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Hiring a Home Inspector

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Blog by Ray Smiley | November 26th, 2009

Hiring a Home Inspector

It's often said that one of the most expensive and important purchases you will ever make will be your home. However, unlike the guarantee a buyer receives with most purchases, there's no money-back guarantee or return policy if you're not satisfied with your recently purchased home. Once you buy a home, you're on your own to maintain it, repair it, anticipate problems and pay the bills. This is why it's best to know as much as you can about potential problems before you make the commitment to buy.

What home and property inspectors do?
One of the best ways to understand about a home's condition, habitability and safety is to hire a professional home inspector1. A properly trained home inspector will review your house as a system, looking at how one component of the house might affect the operability or lifespan of another. Home inspectors will go through the property and perform a comprehensive visual inspection to assess the condition of the house and all of its systems. They will determine the components that are not performing properly as well as items that are beyond their useful life or are unsafe. They will also identify areas where repairs may be needed or where there may have been problems in the past. Inspections are intended to provide the client with a better understanding of property conditions, as observed at the time of the inspection.

A pre-purchase inspection for a 165 to 205 m2 (1800 to 2200 sq. ft.) home typically takes about three hours and costs under $500. Following the inspection, the buyer is presented with a written report, consolidating the details of the inspection. The home inspector should be willing to answer any questions a buyer might have and to clarify the limitations of the inspection to avoid misunderstandings. CMHC recommends that potential buyers accompany the inspector as the inspection takes place. It can be a valuable learning experience.

How do you find a home inspector?
Check association websites, the yellow pages or housing or home trade magazines. Ask friends or family members. Your real estate agent may also make a suggestion. However, beware of this. Under provincial regulations for some provinces, and the code of ethics for real estate agents, such agents are not permitted to recommend or provide the name of only one home inspector. They are, however, permitted to provide a list of home inspectors from which you can choose. The only alliance home inspectors should have is to their professional association and their only allegiance should be to the homebuyer.

How long has the home inspector been in business?
The more experienced a home inspector is, the more they have seen, the more likely it is they will be able to detect any less obvious problems. Seasoned, professional home inspectors will be full-time home inspectors, not renovators or contractors.

What are the home inspector's qualifications?
Look for people who belong to a provincial association and who have taken some courses, such as defect recognition, building sciences or civil engineering, for example. Professional home inspectors are bound by a strict code of ethics and must adhere to specific standards of practice. Home inspectors should have a general understanding of all the various systems and components in a home. Many have practical experience or a background in engineering, construction and related building trades.
Keep in mind that at this time, anyone can become a member of a home inspection association. Many associations have different levels of membership. Being an association member does not necessarily mean that a member has successfully completed the certification process. Check to make sure that the inspector has successfully completed the association's certification process.


How do I know that a home inspector has the necessary qualifications?
You should ask to see proof of their membership in a provincial association. In most provinces, a member cannot advertise their membership in the association until they have reached the minimum standards of a practicing member. The association in your province will be pleased to clarify their membership categories and any particular inspector's membership level. Determine if the inspector intends to meet the CAHPI national standards of competency.

Can the home inspector provide three references?
Any qualified home inspector should gladly provide this information upon request. Call the people named as references and ask whether they were satisfied with the service they received from the inspector.You can also check with the Better Business Bureau.

Can the home inspector also be hired to do any repairs or improvements?
Under their professional code of ethics, professional home inspectors are not allowed to be associated with any other construction or house related trade.While they may provide you with a personal opinion based on past experience, it is recommended that you obtain three independent quotes from qualified contractors.

Does the home inspector solicit, receive or give referral fees?
You should receive a firm no as an answer to this question, since any other answer contravenes their code of ethics.

Does the home inspector conduct inspections at night?
It is not desirable to conduct an inspection at night, since a number of the vital components of the exterior of the house cannot be seen properly.

Where can I get more information about the home inspector and/or his/her firm?
The home inspector may point you to the firm's website, to their industry association, provide company details, list inspector qualifications or describe a range of services offered.

What should a home inspector provide following the inspection and when will I receive it?
The home inspector should provide a written report reviewing every major home system and component within 24 hours of the inspection. Exterior components include roofing, flashing, chimneys, gutters, downspouts, wall surfaces and the foundation, including the grading around it.
Interior systems include electrical, heating, air conditioning, ventilation, plumbing, insulation, flooring, ceiling and wall finishes, windows and doors.

Links To Home Inspectors Servicing Ottawa.


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