the 11th hour.
- Ensure you can be on site.
It used to be that home inspectors didn’t want their clients on-site when they reviewed a home, certainly it allowed them to move through the house and work faster without a prospective buyer in tow, but because you need to understand what is included in the report you’ll receive, it’s best to be on-site during the property inspection. Make sure you can ask questions during the inspection process as well so that information is clear and you’ll retain details better after the purchase goes through (or doesn’t). Think of the inspection as the guide specific to the systems in your home. With this information you should be armed with the details on what needs to be fixed, what can wait and ultimately whether you want to purchase the home or not.
- Ask what areas the certified home inspector covers.
Not all home inspectors are created equal. Some are thorough, looking carefully at all systems of a house, while others are not. Ask if the inspection will include all house systems and structures (roof, plumbing, electrical, crawl space, etc.) and if it includes the entire property and all buildings (sheds, garage, etc.) Most home inspectors don’t include outbuildings, but if those aspects are important to the sale it’s worth asking to include them. You’ll also want to find out if anything can’t be inspected (a roof under snow, a wall behind a shelving unit filled with the current owners possessions) and how to deal with those aspects.
- Know the tools of the trade.
It bears repeating – not all home inspectors are created equal. Most take their job incredibly seriously and invest in the tools that allow them to do a better than average job. Do they take photos on site? Do they have specialized equipment like Infrared Thermal Imaging included in the inspection? The cost of home inspections is usually around $400 to $600 and it’s worth choosing the inspector who might charge at the higher end of the scale to have a thorough, professional result you can understand and work from.
- Get to know what to look for.
You’re hiring a house inspector because you aren’t one yourself, but don’t let that stop you from ramping up your education. If something doesn’t look right in the house ask. Are there newly installed cabinets in an otherwise unfinished basement? A new coat of paint on just one wall? A section of flooring that’s new? A seasoned home inspector will pick up on things that don’t look right even if they can’t get into the walls and ceilings to look. You can help by asking about things that don’t seem right and could be a problem someone has tried to cover over.
Home inspection is a big part of buying a home. Take the time to follow these seven points to ensure you’re getting the best house inspection possible to avoid the drama that comes from the unknown.