To find a solid home inspector with the right amount of experience and with high-quality referrals, it’s vital that you do a bit of research. Are you already starting to groan? Just remind yourself: This person is your last line of defense before you end up buying a money-pit of a home. That’s why it’s crucial to find the right home inspector.
Just ask Glen Jasper, a home builder of 10 years and co-founder of Millennial Homeowner. Over the years, he’s seen clients go through terrible experiences after choosing the wrong inspector. “My friend had a home inspector go through a house he was considering. The only thing that the inspector found wrong with the house was that the latch on one window didn’t work,” said Jasper. Thankfully, this friend had his suspicions, so he called Jasper and booked a second home inspection. During this second walk-through, Jasper was able to point out significant issues that had been missed by the initial home inspector, such as significant mould growth in the bathroom (a sign of a poor ventilation and potential water damage), as well as a faulty hot water tank and multiple electrical issues. “All of these should have been caught by the inspector,” said Jasper. They weren’t. Jasper’s would-be friend ended up walking away from the house, grateful that they didn’t end up buying a lemon property because of a less-than-thorough inspection report.
But what if you don’t have Jasper on speed dial? What can you do to avoid the less than ideal home inspector? We’ve got your back. Use these five tips to help find the best home inspector for your needs.
1. Get up to date on province-based home inspection regulations
Many homeowners assume that home inspectors are licensed and regulated across Canada. This is simply not the case.
In the 1990s, the National Home Inspector Certification Council (NHICC) was put in place to oversee standards and to develop a national designation. Home inspectors who complete the program become National Home Inspectors in Canada. However, having this certification and designation is not mandatory. While the NHICC program is backed by multiple stakeholders, such as the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), there is nothing in place to prompt wide-spread adoption of this designation.
As a result, there is a hodge-podge of regulatory standards regarding home inspectors. Each province has its own regulatory requirements if they have any requirements at all. For instance, in 2009, the B.C. government was the first to pass the Home Inspector Licensing Regulation which required all home inspectors to have certification.
Believe it or not, B.C. was the first province to require home inspectors to pass regulated education requirements and to become provincially licensed. In 2011, Alberta followed and passed the Home Inspection Business Regulation. As a result, home inspectors operating in this province are now required to pass and qualify for provincially managed certification.
Most recently, Ontario joined the club. In 2017, the provincial government finally passed the Home Inspection Act which holds standards for contracts, reports, and disclosure agreements based on the performance of the inspectors.
The remaining provinces and territories in Canada do not have province-wide regulations in place making it mandatory for home inspectors to take and pass standardized educational requirements. Instead, these jurisdictions rely upon self-regulated through associations, which means that certifications and memberships are not mandatory. The only outlier is Quebec. As long-time home inspector Northern Ontario home inspector and owner of All-Tech Consulting Group, Cam Allen, explains, Quebec structures things a little different having a very strong consumers act. As a result, the AIBQ (Quebec Association of Building Inspectors) monitors all certifications and designations.
2. Ask about memberships and home inspection certifications
After you confirm that the home inspector has all required certifications, find out whether they are members of associations. A couple of examples include the Canadian Association of Home & Property Inspectors (CAHPI) or the Canadian National Association of Certified Home Inspectors, Inc. (CanNACHI).
“If you’re in British Columbia or Alberta, those provinces have a web directory that you can go to and the directory provides the names of those that meet the licensing standards in B.C. and Alberta,” says Allen.
Allen points out that there are two designations to look for when researching inspectors using association sites.
“The one with the highest standard is called the NHI (National Home Inspector), and that is issued by the NHICC,” said Allen. “The other one is called an RHI (Registered Home Inspector), and this is the next best certification standard. After that [the standards] drop off pretty quick, with a two-week course or an online course that takes a couple of hours,” explains Allen.
The NHICC is the only organization that can offer third-party confirmation of a home inspector’s qualifications.
3. Interview multiple home inspectors and ask what they look for
When you go to buy a new car, you don’t walk into the first dealership and purchase the first vehicle you test — so what makes finding a home inspector any different?
Ask as many questions as you want, keeping in mind that their expertise will result in the decision to purchase your most expensive asset. The key is to for you to feel comfortable with their skills and expertise. For instance, you could ask the following:
- Are you insured?
- Do you have any testimonials or reviews I can read?
- Do you offer any guarantees in case something is missed?
- Do you have knowledge and training in building and foundation structure, electrical systems, heating, cooling and ventilation systems and plumbing?
- How long will the inspection take?
A thorough home inspection should take between three and four hours on any home up to 2,000 square feet, says Allen, longer if the home is larger and shorter for smaller properties. Anything less than this and an inspector is cutting corners.
4. Expect and ask for a home walkthrough
Ask potential home inspectors if you can be there for the walkthrough, which takes anywhere from two hours in a condo to four or more hours in a single family detached home. If the inspector hesitates or tries to persuade you that your presence isn’t necessary isn’t the right person for you. On the flipside, if an inspector tries to coordinate a walkthrough so that you can attend, this is a great sign.
5. What to expect during a home inspection walkthrough
Inspectors look at everything from appliances to HVAC systems but he or she cannot inspect elements that are covered up or hidden. If a homeowner has stacked a dozen boxes in front of the electric panel, your inspector won’t get a chance to inspect that integral home component. As a result, it’s always a good idea to send a message to the seller (through your agent) to ask for easy access to all integral systems within the home.
During the walk-through, the inspector will point out areas of deficiency — spots that require replacement or repair. While this information will be recorded in the final report, it’s best to ask questions and get more information about the major issues during the walk-through. “You can go into some detail on the report, but nothing beats the hands-on question and answer,” says Allen.
6. Research local home inspection price ranges
The average price range for home inspections in Canada ranges between $200 and $1,000, depending on the size of the property and how busy the season is at that time, the age of the home, and the length of time it takes the inspector to complete the report.
Always ask for an upfront price or estimate from potential inspectors and when you get a low-ball price, make sure you pay attention to how long they’ll be at the property and what their professional qualifications are for performing this job.
“If you pay anything under $350, you’re not getting your money’s worth,” said Allen.
Once the inspection is complete, read the report. Become familiar will all the potential problems of a home and determine which areas you need to tackle first. This report is a great tool to not only find out what’s wrong the home but also as a negotiation tactic. If the inspector finds major problems, you can use those findings to further negotiate your purchase price. With that in mind, remember that the cheapest isn’t always the best when it comes to examining the safety and reliability of your most expensive purchase.