Don’t buy that house with­out an in­spec­tion

A good pro­fes­sional opin­ion will give you a heads-up about what needs re­plac­ing and when

Toronto Star - - SMART MONEY - Gail Vaz-Oxlade

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.

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