Home inspection basics

The home inspector

When you think about it, it’s kind of weird. A person hires a stranger to snoop around another stranger’s house for a couple of hours and report back. It sounds more like someone hiring a burglar to search a home for a burglary. The main difference is that the owner of the house is also a willing participant, and that in reality everything is quite legal and correct. The buyer’s motive is, of course, to make sure they don’t “steal” it with a broken oven that the seller says is okay, for example. This happened to me in the days before home inspection was a common part of the real estate transaction. Although the service has been around since the 1970s, it has only become an integral part of home buying from the mid to late 1990s.

My wife and I ended up with an oven that was soon condemned by a technician and a huge bill for a new one. It was the middle of November and we couldn’t exactly live without one. What did we know about the ovens? We did not know how long one lasted or how to know if it was in good condition or not. That was a dozen years ago. We know much better now about ovens, nothing like getting burned to make you more cautious next time.

Home inspectors are, like me, normal people who are interested in houses, their construction, their systems, and just about anything else about them. They are usually generalists with knowledge of thousands of bits of information about almost anything and everything in the home. Some have additional specialties in various trades or will offer additional services at additional costs for things like radon inspections. Many, like me, are trained and certified through universities or corporations like Carson-Dunlop Consulting Engineers in Toronto.

We are also interested in the people who live there and the people looking to move. Like you, we have spouses, children, parents, pets, and other family members with whom we share our living spaces. What we all have in common is that we all want a nice, clean and safe place to live, hopefully without any nasty surprises. We want to help you realize what you have before you buy or sell, so you can make informed decisions.

No house is perfect. That is not to say that something is wrong, but think of a house as an organic entity. It sits on a base. It is in its frame. He breathes and has circulatory systems. It should be kept at a comfortable and uniform temperature. And, above all, it must be maintained. Like your own body, or even your car, if you don’t take care of it, it will start to age prematurely and fall apart.

But what are home inspectors and why do you need one?

Think of a home inspector looking at your home as the mechanic who has to look at your car. Houses need to be maintained and cared for. However, like cars, sometimes we don’t take as much care of them as we should. Some things are not fixed, while other things are not even noticed or checked over the years and deteriorate. Home inspectors act as the independent third party advising on the condition and condition of the home without the emotional investment. Good home inspectors provide clear information, point out things to watch or fix, and also point out the positive aspects of your home.

As the name suggests, home inspectors inspect homes, but they also often inspect garages, patios, decks, driveways, and the layout of the land. Some will inspect other structures like sheds, barns, gazebos, pools, and pool houses, but these are beyond the standards for most inspectors. Many will adhere to the standards and practices of the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors (CAHPI or CAHI) or the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), whether or not they are actual members of the association.

Home inspection is the fastest growing trade within the real estate industry in North America, with about two-thirds to three-quarters of all homes inspected. Home inspectors have become an integral part of the home transaction process. While most home inspectors are called once the buyer is ready to buy a home, some are called by sellers before they want to sell, or by homeowners looking for major renovations or improvements to their home. home.

What do they do?

In any situation, the inspection process is basically the same. After initial introductions and a discussion about what to do, where to go, where not to go (the nursery), and other criteria, the inspector gets down to “dirty” work. The inspector will thoroughly review the home and property, usually starting outside and then moving indoors from room to room, making observations and writing down a checklist. It is common for inspectors to enter rooms two or three times looking at different things each time. Others will visit certain rooms only once, doing all the checks they need right then and there. Each inspector is different and works differently.

Safety is the primary concern of the home inspector, both for the inspector and the client. Some home inspectors will open electrical panels to see the wiring, others will not, but everyone should inspect the panels, wiring, distribution system, grounding, load, and other visible bits and pieces.

Most inspectors will look inside ovens and other heating devices to see if the panels come off easily. Others will use tools to remove panels, but many will draw the line there. Many inspectors will walk on the roof when conditions permit to inspect the roof, materials and workmanship, and things like vents, chimneys, and gutters. Some roofs are very steep, in poor condition, or made of brittle shingles. Most inspectors will not walk on the roof in these situations, but will look from the edge through a ladder, look from an adjacent structure, or use binoculars while on the ground.

Plumbing is another important system that home inspectors will spend a lot of time examining. They will look at what the pipes are made of, whether they are grounded or not, what the water looks, flows and even smells like, how hot the water heats up, and they will also operate all the faucets and toilets to make sure they are all working fine and no leakage. Home inspectors will also look for other leaks, past and present, evidence of water damage, and look at drainage systems and sump pumps.

The structure is another key point of the inspection. Inspectors will look at how the house is behaving, literally, and how it is, or has been settling down and resisting over the years. Inspectors will look for cracks in the walls and floor due to settlement and will try to determine the age and severity of the crack. Home inspectors will also examine bricks, windows, doors, beams, rafters, deck, and other items for warping, fire or water damage, poor construction, dangerous alterations or remodeling, and other telltale signs of how the house was built and maintained.

Home inspectors often crawl through driveways, look into or enter attics, look in closets and fireplaces, around windows and doors, under carpets, and anywhere else in the home where they see or they suspect that something may be wrong, or it may be particularly good.

Typical unseen items are more cosmetic in nature. Paint is not a major concern unless it shows other problems like mold, weather, etc. Carpets are generally not commented unless they are moldy or on electrical wiring. The landscaping will be analyzed with respect to the effect on the house. Trees and shrubs are often planted too close to a home or grow against them over time and can cause damage. Landscaping problems mostly have to do with the slope or grade of the terrain and whether drainage problems are a concern.

What do you get out of it? Good home inspectors will write a report and give you an oral summary of what they found. The home inspector can show you certain matters of particular interest or concern, or you can simply get a summary of the items noted and noted on the report. The home inspector should not make housing decisions for you, but may, if qualified, make certain professional recommendations or recommend that more serious matters be inspected by a specifically trained service person.

Inspectors should give you a health check on vital items in your home, not a list of what’s wrong with the place. There are many little things that can be “wrong”, such as the need for less attention or monitoring, but they are not critical to the overall security or marketability of the home. The worst thing a home inspector can do is get excited about the home inspection. Good home inspectors are like good doctors or mechanics. They tell you what they find and how critical or not a deficiency may be, but should not be alarmist unless the situation is potentially dangerous or life-threatening (for example, live wires exposed within reach of children or a severely deteriorated fireplace which can collapse). Otherwise, the inspector must be nonchalant and serious when presenting his findings.

The seller has the emotional investment of living in a house and is usually quite sensitive about it. The buyer is emotionally investing in the house because he likes the place and can imagine himself enjoying it. That’s where emotional biases come in and sober reasoning can beat you by making you either miss out on potential problems or excuse them because you really want this house. This is exactly why home inspectors have stepped onto the scene to suppress emotions and provide sober feedback. Home inspectors don’t get involved with home prices and they certainly don’t decide for you whether or not to buy (or sell). What they reveal about a home could affect negotiations, but the home inspector should not be directly involved in them. For example, depending on the size of a house, replacing a near-dead furnace can cost between $ 5,000 and $ 10,000, or a new, badly worn tile roof can cost between $ 3,000 and $ 30,000, a not insignificant impact on the value of the house. home. during a transaction.