Buying Your Home - Home Inspections & Warranties
What's a home inspection?
A home inspection is when a paid
professional inspector -- often a contractor or an engineer -- inspects the
home, searching for defects or other problems that might plague the owner later
on. They usually represent the buyer and or paid by the buyer. The inspection
usually takes place after a purchase contract between buyer and seller has been
Do I need a home inspection?
Yes. Buying a home "as is" is a risky
proposition. Major repairs on homes can amount to thousands of dollars.
Plumbing, electrical and roof problems represent significant and complex systems
that are expensive to fix.
How do I find a home inspector?
Home inspection is an unregulated industry in Canada, but thankfully
there are a number of resources and organizations out there to help
homeowners find qualified home inspectors. Home inspectors play an
important role in the buying and selling of homes, and their opinions on
the condition of a home can influence a buyer’s decision to purchase a
house. Home inspectors are expected to have knowledge of and training in
plumbing, heating, electrical, cooling and ventilation systems,
building structures and foundations, and roofing. If a home inspector
fails to do a comprehensive inspection, homeowners may find themselves
dealing with serious and costly consequences, sometimes resulting in
problems with home insurance.
This is why it’s important to make sure your home inspector is
qualified and professional. Before hiring a home inspector, it’s
important to ask a number of questions:
Are they a member of an independent professional association?
There are a number of independent provincial associations that typically operate under the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors
(CAHPI). These associations have established standards of practice, codes
of ethics, and a hierarchy of membership categories starting with
students and eventually graduating to what they consider “Registered
Home Inspectors.” To make it to the top tier, home inspectors must
continually update their “credits,” which consist of a combination of
education, fieldwork, experience, and a minimum amount of
association-approved fee-paid inspections and written reports.
Still, each province runs its association differently and not all are
as stringent as others. This is why there are also nationally
In the 1990s, a “National Intiative” was established to create a set
of national standards and to develop a country-wide designation. The National Home Inspector Certification Council
(NHICC) leads this program. The organization awards home inspectors who
complete this certification with the designation of “National Home
Inspector.” The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation not only supports this certification, but highly recommends homeowners seek home inspectors with this designation.
Also part of the National Initiative is the Professional Home & Property Inspectors of Canada.
This not-for-profit organization acts as a third-party evaluator and
awards Canadian home inspectors that prove their knowledge and skills
with the “Professional Home and Property Inspector” (PHPIC) designation.
This designation is considered equivalent to the “National Home
Inspector” certification in accordance to an agreement and
administrative contact made with the NHICC.
Each of these organizations lists accredited home inspectors on their
websites. That said, to be a home inspector in Canada it is not
mandatory to have these certifications—unless you live in Alberta or
British Columbia, in which case home inspectors are required to be
licensed by law.
Are they insured?
It is not mandatory for home inspectors to be insured, but be wary of
any that aren’t. You’re going to want to make sure your home inspector
carries liability insurance, specifically Errors and Omissions
Insurance. This will protect you and them in the event they are
negligent or make a mistake in your home inspection.
Do they come recommended?
Many real estate agents will recommend specific home inspectors, but
that does not mean that they are the right home inspector for you. Look
also to your friends and family for recommendations, and when you have
the names of a few home inspectors do your due diligence in researching
them. Websites such as HomeStars
feature consumer-ranked and rated home inspectors and other home
improvement professionals. Some of the home inspectors on there have
hundreds of reviews, and each year the site identifies the top companies
and contractors based on these reviews. Take advantage of resources
like these to ensure you’re choosing the right inspector.
Do they offer any guarantees?
Some companies and independent home inspectors offer guarantees so
that if something significant is missed, or if the inspector makes an
inaccurate assumption about something such as a furnace, you will
receive a refund or they will pay for the repair. This provides an
additional layer of protection and security in your home inspection.
Just make sure to get the agreement in writing.
Can you join them for the home inspection? Do they have a home inspection checklist?
If your home inspector does not want or allow you to be present
during a home inspection this should raise a red flag. Although some
home inspectors prefer to do their jobs independently, it’s always a
good idea for the home buyer to be around near the end of the home
inspection to receive the summary report in person. This gives you an
opportunity to learn more about the house, and to ask the home inspector
any questions you may have. At this time, the home inspector can
explain things to you in more detail and show you any areas of concern.
This knowledge is good to have—and can even help you renegotiate the
asking price of the home if components need repair or replacing.
Now that you’ve found your home inspector and your house has been
inspected, The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation recommends
homebuyers use this checklist
to ensure the house has been properly examined. If you have a
guarantee, this is the time when you could consult your home inspector
about anything you feel was missed.
Good home inspectors are out there. Just do a little research to find the one that makes you feel comfortable and confident.