Why a Home Inspection is Important
A home inspection is a limited, non-invasive examination of the condition of a home, often in connection with the sale of that home. Home inspections are usually conducted by a home inspector who has the training and certifications to perform such inspections. The inspector prepares and delivers to the client a written report of findings. The client then uses the knowledge gained to make informed decisions about their pending real estate purchase. The home inspector describes the condition of the home at the time of inspection but does not guarantee future condition, efficiency, or life expectancy of systems or components.
Benefits of Home Inspection
These are the two main reasons you should get a Home Inspection:
#1 – A home inspection gives you a chance to determine the true value and condition of the house. This includes structural soundness, the condition of mechanical systems, and more.
#2 – Any defects in the house will be brought to the attention of everyone involved prior to completion of sale. This gives you the ability to request these problems be fixed by the seller before you move in. In some cases, the seller won’t want to repair these issues, so the second option is to adjust the price to compensate for deficiencies.
Typical Items Covered in your Home Inspection
- Foundation – Determine type of foundation, note any cracks or settling.
- Roof – Determine age and condition. Signs of potential damage or poor installation.
- Attic space – Determine type of insulation, identify soffit baffles and venting, check for any moisture or mould
- Rain gutters and downspouts – Check slope, missing gutters, missing extensions, presence of gutter guards
- Exterior stucco or paint – Check for damage, drainage of EIFS, sealing with caulking
- Electrical panel, light switches, and power outlets – Remove panel cover, check for double taps, identify any aluminum or knob and tube
- Thermostats and heating, cooling, and ventilation (HVAC) system – Check operation, inspect interior, determine model and age
- Plumbing fixtures, faucets, and water heater – Operate all fixtures, check for shut offs, inspect for leaks or faulty installation
- Appliances – Record serial numbers and model numbers of kitchen and laundry appliances.
- Walls, ceilings, and floors – Check finish, inspect for cracks, check for level, look for unexplained gaps in finish
- Doors and windows – Operate windows and doors, check for latching and proper fit. Look for leaking seals on windows
- Stairs, steps, and railings – Inspect compliance, safety features such as handrails and required guards
- Porches and balconies – Inspect structure, footings, attachment to building, safety features
- Walkways and driveways – Inspect finish looking for cracks, heaving or pot holes
- Basement – Inspect any renovations, moisture or mould, structural supports, plumbing, heating and electrical compliance
- Garage – Check fume barrier, electrical, over head doors, steps and landings, foundation and floor
When Building Permit is Required
In Ontario you are required to obtain a Building Permit for the following:
- construct any new building over ten square meters in area or place another structure, such as a mobile home, on your property
- make renovations or repairs or add to a building
- change the use of a building
- excavate or construct a foundation
- construct a seasonal building
- undertake work regarding the installation, alteration, extension or repair of an on-site sewage system
Permits for Home Improvements
- adding new additions,
- reconfiguring space by moving or removing walls,
- adding new windows and doors,
- installing fireplaces,
- or updating electrical and plumbing systems.
- The specific requirements vary across different municipalities, but repairs and renovations such as re-roofing, painting, re-siding, installing flooring and cabinets, or replacing windows and doors usually don’t require a permit — provided they don’t mean any changes to the structures or systems of the house.
Missing Building Permits
The most obvious areas of a home where work was done without the required permit are:
- Decks and Balconies – improper structual support, wrong type of piers, lack of required safety features
- Garages – storage units improperly supported, steps and landings modified, walls added
- Basements – illegal apartments, illegal bedrooms, improperly installed electrical, plumbing, heating additions
This is a new concept and should be discussed with your lawyer prior to making offers to determine the amount of protection you require and the likelyhood of getting it. Depending on the wording you get no protection financially buy you gain the knowledge prior to taking possession, or you can walk away from deal without asking sellers to make repairs. This will definately be a point of negotiation with most sellers.
During accelerated housing market/bidding war conditions, many sellers are hesitant to accept any offers that require a traditional home inspection. But, you can change the offer language to an ‘informational inspection’ instead of the typical ‘inspection contingency’ so the seller understands you’ll be getting a full professional inspection, but that the transaction is not contingent on the results of the inspection or any information that the buyer discovers.
For informational purposes only inspection without waiving. Some agents use this approach. The benefit of this is that it gives the buyer a chance to see what might be wrong with the house but is clearly an inspection and can walk away from the transaction.
Skipping the Home Inspection
In today’s “Hot Real Estate Market” many buyers are electing to skip their Home Inspection.
Today many Listing Agents are arranging for a Pre-Sale Inspection to assist Home Buyers which will help in the sale of the home. Many “Buyers Agents” are also arranging for a Pre-Offer Inspection which allows you to remove the “Home Inspection Condition”. Many “Savy Buyers” are taking a Home Inspector with them for a showing. You would be amazed at what can be looked at and identified in an hour.
In Ontario “Home Buyers” have little protection when purchasing a home. The Rule of Law is based on Caveat Emptor ( Latin for “Let the Buyer Beware” )
Caveat emptor means the buyer gets what they get, even if it has major flaws. If unknown problems turn up after the sale, the seller is not responsible for them, leaving the buyer on the hook. It takes the liability off the seller, letting the buyer know they’re purchasing the property at their own discretion. However, in Ontario sellers are required to disclose all known problems with the property.
Ontario “Home Buyers” do get the protection of law when it comes to Disclosure, Read Latent and Patent Defects, you will only after the deal is done and if you have proof that the Seller or Listing agent had knowledge of defect.
Sellers Property Information Statement
The Code of Ethics, a regulation under the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002, contains specific provisions related to the Seller Property Information Statement (SPIS). However, it does not oblige a seller to complete one.
The SPIS will provide information related to defects, renovations and other pertinent property information, based on the seller’s knowledge and experience.
If a broker or salesperson has a seller as client and knows that the seller has completed the SPIS, the broker or salesperson is required to disclose its existence to every buyer interested in the property. They are also required to make the SPIS available to any interested buyer upon request, unless the seller has directed them not to.
Brokers and salespersons are also required to disclose material facts. This means they have an obligation to disclose any fact they are aware of that, with respect to the real estate transaction, that might reasonably affect a person’s decision to buy or sell a property.
It is very rare to find a property for sale in Ontario where a SPIS is available for the Buyer.
Certified Building Code Official
Certified Master Inspector
WETT Certified Inspector