Buying a home is very exciting, but it can also be very stressful if you don’t approach things strategically. A home inspection is a vital part of the home buying process and provides insight into the condition of the property, as well as the home itself. It gives you a better idea of what you’ll be investing in below the surface if you choose to close on the sale.
Learn more about what you can expect as part of the home inspection process, how you can better understand the results and how to see value of what it provides for you as a future homeowner.
What Is A Home Inspection?
To put it literally, a home inspection is an objective visual examination of the physical structure and systems of a house, from the top of the roof all the way down to the foundation. It’s not like your typical exam where a passing or failing grade is assigned. The home inspector’s job is to provide a visual assessment of the home to determine the list of next steps/tasks they suggest the new homeowners tend to based on its condition.
Why Do I Need To Perform A Home Inspection?
Sometimes a house can seem too good to be true. Beautiful at first glance but harbouring some real issues below the surface. Without a home inspection, you’ll never have the chance to see below the surface and determine what might require your attention immediately or in the short/long term if you choose to buy. Having a thorough home inspector whom you trust could potentially help you avoid any nasty surprises and stop you from investing in a house that requires tens of thousands of dollars in repairs. If by chance your home inspector does find some major issues with the home, you can always negotiate with the seller have them fix these deficiencies before you buy the home or reduce the price accordingly so you can do it yourself afterwards.
Hiring A Professional Home Inspector
Who you hire to inspect your home is a big decision, as this is the person you’ll trust to provide insight into the condition of the home you want to buy. You want someone who is meticulous, trustworthy and perhaps recommended by a friend/family member for their work. You’ll want to look for someone who is a certified home inspector and is a member of the local or national home inspector’s trade association.
Hiring a professional means the inspection will be performed to the Canadian Association of Home & Property Inspectors (CAHPI) and National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI) Standards of Practice providing you with the peace of mind you’ll want in this stage of the home buying process. Keep in mind that you’ll want to hire a home inspector before closing on the home or immediately after the Agreement and Purchase of Sale (APS) documents are signed. Ideally, before you sign is best, but you can always negotiate to have your APS documents include a home inspector clause, which means your final decision is contingent upon the results of the inspection.
How Much Do Home Inspections Cost?
The cost of your home inspection will depend on a few factors including the size of the home, what type of home it is (a condo, townhouse, etc.), how old the home is, your geographic location and even the cost of living in your area. On average, a home inspection typically costs $300 – $500, but regardless of what pricing you encounter, do not undervalue its worth or debate the investment as a result. If you’re concerned from a budgeting perspective, be sure to get a quote first to avoid any surprises.
What To Expect For Your Home Inspection
While we all have busy schedules these days, it’s vital that you make time to attend your home inspection alongside your inspector and real estate agent/broker who can help you decipher information being relayed from the inspector. This ensures you have the support you need to get your questions answered, take any required notes and determine how to negotiate around any potential issues that are found.
A standard home inspection and report should cover the home’s exterior condition, its structural integrity, appliance functionality, the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems (HVAC), interior plumbing, all electrical, the roof, attic, visible insulation, ceilings, walls, floors, windows and doors, the foundation, basement, crawl spaces, interior and exterior drainage as well as structural and safety components.
Items Not Typically Included In Your Home Inspection
While the process for a home inspection is quite standard, some things can vary from city to city or province to province. What your home inspection will ultimately look and be like will depend on who is inspecting your home and the procedures they follow set out by the organization and/or licensing bodies they are a part of. That being said, there are some standard items that are not typically included in your general, standard home inspection.
Most general home inspectors won’t be checking for asbestos, radon, methane, radiation, wood-destroying organisms, mold, mildew and fungi, pests, rodents or lead. Additionally, if you want more in-depth information about your roof (like roof certification from the roofing company or a guarantee about the condition of the roof), this is something separate.
Most general home inspectors also won’t be inspecting sewer systems or septic/waste systems in general, but if you’re buying an older home, you may want to pay the additional fee (approximately $325) to have this inspected as it can provide valuable information about the pipes used in your home and what condition they’re in.
When it comes to the property itself, home inspections don’t usually include looking at the property beyond checking for spots that may show signs of drainage or grading issues. If you want a full property survey, you’ll have to hire an additional professional to get this completed.
Home Buying Checklist
When buying a home and conducting a home inspection, it’s important to look at the big picture as well as the fine details so you don’t miss anything along the way.
Typically, this will begin outside the front of your home to look at the roof overhang, eaves, gutters and if applicable, chimney. As the inspector moves down toward the foundation, they’ll pay close attention to the wall coverings/material (stone, wood, aluminum, etc.) and the windows and doors. They’ll look at any patios, porches or decks and make note of any gardens/flower beds, walkways, the driveway itself, etc. If anything catches the inspector’s attention, they’ll be moving closer to investigate the fine details. This process will be repeated on all sides of the exterior.
You’ll want to check and see if there’s any missing pieces or cracks in the walls. You’ll also want to see if there’s any soil too close to the bottom of the house as it’ll have the potential to attract wood-destroying insects like termites. Keep in mind though, you’ll need to hire an exterminator if you’re concerned about any real pest damage to determine if anything you find is aesthetic or serious.
Since typically the foundation is not visible from the exterior of the house, the inspector won’t be able to directly inspect it but they will be able to look for secondary evidence of foundation issues like cracks or settling.
As part of your inspection, you will find out if there’s a graded slope moving away from your home (as it should be) or if there are issues with it moving toward the home instead, as this means water could get into your home and cause damage.
Vehicle doors, openers, automatic closers, floors and gas proofing will all be checked as part of the inspection. Your inspector will be looking for roof damage, any installation issues that could cause water leaks and whether or not the garage has a firewall.
This process includes looking for missing or deteriorating/damaged shingles. Looking underneath the shingles to see if there is any water damage will tell you if you need to request repairs. Roofs/attics are commonly checked for framing, ventilation, the type of roof construction, flashing and gutters. Keep in mind though, that having an inspector up on the roof doesn’t mean you have any kind of guarantee or certification.
If there’s a chimney present, the inspector will need to make sure the flashing around it is also water tight and that the bricks/stone are in good condition. If there’s a fireplace, that will also need to be inspected once inside.
If you’re looking to buy an older home or one that’s located in a more rural area, you may need to hire a special inspector to check the waste system as you’ll want to know its condition but this isn’t something typically covered as part of a standard home inspection.
Porches, Patios, Decks
Your home inspector will be looking to see if any porches, patios or decks are structurally sound which means no cracks in the foundation, rotting of wood, evidence of wood-destroying pests or anything else that could cause them to be unsafe. If possible, they’ll inspect underneath any structures to ensure there’s no separation from the house or issues that may only be visible from a different angle.
The inspector will be looking around the yard/garden to make sure there aren’t any moist spots that may be a sign of bigger problem with drainage or grading.
Once you move inside, you’ll likely start in the basement and move in a specific pattern through each room as you go up to different levels. Interior inspections will involve looking at the floors, walls, ceiling and anything integral behind them like electrical and plumbing systems.
When looking for potential plumbing issues, identifying what materials were used depending on the pipes’ purpose is a good place to start. As part of a standard home inspection, toilets, sinks, tubs, faucets and taps will all be inspected but not sewers. As you investigate each element, be sure to turn on the taps to let them run so you can see if they’re in good condition and what the water pressure is like. Keep an eye out for copper pipes and any faulty connector joints that could be present with Kitec plumbing.
An electrical inspection will consist of checking the service entrance, main and distribution panels, amperage and voltage of service, main shut off, branch circuit conductors and their over current protection, receptacles, polarity and grounding, switches and light fixtures. Your inspector will want to make sure everything is up to code and safe.
Part of this process entails determining how old the furnace, air-conditioner and water heater are, whether they’re functioning as they should be, if they’re installed correctly and if any repairs are recommended based on that information.
A check of kitchen appliances isn’t always part of a home inspection, so if you’re purchasing a house that comes with the appliances and you plan to keep them, be sure to do a check yourself if the inspector doesn’t provide that service.
The walls inside the home may look fine on the surface, but they could be hiding some nasty secrets inside. Make sure your home inspector uses an infrared camera to look for potential water damage within the walls or on the surface. This will help you ensure there’s no chance of mold or mildew growing out of sight.
Your inspector will also be on the lookout for lead paint if the home is older as the presence of this is unsafe and needs to be noted.
Inspectors always take note of what type of flooring found in the home and pay special attention to any real wood elements to ensure there’s no presence of carpenter bees, carpenter ants, beetles or termites. As the top layer of finished flooring is the only part the inspector can check visually, the other portion of this inspection will be looking for soft spots or issues with the subfloor which can cause a lot more damage if not detected.
Your home inspector will be checking the toilet installation, looking for any potential leaks and ensuring the space(s) have adequate ventilation as bathrooms without windows may have mold or mildew present as a result.
If the home you’re interested in purchasing has an attached garage, the home inspector will be looking to see if it has an appropriate fire rating and that no damage has occurred that may downgrade its fire rating. The inspector may also check the smoke detectors at this point in the inspection.
Windows And Doors
When it comes to inspecting windows and doors, your home inspector will be looking for any problems with the caulking and anything that might suggest rotten wood hiding beneath. As part of this process, they’re trying to determine if the windows are new or old so they can make recommendations on when they need to be changed/upgraded.
There’s nothing worse than a damp basement. Often the smell of mold or mildew in these spaces indicates there’s too much dampness. Your home inspector will want to take a closer look at the walls and flooring to see if there are any visible signs of dampness, mildew patches or signs of water penetration like stains, loose tiles etc. Some inspectors will actually use a meter to determine the level of moisture in a space since too much moisture can be a cause for concern (it can break down building materials and attract unwanted pests). If any exposed earth is found in crawl spaces or basements, it should be covered in plastic to manage the moisture. It’s important to note that many foundation leaks will occur because of poor drainage due to improper grading on the exterior and won’t always show visible cracks to prove it so it’s vital to turn on all your senses in these two specific areas to ensure you catch any smells or stains that could allude to bigger problems.
If the home being inspected was built prior to 1980, make sure your home inspector has experience working with asbestos so they have the know-how to determine if its present through certain visible clues that an inexperienced inspector may not notice.
Examining ceilings involves looking for cracks in the plaster or any loose/sagging pieces that could be cause for concern. It’s also good practice to look for stains, exposed hardware, mechanical damage and/or evidence of previous repairs.
What To Do When You Find Problems With The Home
No matter how fantastic a home may seem, it’s unlikely you’ve chosen the one magical property that has no issues. Home inspections are not meant as a solution for all the home’s problems. They’re meant to shed light on potential concerns that could cost a new owner money in the short or long term. You can use the home inspection report as a tool to better understand what investing in this specific property will look like and what issues may arise over time, versus what is urgent and immediately requires your attention (and budget) should you choose to move forward.
Always consult with your real estate agent if you want to discuss potential negotiations with the seller or determine whether or not to move forward based on the report’s findings.
Getting a home inspection is a crucial step in ensuring the home you are purchasing is safe, up to code and not going to cost you a fortune after you close. Do your homework when it comes to choosing a home inspector, understanding the process and knowing what to look for on-site. Whether it’s your first house or your third, the value of a home inspection never changes. If you want to learn more about the home buying process including short sales, mortgages, closing procedures and financing, reach out to connect with our team.