Home Buyers Guide

Get the most from your Home Inspection

How spending a little now can save you thousands.

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The business of inspecting homes is a relatively new one. Nowadays a home inspection is standard procedure for home buyers. Not so many years ago a fraction of home buyers would hire an inspector.
Before hiring a professional home inspector, check that the inspector carries insurance. Inspectors should be covered for any damage that may occur during the inspection. They also should carry errors and omission insurance, which protects against negligence in the inspection.

What the home Inspector should do

No inspection can be as thorough and detailed as to catch everything that can go wrong with the house. For your fee of $250-$400 however, you should get the close attention of a knowledgeable home construction expert for a couple of hours. You and the inspector should agree up front on what the scope of the inspection is. At the minimum, the inspection should cover the major structural components and mechanical parts of the house, foundation, roof, electric, plumbing, and heating and air conditioning systems.
Most inspectors also will check the condition of insulation, doors, windows and gutters. The inspector should come with some basic equipment: a flashlight, screwdriver, circuit tester, and a ladder. Others also might use binoculars, a tape measure and a builders level. The home inspector should be willing to get a good close look at crawl spaces or attics. Finally, you should get a detailed written report with specific comments on the various systems and components of the house.

The inspection report should cover the house from basement to roof and include an assessment of the quality and condition of all the following:

  • Attic | access, insulation, signs of leakage and ventilation.
  • Crawl Space or Basement | construction, settlement, structural stability, termite or rot damage and water penetration.
  • Electrical Systems | capacity, fuses or circuit breakers, grounding, obvious hazards, outlets, wires and switches.
  • Plumbing System | drainage faucets, laundry appliances, pipes, sink traps, water heater and water pressure.
  • Heating and Cooling System | type, capacity and condition, controls, and distribution of sources of heat and cooling.
  • Kitchen and Bathrooms | fixtures, flooring, plumbing, tile and ventilation.
  • Roof and Related Features | chimneys, downspouts, gutters, hatches, roofing materials and construction, skylights, vents and fans.
  • Exterior of House | decks, doors, exterior walls, garage, porches, steps and windows.
  • Yard | drainage, fences, grading, landscaping, paved areas and retaining walls.

    Special features such as a swimming pool, tennis court, well or septic system may require a specialist. If you are having a home inspected in winter, some testing may have to be postponed until warmer temperatures arrive.

Get the Most from your Home Inspection

You should absolutely be present at the time of the inspection. How else can you be assured that the house has undergone a detailed examination? It's also important for you to be fully knowledgeable of the house's condition and working systems, and take notes. Don't rely completely on the inspector's report.
The inspector may and usually does make many useful comments that won't make it the the final home inspection report. Some home buyers tape the inspection for future reference and it's a good idea. If there's anything you're unclear about later, you'll have a complete record to refer to. When you go to the owners to renegotiate an offer, you'll be able to accurately describe the problem.
If the home inspector discovers problems that have changed your mind about buying the house, you have every right to back out. Inspections are meant to give you some protection from problems you overlooked at the time of the offer. If you do end up buying the house, keep a copy of the inspection report on file. It can become the starting point for your maintenance schedule. The home inspector will probably find potential trouble spots you should keep an eye on.

This edition made possible in part by: ©CENTURY 21 Real Estate - Agents of change™ and by Bruce McDougall & Shelley O'Hara.

Useful Resources for Home Buyers
  • Home Inspection Checklist
  • an important step in protecting yourself from buying a home with hidden faults that will require costly repairs.
  • Choosing a Home Inspector
  • Many new home buyers have the impression that all home inspectors are the same, in fact, many Canadian provinces and American States have no regulations for home inspectors so the experience level of inspectors vary.
  • Toxic Substance Inspection
  • You've already asked for the right to have a professional home inspector inspect your house. And you've asked for the right to have your home inspected for pests. Have you thought about having an inspector test for toxic substances?
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Home Inspection Checklist
Home Inspection Checklist
A proper home inspection from a professional home inspector is always highly recommended but that doesn't excuse you from looking carefully over the home before you get to the inspection stage. By keeping a sharp eye out, you may be able to spot some major problems and eliminate a potential property before paying for an inspector...