Congratulations! You’re in the process of buying your first home or a new home, and that’s very exciting.
Getting a home inspected before purchasing it is an important step in the home-buying process. A knowledgeable inspector will point out the high, medium and low priority issues a house has and give you an idea of the cost and timeline required to make these corrections, improvements and upgrades so you won’t be surprised by maintenance and repair issues down the road.
The report should also include information about the house that isn’t included in the real estate listing that may be helpful to know for maintenance and replacements down the road, such as the type of foundation, amount of insulation, which external vents are from where and how to maintain an HRV. This can be particularly useful if you aren’t very familiar with home improvement and operation.
What is a home inspection and what does it include?
A home inspection is a visual examination that’s performed by an experienced professional. The home inspector will look at the inside and outside of the house, including places like the attic, basement, crawl space, and other areas you might not think to look.
Its main purpose is to identify current problems with the house’s structure, systems, and major components, as well as things that might go wrong in the coming years.
Here are some example findings and recommendations from the report we received for our home:
What does a home inspector look for?
The inspector will look at the plumbing, electrical, roof, HVAC system, foundation, basement or crawl space, attic, windows and doors, sump system and drainage, walls and ceilings, and more.
Here are some examples of issues they might uncover:
- Aluminum wiring and other electrical issues
- Plumbing problems
- Cracks in the foundation
- Structural issues
- Leaks in the roof or elsewhere
- Poor insulation
- Grading problems and drainage issues
- Old or malfunctioning HVAC system
When the inspection is complete, you’ll get a detailed report with pictures that explains what the inspector found, what maintenance and repairs are required now, what improvements or renovations will be required later, when you should plan for these projects, and a ballpark estimate for what the projects might cost.
What does a home inspector NOT do?
While home inspectors do their best to identify problems, they’re only able to do a visual inspection. That means, for example, they can’t open up a wall to find out if there are issues going on in places you can’t see. In other words, the inspector will be limited to what they can see, and that means some issues might go unnoticed.
Another limitation is that it’s not exhaustive, and the inspector won’t have a chance to disassemble systems and components to make sure they’re in perfect condition. For example, the inspector might run the furnace to make sure it works and check its age, but won’t look inside to make sure all the components are working optimally.
It’s also important to remember that home inspectors have a good general knowledge, but they aren’t experts in every area, and they can miss things.
Do I need a home inspection?
While an inspection isn’t mandatory or necessary, it’s generally recommended to have one done before buying any house. An inspection is always a good idea, whether you’re looking at a heritage home, a brand-new build, or something in between.
When I was looking to buy my first house, I thought for sure I had found the one: the house was in a perfect location, it was the right size, it had all the amenities I wanted, I loved the layout and design, and there was nothing visibly wrong with it.
I put in my offer, which was conditional on an inspection. And boy am I glad I did that. Although the house looked perfectly sound and healthy on the surface, the home inspector looked behind the wall paneling and discovered an extensive mold problem throughout the entire basement. The root cause was improper grading of the property and poor drainage. Mold remediation would have cost thousands of dollars, required a major reno, and taken months to complete, plus the drainage problem still had to be addressed.
A home inspector will check every nook and cranny of the house and make sure you’re not biting off more house than you can chew. Home inspections can uncover anything from minor issues to major problems, and before you commit to buying a home, you’ll want to know what you’re really signing up for.
Do I need a home inspection for a new home?
Even new homes should be inspected. Just because a house is new doesn’t mean it’s immune to problems. New homes can have issues with construction, wiring, plumbing, HVAC, and other components the same way an old house can. An inspection on a new home will also make sure that all the smaller projects that go into building a house were completed, such as adding insulation, hooking up the plumbing, and putting in hardware.
Should I witness the inspection?
Potential buyers are welcome to be present, and if you can be there it’s a good idea to go. Not only will the inspector walk you through the process and discuss what they find, but you’ll also have an opportunity to ask questions, discuss projects, and even locate things around the house, such as breaker boxes.
It usually takes anywhere from 2 to 3 hours, and it’s advisable to get time off work or schedule the inspection for a time when you can be present. Your real estate agent can also attend with you or on your behalf, or you could even send a friend or family member if you can’t be there in person.
When is the home inspection done?
The first step in buying a home is seeing what’s available and doing in-person visits. Once you’ve found a house you like, you can put in an offer. These offers are usually conditional on things like securing financing and the results of the inspection.
After the seller has accepted your initial offer, then it’s time to schedule the home inspection. If the inspection goes well, you can go ahead with the offer. However, if the inspection turns up things that need to be addressed, you have several choices moving forward. You can:
- Rescind the offer and move on to another house
- Renegotiate the purchase price to reflect the improvements that need to be done
- Ask the seller to address certain issues by a specific date
Canadian home inspector credentials
Home inspectors in Canada don’t require any special certifications or licences, with the exception of Alberta and British Columbia. To become an inspector in Alberta or B.C., a person must go through school to learn about home construction and inspections, pass an exam, and complete a hands-on training program or test before applying for a home inspector licence.
Although there are no official regulating bodies in the rest of Canada, inspectors can still choose to be members of the Canadian Association of Housing and Property Inspectors (CAHPI) or the Professional Home & Property Inspectors of Canada (PHPIC). As members, they must abide by the association’s code of ethics and standards of practice, meet professional and educational requirements, and participate in a review.
Finding a home inspector
Since the industry is unregulated in most of Canada, it can be tough to choose the right person or company. Here are some steps you can take to find a qualified inspector:
- Do an internet search to find inspectors in your area
- Use the home inspector locator function on the CAHPI website or PHPIC website
- Ask your real estate agent, friends, and family for recommendations
- Check online reviews and customer testimonials to vet candidates
- Look for somebody with special training
- Look for inspectors with relevant backgrounds, such as construction workers, architects, plumbers, and electricians
- Make sure a potential inspector has many years of experience
Although most provinces in Canada don’t have any licensing requirements for home inspectors, you can still find a qualified and trustworthy inspector by looking at reviews, experience, training, and background.
How much does a home inspection cost in Canada?
Most range from $300 to $500. For example, I paid $439.57 including HST for an inspection of our home in April 2017. There are many factors that can influence the final cost, such as:
- Age of the home
- Square footage
- Qualifications and experience of the inspector
It’s typically the buyer who’s responsible for paying for the inspection, so you’ll have to include that in your home-buying budget. However, if the seller has already had an inspection done, you can accept that at face value, ask their inspector to do a walk-through with you (which can cost $100 to $150 for their time) or commission your own inspection with an inspector of your choosing.
Keep things in perspective
Remember that the process is all about getting a fuller picture of the house you want to buy. Every house is going to have some problems, and chances are any home will end up needing some work. Even if the inspection turns up some minor or even major issues, you can still decide to commit to the renovations, or negotiate with the seller to have some of the work addressed before you close.
Home inspection FAQs
Are they mandatory in Canada?
No, but certainly recommended.
How long does it take?
Roughly 2 to 3 hours.
Who can attend?
The buyer, the real estate agent, and even friends or family of the buyer. It’s a good idea to be there for the inspection if you can.
Do inspectors have to be licensed?
Only in Alberta and B.C.
- Professional Home and Property Inspectors of Canada
- Home Inspectors Association BC
- Alberta Professional Home Inspectors Society
Over to you
We’re interested to know – did you get an inspection done when you bought your house? Did they find anything surprising, unexpected or that you found useful? Let us know by leaving a comment below!