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Buying a home is a big financial investment. Given the magnitude of this type of purchase, you’ll want to make sure that you’re buying exactly what you want, which is why a home inspection is so important. 

You might be checking out a home in great detail when you attend a showing, but it’s always possible to miss potential issues that may be lurking. With a professional home inspector tagging along, you’ll have an extra set of experienced eyes to help you uncover any problems with the home before you go through with the transaction. 

Skipping a home inspection can be risky. Let’s go into more detail about home inspections and why they should be part of your offer to buy a home.

What Is A Home Inspection?

A home inspection allows a professional home inspector to scope out the overall condition of a home. Both the interior and exterior of a home are closely inspected to find any potential issues before a buyer commits to a purchase. 

Once the home inspection is completed, the buyer will receive a detailed report on what the home inspector found during the inspection, along with advice on what to do to rectify any issues discovered. 

What Does A Home Inspector Look For? 

During a home inspection, the inspector will inspect three major categories of the house. This includes the exterior of the house, the interior of the house and the inner workings of the house (electrical, heating, plumbing and ventilation). 

Exterior Of The House

The home inspector will perform a visual inspection of the exterior of the house by looking for cracks to the foundation wall, signs of problems with the roof, and the overall integrity of the structure. 

Interior Of The House

Similarly, the home inspector will also examine the interior of the house by looking for signs of water damage, the ceiling for stains or cracks, and the doors and window for proper alignment, damage and other components. 

Inner Workings Of The House

Included in the interior inspection is the examination of the plumbing pipes, the electrical panel and wiring, the insulation and ventilation and the HVAC system. 

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Home Inspections vs. Pre-List Inspections

As the name suggests, a ‘pre-list inspection’ is an inspection of a home before it’s listed for sale. Sellers may choose to have their home inspected prior to putting it on the market so they can find out if anything is wrong with the home. This way, the seller can fix any issues or at least have an understanding of what issues exist. 

Who Benefits? 

A pre-list inspection benefits both the buyer and the seller. Pre-list inspections help sellers discover any issues before a buyer becomes aware of them. Meaning there won’t be any unpleasant surprises after a potential buyer’s home inspection is conducted. 

Buyers benefit from pre-list inspections because the seller may pay to fix some of the repairs before listing the house. Therefore the buyer will have fewer repairs to deal with. Furthermore, if the pre-list inspection uncovers any serious problems that a buyer does want to deal with, they will know before they pay for their own inspection.

Find out what is a pre-delivery inspection (PDI)

Who Pays For It?

A pre-list inspection is different from a home inspection because it’s the seller paying for it, not the buyer. With a traditional home inspection, the buyer orders the inspection to be done and hires the inspector without the seller’s involvement and covers the cost of the inspection. Ultimately, the pre-list inspection is being done for the seller, while the home inspection is being done for the buyer. 

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Why You Should Never Skip A Home Inspection

Your offer on a home should include a home inspection condition to give you the chance to have a professional inspect the property before you commit to the purchase. There are plenty of reasons why a home inspection should be a part of real estate deals, such as the following:

Budgeting For Repairs And Renovations 

Once your inspector is done with the home inspection, you’ll receive a detailed report outlining all the issues that were discovered, as well as the type of work that is recommended to rectify them. With this information in hand, you can speak with a contractor or other home improvement professional to get an idea of the depth of the work involved and how much it will cost you. 

With this figure in mind, you’ll be better able to budget the entire cost of the home’s acquisition. This will give you a chance to determine whether the deal is within your financial comfort zone, or if it’s too much for you to handle. 

Discover Pest Issues

Home inspectors know the tell-tale signs of pest infestation. If there is a pest problem in the home, you’ll be able to make a decision about whether you can deal with the issue and go ahead with the deal, or choose to walk away from the transaction before the home inspection condition expiry date arrives. 

Ensure There Are No Safety Issues

There are all sorts of issues that fall under the safety umbrella, such as faulty electrical wiring and mould. While a home inspection can often uncover issues with a home that may not necessarily be a safety hazard, other issues can deem the home a potential danger zone. You’ll be made aware of any such issues after a home inspection is done so you won’t be stuck with a major problem on your hands after the deal is sealed. 

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Identify Illegal Installations And Additions 

Ideally, any home renovations conducted by the seller would have been done with a building permit in hand. Building permits are required by the local jurisdiction to ensure that the work is up to code. This is mainly for safety reasons, as faulty installations and shoddy work can compromise the integrity of a structure. 

Permits will also ensure that the work being done doesn’t infringe on the enjoyment and rights of your neighbours. 

If the work that was done on the home is illegal, you could eventually be on the hook to pay to have the work either brought up to code or taken down altogether. 

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Insurance Companies May Require It  

Not all insurance companies require a home inspection to be done in order for a buyer to purchase homeowners insurance to cover the property. But some might, especially for homes that are older and have not been recently inspected. In this case, an insurance provider might require an inspection by a professional for the home to qualify for standard coverage. 

At the end of the day, a home inspection will protect you as a buyer. A home purchase is a significant financial commitment, so you want to make sure you know exactly what you’re buying before you sign on the dotted line.

Should You Skip A Home Inspection In A Hot Market? 

Even in a hot real estate market, a home inspection should not be skipped. If you’re concerned that your offer will be weakened with a home inspection condition, consider asking the seller to have an inspection done before the offer date. 

Multiple offer situations are typical in a hot market, and sellers often set their listings up for such a scenario. In this case, sellers will often be willing to agree to such requests for serious buyers.

Ideally, the seller will already have a pre-list inspection done and can provide you with the details of the report before you put in your offer. This can give you plenty of information about the home before you draft your offer. 

In fact, in many hot housing markets across Canada, like Toronto and Vancouver, it’s common for listings to come with a pre-list inspection already done. And most home inspection companies will conduct a walk-through after an offer is accepted. 

If the home you’re interested in doesn’t already have a pre-list inspection or you don’t feel comfortable relying solely on what the pre-list inspection report outlines, consider asking the seller if you can perform a home inspection on the house before you put in an offer. That way, you can submit a ‘clean’ offer that’s free of conditions and the home can be sold ‘firm’ on offer night.

What Happens If A Home Inspection Turns Up A Big Problem? 

If your home inspector’s final report identifies major issues with the home, you have options. 

Bring In Another Expert

For starters, you may want to ask to have other professionals brought in to further inspect the issues of the home. For instance, if it’s an electrical issue that was uncovered, you may want to bring in an electrician who can more accurately diagnose the problem before you proceed with the deal.

Negotiate A Lower Price

You can use the home inspection report to support your request to have the seller lower the purchase price to accommodate for the cost of repairs. Keep in mind that this tactic should only be reserved for major issues that will be very expensive to fix, and not for minor problems that will only cost you a couple of hundred dollars to deal with. 

Ask The Seller To Fix The Problem

If the seller agrees, the problem may be fixed before you even move into the home.

Ask The Seller For A Credit

To cover the cost of fixing the home yourself, you may ask the seller to throw in a credit rather than lowering the sale price. 

Walk Away From The Deal

If the problem with the home is so significant that you are not comfortable with it, you can walk away from the deal without repercussion, as long as you do so before the home inspection condition expiry date. 

Home Inspection FAQs

How do I avoid a ‘lemon’ property without an inspection?

Consider having an advisor join you during your showing if you plan to buy without an inspection. Ideally, this person will have some sort of experience dealing with home issues and may be able to spot them. Your real estate agent may also have their own ways of helping you avoid buying a ‘lemon’, so be sure to work with a seasoned agent who has some experience with this type of situation.

Where can I hire a home inspector?

To find a home inspector, ask family, friends, or your real estate agent for a referral. When interviewing inspectors, ask them if they belong to specific home inspection-related industry organizations such as the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors (CAHPI). This organization establishes standards and that members are required to follow.

Do I need a home inspection report to insure my home? 

Not usually. Most insurance companies don’t typically require a home inspection report, though some might. You’ll need to speak with a representative from your insurance company to find out for sure. 

Final Thoughts

You’re spending a lot of money to buy a home, so you want to make sure you’re not taking on more than you bargained for. That’s precisely why a home inspection is so important and why you should never skip it when making a home purchase.

Lisa Rennie avatar on Loans Canada
Lisa Rennie

Lisa has been working as a personal finance writer for more than a decade, creating unique content that helps to educate Canadian consumers in the realms of real estate, mortgages, investing and financial health. For years, she held her real estate license in Toronto, Ontario before giving it up to pursue writing within this realm and related niches. Lisa is very serious about smart money management and helping others do the same.

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