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Tips to Avoid 13 Common Problems When Hiring a Home Inspector:

  1. Ask questions before you hire an inspector. Find out what will be looked at and not (i.e. what is the scope of work).

  2. The  typical pre-inspection contract often attempts to totally limit the liability of the home inspector. These agreements often resemble the fine print on the back of a car rental agreement, and it is sometimes impossible to determine what the home inspector will actually do. Understand that a home inspection is a report of the condition of the home at the time it is inspected, and that municipal bylaws and Building Codes are not always taken into consideration (codes and bylaws could have changed many times since the home was built). The inspection contract (or “mandate”) should clearly spell out what will be inspected and not.

  3. Avoid checklist reports like the plague. They are too incomplete (see No. 12 below). Wise, conscientious, thorough, experienced inspectors provide only narrative reports.

  4. Be sure that the report provides a list of definitions and/or terminology used. For example, a term often used by inspectors in a report is “Serviceable” or “satisfactory”. All this means is that the item is currently working. It could very well fail shortly after the inspection. A detailed narrative report might use such terminology, but generally not without additional information explaining expected remaining service life and so on.

  5. Be sure that the inspector will advise you to seek additional expertise if a problem is found which bears further investigation (remember that a home inspection is by nature visual and non-destructive; if you were a seller, would you allow an inspector to cut apart the walls and ceilings on what might be a wild goose chase?).

  6. Be sure that the inspection report will be written in a manner which is understandable to you, and not just a tradesperson or professional. 

  7. Be present for the inspection. It is a good time to learn about the home, and to witness first-hand the problems which are discovered by the inspector. It is also a good way to be sure that the inspector is actually doing the job.

  8. Try to make sure that the vendor will be present (or available), so that questions can be asked and answered.

  9. obtain a vendor’s declaration prior to signing an offer to purchase. Remember that it is the vendor’s legal responsibility to disclose knowledge to you (and to the inspector) of all known defects or deficiencies in the home. It is not the inspector’s responsibility to extract the information after the fact. Also remember that the vendor’s declaration should not always be taken at face value. Many homeowners do not necessarily recognize the implications of various phenomena in the home which could be indicative of underlying problems, and some homeowners may not accurately or truthfully report what they are aware of. Conversely, some inspectors will not question the accuracy of the vendor’s declaration, and will blindly or knowingly walk by obvious problems simply because the vendor is now liable for them.

  10. Never, ever have a home inspected after dusk. A good inspector will absolutely refuse a request to do so.

  11. Be realistic about what can and cannot be inspected relative to weather conditions and/or accessibility constraints, which are (regrettably) out of the control of the home inspector.  As an example, it will not likely be possible to check a roof or air conditioner in the dead of winter.

  12. Never sign off on an inspection waiver until you have read the report and fully understood it. In fairness to the inspector, it is sometimes necessary to do further research following the inspection (and keep in mind that an inspector who provides a report immediately on site is therefore not capable of doing so). On the other hand, some inspectors have a track record of saying one thing and writing another. Some must be chased after for weeks until a report is issued.

  13. Never believe that a home inspection is not necessary because the buyer is protected by the Civil Code of Quebec.  The vendor may indeed be liable for latent defects, but the buyer is nevertheless required to exercise reasonable prudence and diligence. It would not be prudent to abdicate your right to a home inspection unless you are very, very capable of performing one on your own! I have witnessed not only buyers, but even other home inspectors staring face to face with serious defects without any realization of the implications of what they were observing!

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