Caution to Home Buyers

If you are a home buyer, beware of cut rate prices and inexperienced inspectors. Most offers to purchase provide very little time within which to schedule and execute an inspection, and secondary or follow-up inspections are often refused by the seller (i.e. you only get “one kick at the can”). Inspectors who offer cut rate prices can do so because they are working volume. This means reduced time on the inspection, and a quickly prepared report (often nothing more than a short checklist) providing very little information of use. If you’re not pleased with the result, you don’t get to re-inspect with someone else.

Be wary of clauses in the offer to purchase which state that “the choice of building inspector is to be mutually agreed upon between buyer and seller”. Why should a seller have the right of veto over who is chosen to inspect the home? Most often it is because they do not want someone who is too thorough inspecting the home. You’ll be told, however, that such a clause is in place to prevent an inspector who is not competent from being given access to the home. Don’t believe it. If you were buying a used car, wouldn’t you bring it to your own mechanic? Why then not your future home, an investment which could easily exceed 10 times the cost of a car? Believe it or not, a thorough inspection protects the seller as well as the buyer, because it reduces the risk of a lawsuit at a later date. Even the most expensive inspections typically cost far less than the typical service visit to a garage, or less than the typical annual insurance cost for a home. Not that great a price to pay for peace of mind.

Also be wary of any clauses in the offers to purchase which force you, the home buyer, to acknowledge the age and “wear and tear” within the home. If you are not a building systems expert, you could be caught with massive expenditures on issues related to the age of the home, but for which you had no prior knowledge. As an example, most buyers could probably see that the windows are in need of replacement, or that the roof looks ratty, but did you know that in certain parts of town, foundations are known to crumble in as little as 50 years? Did you check for lead piping in the home, or unsafe wiring, an outdated electrical panel, signs of groundwater infiltration, and so on? All of these issues can be considered “normal wear and tear” for a home relative to its age and location. It is all in the eye of the beholder, bud did you really know you could be faced with these expenses?

The “Protegez Vous” magazine’s February 2000 investigation of building inspectors in the Montreal area received massive publicity in print and electronic media, warning home buyers of the lacklustre performance and poor quality reporting practises of a dozen Montreal area home inspectors. Something to keep in mind when choosing your expert. Is the inspector well-experienced as we are, or the graduate of a diploma mill?

Be careful

Home inspection is not a regulated profession. In fact, anyone can call themselves a home inspector without any formal training whatsoever. Without researching the inspector’s training, experience and track record, how can one be sure that the inspector is competent, meticulous, and capable of doing the job?

Beware of other home inspection companies which do not actually perform the inspection themselves, but rather, sub-contract out to others.

The inspections which Allan performs are thorough, and the detailed technical reports that are prepared explain the nature of the problems found, why they have occurred, what to do about correcting them, how quickly they should be attended to, and how much these problems cost you to repair. This is exactly the type of service that “Protégez Vous” recommended in its article, and this is exactly the type of service that Allan has been providing since almost a decade prior to the publishing of that consumer warning!

Detailed Reports vs. Checklist

Many inspectors provide a checklist-style report rather than a detailed narrative report. This allows them to quickly finish the job and move on to their next ….. client.

Be very, very careful about checklist reports. Typically, these reports do not (and cannot) go into enough detail to properly document or explain the implications of the myriad defects found in a home. In fact, most will not really tell you anything more than that which you could have observed on your own, without the need of an expert.

Some such checklists are provided with a home maintenance guide, but much of the content of such publications is generic and will have absolutely no relevance for the home in question.

The reports prepared by Allan White of INSPECTO-PRO typically provide 40 to 80 pages worth of pertinent information specific to the home which was inspected.

The reports detail the nature of the problems found, why they have occurred, how to best go about repairing the problems, how much one can expect to pay to repair the problems, and what sort of time frame is involved in attending to them.  The reports include a detailed photographic record, so that issues related to areas which the buyer or seller have not observed on their own (i.e. crawl spaces, attics, roofing) are apparent to all. Photos and infrared images provide indisputable proof of the existence of problems, and protect both buyer and seller.

Dangerous Disclaimers

Be very cautious of disclaimers which you may be obligated to acknowledge in a pre-inspection contract with other home inspectors. Such disclaimers can often be abusive. Never engage the services of an inspector who obligates you to sign on off on any of the following (or clauses which are similar in nature.

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