Household Tips

2 Important Things to Ask your Home Inspector – And 2 Things Not To Ask

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Usually, as part of a real estate transaction, a home inspection is done on the property. This is to ensure that the property’s physical condition is represented as accurately as possible, and potentially to provide guidance and/or referrals as to how to fix any problems that may arise. Either buyer or seller, or sometimes both, can commission a home inspection to be done. Although there are many different kinds of home inspections for different purposes, pre-purchase inspections commissioned by buyers and sellers are the most common in residential real estate.

Most inspections will cover things like electrical, plumbing, foundation, roof and other basic physical elements of a home. But there are a couple of questions it’s very important to ask your inspector – and a couple of questions not to ask, because the inspector won’t be able to give you a good answer. Here are two important questions to ask.

1. “Who is your client?”

The answer to this one is pretty simple – the home inspector’s client is the person who is paying him or her – but the implication is very important. Sellers will sometimes do a pre-listing inspection on a property and offer the inspection report as a warranty that the house is in good order, and imply that there is no need for a buyer to do his or her own inspection. However, in that case the seller, not the buyer, is the home inspector’s client, and the inspector has the seller’s best interests in mind. The seller’sinspection is sometimes sufficient, but if a buyer has any doubts or serious questions about a property, it can be worth it for the buyer to commission his or her own independent inspection. Just as it’s often a good idea for each party to a contract to have his or her own legal representation, it can often be a good idea for both buyer and seller to do independent home inspections.

2. “What is not included in the inspection?”

Although a home inspection is a good starting point to understand the physical condition of a property, internal problems like latent mold in the walls often won’t show up in a basic inspection unless there are significant symptoms. Pools and landscaping are also common exclusions; a Toronto inspection company that our agents often use, Baker Street Home Inspections, specifies that they do not inspect pools in the winter and that in the summer they do a surface inspection only and do not comment on the functionality of a pool. Although electrical, plumbing and heating systems are inspected thoroughly, the devices connected to them are not usually; the inspector won’t, for instance, warrant the functionality of a dishwasher or the provenance of a home alarm system. And easements – codified rights that others, such as the city, have to use your property for things like sewer access – also won’t generally show up in a physical inspection. Ask your real estate agent to do the research to make sure that you know about any easements on the property.

Now that we’ve covered a few things to ask your home inspector, here are two questions that are not particularly useful, and that your home inspector won’t easily be able to answer:

1. “Is this house over/underpriced?”

Home inspectors aren’t in the business of pricing homes – that’s a real estate agent’s job, in consultation with his or her client. A home inspector can tell you about the physical state of the home, and he or she can potentially even tell you whether the home is in better or worse shape than the average home in a particular neighbourhood or of a particular age, but a home’s price depends on a lot of variables to which the home inspector will not have access.

Besides, the price of a home is, in the end, what someone will pay for it. If you want the home, you can afford it – including any improvements it may need – and you are planning to live there for some time, the price may be right no matter what it is.

2. “Should I buy this house?”

A home inspector can give you lots of information about the state of a home, and you can use that information to determine whether a home’s idiosyncrasies are something you are happy with, but it’s not the home inspector’s job to advise you as to whether you should buy a home – nor should they do so!

If you are having doubts about whether a particular home is right for you, that’s something to discuss with your real estate agent, who can use the information from the home inspection among other factors to help you determine whether that home is a good choice for you. But ultimately, the decision as to whether or not to buy a home is yours and yours alone. Get all the information you can and make that decision wisely.






"Having had Paul act as my agent on several purchase and rental transactions, I have come away impressed by his skill, enthusiasm and professionalism. His willingness to go above and beyond to complete a sale, or negotiate a more palatable deal has helped me execute on several properties quickly and efficiently. While execution is his primary strength in my opinion, he is also diligent in his screening process. This has ensured that during showings, he is able to provide honest color on a unit or area that my previous agents have been unable to. This makes the process educational and allows me to avoid pitfalls that plague many first/second time home buyers/renters. All in all I would count Paul as an extraordinary asset and would highly recommend his services in the future."
~ Rajbir Gill