The Role Of a Home Inspector & What To Be Aware Of
As a Buyer, What You May Want To Know About A Home Inspection, The Inspector & The Process
The home inspection: is an often critical component that can make or break a closing. Many buyers don’t know what to expect during a home inspection. As a result, they may be nervous or anxious. On the other hand, they may not see or understand the value of a home inspection, putting them at risk of buying a property with serious deficiencies.
My staff and I at Envelope Real Estate like to educate our buyers about what to expect during the inspection phase. It is a valuable service that prepares our clients for the potential “surprises” ahead and sets us apart. Here are six frequently asked questions about home inspections.
Why do you need a home inspection?
Buying a home is probably one of the most expensive purchases you will ever make. To know that you are making a prudent decision, you need to learn as much about the house as possible. A home inspection with a trained inspector will reveal any safety issues and major or minor defects on the property. The inspector will check the home’s condition in places you may not see or easily access, like the roof.
What is a home inspection clause?
The home inspection clause protects buyers like you by giving you the right to cancel the sales offer to purchase without forfeiting your deposit. If the home inspector finds a problem or problems with the property, you can get back out of the sale. Or you can present the home inspection findings to the seller and request repairs or a cash credit before closing.
How much does a home inspection usually cost?
Home inspection prices can vary by the inspector and region, but expect to spend several hundred dollars. Since this is your only opportunity before closing to identify any problems, this is not the time to skimp on costs or look for a “bargain” inspector. You want to make sure you hire a thorough, reputable inspector.
Who do we recommend?
We have a list of inspectors we’ve used in the past. As well, a few never to use!
Will we be there during the home inspection?
As indicated by the buyer services we discussed when we started working together, I provide a high customer service level and be there for the home inspection. You should try to be present, too. The inspector will take photos and give a detailed summary report, but you should not miss the opportunity to be there and ask questions. The inspector can point out which small repairs you can do yourself and which larger problems may require a specialist. Some inspectors will also offer home maintenance tips as they discover areas in good condition now but may need attention in the future.
After the home inspection, what are the next steps?
Depending on the home inspection findings, we proceed with the sale, negotiate for a better price, request repairs or choose to back out of the sale.
No home is perfect. Every home will have at least minor issues revealed during a home inspection – even new construction. As your Realtor, I am happy to offer advice based on my experience, but choosing whether to proceed with the sale after the home inspection is ultimately your decision.
There are several reasons for having a home inspection, but the most compelling reason is that the inspector looks at the property differently than a purchaser does.
- The actual job is to look for significant problems visible on the home inspection day to reduce your risk.
- A good home inspector will also educate you on the operation of your home’s systems.
- A great Home Inspector will explain how to solve the problems found that day, which will ultimately give you enough information to make a prudent buying decision with everything you have learned.
A Home Inspection will generally take 2 -3 hours as you and the home inspector walk around your house to address any problems or questions you may have. You should be there, so come prepared with a pad and pencil and lots of questions. You may want to know about any renovations you’d like to do. You may want to know how to maintain your house. You may have questions a relative is suggesting you ask.
The inspector will give a binder or an e-binder with all the information you could ever want to know about your house at the end of the home inspection. Many home inspectors will give you reports or binders, but not all reports are the same.
The completed report includes useful information regarding your house’s care and repair. Information pages discuss major and minor problems, what caused them, and how you can rectify the situation. Reference pages are included to assist you in looking for more information.
A home inspection and the report will cover eight effective systems of the home, including:
Foundation type, framing materials, and other significant sub-components are noted along with any peculiarities. The inspector/surveyor also checks for major or minor problems in the foundation, floor, wall and roof framing.
The electrical system is checked for sufficient capacity and safety and evaluated in terms of its current condition and future useability. Upgrades and repairs are recommended where appropriate.
Heating and Air Conditioning
The inspector assesses the existing equipment’s capacity, and by considering the age of the equipment and its intended ability, approximates the life expectancy and recommends appropriate repairs and upgrades.
The piping and fixtures throughout the house are checked for functional flow and life expectancies. They are screened for unsanitary conditions and potential repairs, freeze vulnerability, or spillage/overflow. Laundry equipment, tile work, and domestic water heating equipment are also surveyed.
Water seepage probabilities and structural problems are evaluated, and remediation advice is given if needed. The inspector also looks for possible problem areas that could cause structural issues, such as poor soil, surface drainage, proximity to tree roots and rotating stoops.
Some appliances are operated (where appropriate), and deficiencies are noted. The inspector approximates the age of each piece and its life expectancy. Depending on the kitchen’s age and usefulness, the inspector may suggest a budget for repairs ranging from addressing typical minor problems to a complete renovation.
Walls, floors and ceiling surfaces are scanned for problematic conditions, visible evidence of water penetration, potentially dangerous or toxic materials, fire hazards, or security breaches. Ventilation and energy conservation aspects are checked, and appropriate upgrades are itemized.
The roof will be walked on (where safe and appropriate), roof runoff controls and landscape drainage are inspected, and necessary improvements are recommended. Stoops, steps, walks and drives are checked for voids, surface problems and safety hazards.
The inspector is going to look for items like the following:
- Is the heating and or cooling system working properly, is it clean, and is it delivering hot or cool air to all the rooms in an adequate volume?
- Is the electrical system adequately sized for the intended load? Are the breakers/fuses adequately sized for the size of wire used? Are outlets wired with the correct polarity?
- Is the water supply and disposal system inside the house functioning adequately? Are there damaged or leaking fixtures? Are exhaust fans present and functioning?
- Are windows and doors functioning correctly? Are there signs of problems exhibited by the interior wall systems? Are there problems with floor or ceiling components?
- Are kitchen appliances functioning correctly?
- Roof coverings, exterior claddings, and drainage systems are inspected.
- Note: Some inspectors do more, some less.
Note: If I was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, I want an inspector above average in thoroughness and work ethic!
Use this guide during your home visits, and you’ll learn a lot more about the house than you would otherwise. Fill one out for each property you visit, and you’ll have an excellent means of making comparisons between dwellings. This form will also help you to prepare a list of questions for the home inspector and will enable him to focus more closely on items of concern to you.
Note: (I use this 12-page checklist with my clients and a scoring system to rate each home we see. These clients loved it!
Approximate Amperage_______________ Fuses / Breakers
Extension cords? Y / N Receptacles: 2 hole/3 Hole
Type: (Hot Water) (Forced Air) Age________
5 year Replacement Probability: H M L
Fuel Type: (Gas) (Electric) (Oil) (Heat Pump) Oil Tank on Site? Y / N
Heat & A/C to all living spaces? Y / N Fireplace / Woodstove
Type: (Gas) (Electric) (Heat pump) Age_______
5 year replacement probability H M L
Electronic Air Cleaner? Y / N
Water supply: (Public) (Private) Well: (Deep) (Shallow) Age________
Sewage: (Public) (Private) Water Heater: Size/ Age__________
S-Traps: Y / N Fresh Field Site? Y / N Lead Service? Y / N Leaks? Y / N
Water Symptoms below Grade? Y / N Mitigation Measures? Y / N
Sump Pump? Y / N
Refrigerator__________________________ Age____ $______
Stove________________________________ Age____ $______
Dishwasher___________________________ Age____ $______
Disposal______________________________ Age____ $______
General Condition: ____________________________________________________________
Floor Level? Y / N
Siding Type___________________________________Condition _______________________
Roof Pitch (Steep) ( Moderate) (Flat) Window Door
Check the credentials of your home inspector.
Take one step further and call the inspector or inspectors your Realtor has referred. The best way to choose is if you like the way they communicate with you. Also, many other things are essential, not just the price. What is their service like? How will they help you in the future?
You should pick a member of the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors (OAHI). A home inspector with some experience usually has the R.H.I. designation. This means Registered Home Inspector. Most full-time inspectors are available on weekends and for late afternoon appointments when available daylight permits. You can’t see much of a house at night.
Many people without specific home inspection credentials offer services. Likewise, credentials are not always what they seem. Engineering and architectural credentials alone do not prepare anyone to inspect homes and communicate findings competently. A helping attitude, good communication skills, and mature judgment must supplement technical competence.
Good inspectors go through properties with you, explaining everything in detail, answering questions, and making sure you understand things, including the visual limitations. Training and experience give inspectors insight about houses similar to yours, so they know what to look for and can readily compare your home and its’ systems with other places of similar age and construction.
Over the years, I have experienced excellent and inadequate home inspections done by many inspectors. The home inspector works for you, not me or the home seller, so in turn, he/she should be diligent in looking at the home and pointing out to you not only any severe defects but little things that could grow into big things.
A good inspector will guide you and recommend a little ‘to-do list’ of things, while not significant, would be a prudent thing to do over the next few years.
I refer 1-2 inspectors to the clients I have worked with in the past, have found, be honest and professional, and have no hesitation in hiring them to inspect my own home. I have seen some doozies over the years, and you will not believe the number of houses I list that the owners tell me they wished they had a home inspection or a better home inspector.
Again, trying to save $100 on a $500,000 plus home is not wise! For other valuable home buying reports, there are more on this page.