Don’t buy that house without an inspection
A good professional opinion will give you a heads-up about what needs replacing and when
There’s an alarming trend among the people who are desperate to get into the housing market: they skip a home inspection or, having had one done, they completely ignore the report.
It makes no sense to put good money down on what will likely be your single biggest investment without getting a professional opinion on the state of property you’re considering.
Hire a good home inspector. Please. Currently, only British Columbia and Alberta regulate home inspectors, although Ontario may jump on this bandwagon shortly.
Home inspectors are a dime a dozen, and some are downright awful. But a good one can help you feel confident in laying down your buck-sixty-two.
Home inspectors come in various shades and styles, from highly educated and accredited to not so much. Ask about their experience. Check to see if they are members of associations. Ask to see what their inspection report looks like before you buy from them. You do get what you pay for: if you’re coughing up less than $350 for your home inspection, you’re probably not getting the best advice.
Home inspectors won’t find everything. They don’t have psychic powers, so they can’t see behind walls. And if there’s been a recent mould cleanup just ahead of the inspection, there may be no signs. Mice droppings under floorboards won’t be spotted, either.
But working with a good inspector means you’ll get a heads-up on what will need replacing when and approximately what it will cost. That’ll help you decide what you’ll need to set aside for home maintenance. If there’s a big cost coming, like the replacement of a roof or furnace, you can use that information to negotiate the sale price. (Yeah, I know, not gonna happen in a seller’s market, but at least you’ll know there’s more money going out the door in the not-too-distant future so you can plan for it.)
A home inspection should take three to four hours. Be there every step of the way. You should end up with a very detailed report that shows all the deficiencies and comments on all the features of your home that may need attention.
As you walk around with your inspector, ask every question that pops into your head. Don’t worry about looking stupid. You’re never going to see this man or woman again. Suck every drop of information that you can out of the inspection experience.
At the end of the day, the inspection should provide you with peace of mind in terms of the big things that need to be addressed when you’re buying a property. The best home inspectors will give you an idea of what things will cost to fix or replace as they fill out their report.
Depending on the season, there may be things you just can’t check. When I turned on my outside taps in the spring, my inside line was leaking.
But there was no way for the home inspector I worked with to know this, since I bought the house in the dead of winter. I just sucked it up and got it fixed. Gail Vaz-Oxlade writes every Tuesday for Smart Money.
A home inspection should take three to four hours, Gail Vaz-Oxlade writes.