Buying a house should be more exciting than stressful, and in a more typical real estate market, home inspections have helped both homebuyers and sellers understand the condition of a house – and what should be expected in terms of repairs and maintenance.
In the extremely competitive atmosphere of the past couple years, multiple offers leading to bidding wars have led buyers to purchase homes without inspections. This can be especially risky with older homes, renovated homes and rural homes relying upon private wells and septic systems. Some buyers can afford to repair or replace almost everything and anything, while others - most notably first-time buyers and families on tight budgets, may be in big trouble when the not-so-obvious problems manifest themselves.
It should be noted that home inspections can be a real asset for sellers as well as homebuyers – as evidenced by the recent stream of buyers pursuing legal action for problems discovered after they moved in. In addition, both buyers and sellers can benefit from understanding what needs to be repaired or replaced immediately, while avoiding or deferring unnecessary improvements.
FOUR KINDS OF HOME INSPECTIONS
1. Pre-purchase, or pending inspection
A home inspection performed after the seller has accepted a buyers offer, typically conditional upon receiving a satisfactory home inspection report. This 40 year-old proven process makes sense in a normal real estate market, providing a buyer with valuable information about the property they are about to purchase. This form of inspection also gives the prospective buyer an opportunity to tour the home with an experienced person before committing to the purchase.
2. Pre-listing, or seller’s inspection
A home inspection performed before a home is listed for sale, providing the seller with information pertinent to preparing their home for sale. This form of inspection helps sellers decide what, if any improvements are needed or likely wanted to make the property more desirable to buyers. The resultant inspection report can also be offered to homebuyers, signaling that the seller is willing to provide 3rd party disclosure of the condition of the property. This may also encourage more offers from nervous buyers who are reluctant to proceed without an inspection.
3. Pre-offer inspection
A home inspection performed for a buyer before they present an offer to purchase. These inspections have become popular as homebuyers waive conditions in a frenzied market however may be limited in time and scope. A pre-offer inspection can help buyers understand the condition of a house, however unless an inspector is given sufficient time to examine the house properly, buyers may not be receiving the kind of inspection report they were expecting. An experienced home inspector working alone, focusing his entire attention on the property may be able to complete an adequate inspection within an hour – but no less.
4. A home review (after purchase)
The house is already sold and the new owner has taken possession, but it’s never too late for a thorough home review. A homeowner can still benefit from the expertise of a home inspector by learning more about the house – and most importantly, what maintenance and repairs need to be planned and budgeted for.
A Home Review performed after purchase should be the same as any pre-purchase home inspection… and without the pressure of time constraints, homeowners have the opportunity to pick and choose their home inspector, and create a prioritized list of repairs, maintenance, and desirable improvements to their new home. When homeowners know more about what may be needed, they will have a better opportunity for preventive measures before little problems become needlessly big ones.
OTHER THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
Before the inspector gets started, make sure you know what they'll be inspecting, their certifications, and the cost - this may seem obvious, but many buyers simply compare inspectors based on cost alone, not on the level of service or expertise.
Home inspection is not a regulated industry and the scope of work between different inspectors can vary widely.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If there’s no time to ask questions - such as during a pre-offer inspection, note your questions for later. Ask what things mean, what will they cost and what has to be done right away. If you forget to ask about something, most home inspectors will welcome your call, text message or email after the inspection – whether it’s before or after you receive your written report.
A home inspector’s mission is to help buyers and sellers understand the specifics of a property. Don’t be shy to ask for clarification of any points of interest or concern, to avoid over or underestimating the impact of any inspection items. Reports vary from house to house, and can be quite detailed and lengthy, but not everything in a home inspection report needs to be addressed immediately.
Questions To Ask A Home Inspector
Gil Strachan is a professional home inspector, representing Electrospec Home Inspection Services in east-central Ontario since 1994.