What to Expect During Your Home Inspection
Have you found your new home after searching for weeks, months, or even years? Well, “Congratulations!” because finally the day has come where you have a signed purchase agreement. No doubt you are experiencing a lot of emotion right now. So many things and people to deal with: Realtors, Home Assessments, Mortgage Brokers, Lawyers, and the HOME INSPECTOR! Personally, I feel the home inspection is the worst part. Because it is usually the last condition of purchase. That last chance that you have to back out of the deal, or that last thing that can go horribly wrong, depending on your perspective of the transaction up until this point.
So let’s go through:
You’ve selected your home inspector and you have booked your appointment, but there is lots to consider and do before you get to the actual home inspection day! What now? You should receive a confirmation email from the inspection company confirming the details of your inspection. Along with that email should be an Inspection Agreement. IMPORTANT: Consumer Protection BC requires that Inspectors have a signed Inspection Agreement a minimum 24 hours before the start of the home inspection. “Why?” you ask. Well, it’s for your own good because your Inspection Agreement effects your legal rights, and if you aren’t given sufficient time prior to the inspection to read through it, then chances are you may sign said Agreement in a state of “duress”, and that does no one any good. Imagine you are on the site the day of the inspection, you’re all anxious to know what the Inspector has found and before they tell you the first thing they do is stuff a 3 or 4 page contract in your face and tell you to sign so they can get started. What??!?!? You are never going to say okay hold up give me an hour so I can make sure this is all legit before I sign my life away.
GET YOUR HOME INSPECTION AGREEMENT AND READ IT!!!
Make sure your Inspection Agreement includes these things:
Also check to make sure that the Agreement does not include any of the following:
Once that is all sorted ask your Inspector any questions regarding the process. Now if you are happy sign your Agreement and send it back to your Inspector. If during this process you have any doubts about your choice of Inspector – this is the time to take a step back and maybe look elsewhere because pretty much after this point you’re on the hook.
The last thing for you to do in preparation for the Home Inspection is to look over the seller’s disclosure and think about anything that you noticed about the home during your time there. Did you notice something that concerned you? Or maybe you want to make changes to the home? Make a list of any questions or concerns you have and bring those to the Inspection with you.
What Should be Covered During the Home Inspection?
Your HOME INSPECTION Day is finally here! The thoughts are swirling in your head, and if you are purchasing the home with someone else the thoughts are swirling in their head too! “What will the Home Inspector find?” “Will everything be okay?” “ I hope they don’t find anything too serious”, or “I hope they find something serious so we can walk away from this deal”, or “I hope they don’t find anything too bad, but just enough of something where we can renegotiate the price.” Try to calm your poor shattered nerves. Your home inspection is just like the 6pm news report. It tells you the condition of the components in the home and that is all. What you do with that information is your choice, and one you should consider carefully AFTER listening and questioning your Home Inspector. So chill out and lets get some facts.
Some people want to see absolutely everything and be there the whole time to follow around the Home Inspector. Personally, I encourage this. If you want to be there come a long, I am happy to chat my head off and explain everything to you step by step. The Inspection will take longer, but who cares, at least I know that you understand everything. But not every Inspector is as open as me. Some say they might miss something if you are there, but really this is BS, with the exception of brand new Inspectors who aren’t familiar yet, we’ve all done this hundreds of times before, we know the procedure, we know what to look for, whether you’re there or not doesn’t matter it just might take a little longer because everything is being explained along the way. However, there are different rules dependent on your Realtor if you are using one. Some Realtors are happy to let their clients come along, and other Realtors do not want you with the home inspector unless they are there too and so following around for the entire inspection is a no go.
But for the sake of this article let’s presume that we are following the typical procedure in which the Inspector conducts a full home inspection and then you the Client meet them for the “walk-through”. This walk-through takes roughly 1 hour, sometimes less, sometimes more depending on the condition of the house and how many questions you have for the Inspector. Make sure you bring that list of questions I talked about earlier and dress for the weather!
Your Home Inspector will meet you at the site, and possibly your Realtor will be there too (again depending on who you’re using.) Introductions will be made and then your Inspector should start to guide you around the home. I’m sure the order of things varies for each different Home Inspector, so I’ll just go through the order I personally follow. But please note, even the order may be different the systems the Home Inspector discusses with you should be the same as listed below.
- The Inspector should tell you what the findings were for the roof and the method they used to inspect it! Was there 3 feet of snow and no one can see a thing? Or is the roof too high or too steep to safely walk on? Or did the Inspector get up on the roof and walk on it? Did they inspect from the ground, or from the roof edge? Do they feel the roof will last for a long time, or is it at or nearing it’s anticipated life expectancy? Or worse yet, it might be a brand-new roof but it was installed incorrectly and so any manufacturer warranty is void. Flashing missing, or installed incorrectly? Missing underlay? Missing Ice and Water shield? Missing Drip Edge? These terms may mean nothing to you, but make sure they are talked about and that you have an understanding by the end of any issues. Your roof is one of the most important things to pay attention to during an inspection. Because when your roofing system isn’t functioning as it’s supposed to it’s trouble all around, and replacing the roof covering and any water damage is not cheap.
- Exterior. Your Home Inspector should walk with you around the entire accessible perimeter of the home, talk about the siding, the windows / doors, the eavestroughs and downspouts, and the deck. They should talk about the grading, any retaining walls, and the driveway or walkways as it relates to the home structure. If you are reading this article and your home is in my service area I guarantee by this point there are at minimum 10 things wrong unless the house is brand new construction, and I mean within a couple years brand new. So don’t be alarmed if either your written or mental list at this point is that long, be alarmed if it isn’t, it probably means your home inspector either completely missed a few things or isn’t being honest with you.
- Structure. The last thing on the exterior your home inspector should address is the foundation. With finished basements the outside is often the only place to tell what kind of foundation you have (concrete, ICF, wood) and if there are any cracks. Sometimes, there may be a finding in relation to the wall or roof structure as well that’s pointed out on the Exterior.Structure to be continued after this short break.
Gather your thoughts – you are about to head inside the house. And though it may seem like we have covered a lot we are not even halfway there. At this point I always ask my clients if they are doing okay so far, do they have any questions yet? Don’t be shy! This is the time to ask them. Just like in elementary school there are no stupid questions! Personally, my huge failure as an Inspector is assuming that everyone has understood every word, I’ve said about the home up to this point. I forget that some may be as lost as I am when I go to the Garage and get told I need a new blah blah blah. Okay so, great, what does that mean? Ask your questions!!!! Then deep breath and moving on. Inside we go.
Structure continued…… first place I head next is the basement or crawlspace. Really all the fun stuff is in the basement. Your Home Inspector should describe the Structure to you – what’s holding the house up in addition to the aforementioned foundation. Is it columns, a bearing wall, is it standard 2×10 framing or I-Joists, or trusses? What condition are they in. Were any of them damaged or cut? Was there any evidence of water damage – particularly below the TOILET! Sometimes, again we can’t see because everything is finished. But there are clues, diagonal cracks in the walls above the corners of doorways and windows are indications something isn’t as it should be. Did someone take down a wall? Often you can see patching in the ceiling drywall where the wall used to be. Structure still to be continued….Everyone LOVES A CLIFFHANGER!
Next, it’s off to the Electric Panel, where is it located, was there any problems inside? Did the current or a past homeowner aspire to be an Electrician, and this panel was their proving ground? Is there aluminum wiring? Do you have enough amperage? (Back to the car example, do you have enough gas to get to where you want to go?)
This is the point where if you have any plans to put in wood working or welding equipment in the garage, or maybe run your own bakery inside the home and install 4 ovens – LET YOUR HOME INSPECTOR KNOW! That way they can tell you what your next steps should be.
Furnaces are another one of those life cycle items. Much like your roof – they only last so long and then you just should replace them. What might alarm you is just how short that life cycle is – the early high efficiency furnaces are now coming to the end of their anticipated life cycle. Or maybe you have a wood burning appliance in the home, again installed by that well-intentioned homeowner that thankfully didn’t burn the house down……. YET!
Short jump back to the beginning of when you were choosing your Inspector, if you have a wood burning appliance in the home you are buying hire a WETT Certified Home Inspector, even if the appliance already has been inspected. Otherwise the homeowner may have changed something since the last Inspector was there and now you are just accepting it. Or the thing that lots of people don’t realize is that unlike a Home Inspection a WETT Inspection is conducted based on the CURRENT Building Code and CSA B365 standard. So, if the rules changed, next year when your Insurance company wants to have it re-inspected you are more likely to be on the hook for something that could have been taken care of during your home purchase.
Moving on, somewhere in the Heating speech your Home Inspector is prattling off there should be an introduction to Ventilation even though we aren’t there yet. Does the home have a Heat Recovery Ventilator, should you consider upgrading to one? Is there a fresh air intake? Honestly, I can’t believe how often these are missing on the standard furnace install in our area.
Plumbing: Where is your main shut off valve? Do you know? Your Inspector should tell you where it is during the walk through – if they forget – remind them! It’s important for you to know where this is in the eventual scenario where a pipe starts to leak, or you want to do service on your plumbing system. What kind of piping do you have? Is it Polybutylene or sometimes shorted to Poly-B? Are there any lead pipes in the home? Is the piping well supported? Is there adequate venting for the waste pipe system?
Insulation and Ventilation. During your home inspection walk through your Inspector should talk about how much Insulation is in your attic. Heads up again all but the very newest of homes can almost always use more. What you need to specifically worry about in older homes is the presence of vermiculite, which may contain asbestos. Lots of homeowners who have this insulation know it’s there, and the lengths they go through to cover it up are extensive. I’ve seen everything from the first 3 feet around the hatch have it removed, but it’s everywhere else, to a plywood floor being placed over the entire attic and then new insulation put on top. The only way I found it was looking down with my cellphone where the chimney came through.
Next it’s ventilation, is the attic well ventilated? Do all the bathroom fans and kitchen fans discharge to the exterior, or are they discharging into the attic itself?
Structure continued….(last time) What do the trusses like? Was ridge cap venting put in and the roofing crew nicely cut through all the tops of the trusses? Are there indications of movement? Are the truss plates pulling away? What about the sheathing? Is there potential mould? These are all questions you should be asking if your Home Inspector has not already told you.
- Interior. The last thing on the list is your Inspector should take you through room by room letting you know deficiencies found in each area. Was there potential mold in the bathroom? Was there a leak under the kitchen sink? Do all the windows open and close? Do the bedroom windows meet emergency egress standards? Are there smoke alarms installed? Are there CO (carbon monoxide) alarms installed? What should you do if this sounds?
All of that above is just a sampling and by no means an extensive list of what your Home Inspector should address with you. The whole process can be quite overwhelming for you as the perspective buyer. So, your home inspector should summarize. What were the “BIG” issues that would be in your best interest to address right away, perhaps even before you continue with the purchase of the home?
The last chance for questions, and to take one more look at whatever it is you want to look at is right now. Take your time, you probably won’t get another chance before you make the big decision.
At this point you may receive your home inspection report, or you may have to wait. At Informed Home Inspections I am far to OCD to just hand you the jibberish that I’ve typed in on site, so I go home and meticulously review everything, make sure the right pictures, videos, and illustrations are added so that you my client get the best possible product that I can produce. But whether you get the report from your Inspector immediately following the walk through or a few hours later always remember back at the beginning when you were reviewing your contract it said, “The Client will receive the written report within x hours” So make sure your Inspector adheres to whatever that time frame was.
What to Do With Your Home Inspection Report
You’ve received your home inspection report. Your Realtor may be pressuring you to sign off on the purchase at this point, but this is not the time to be rash. Hopefully, you have that couple of days we mentioned at the beginning to give you some time.
There is no “PASS” or “FAIL”
It is strictly what you as the buyer are comfortable with. I have literally had people not buy a house because the toilet leaked, (and no, there was no catastrophic damage below, it was a recent leak) but to them that meant that the plumbing issues were just starting and their great Aunt Ermintrude had a house that had plumbing issues and everything flooded and the home was destroyed and that isn’t going to happen to them. On the other side, I have had clients buy a house with a 1-inch wide crack in the foundation, and the whole house had corner cracks, and several doors did not close. I explained at length both on site and in my report how serious this could be, but it was their dream house and they did not care they were going to buy it. To each their own. The home Inspection is simply meant to report the news, what you do with that information is entirely your call.
Your report should not only list the deficiencies found it should contain a list of everything that was inspected, a description of all of the materials, and any limitations that prevented the inspector from looking at something they should have. Maintenance tips should be given throughout the report. Any deficiencies should have a description of the issue, what to do about said issue, and in what time frame it should be done in. A picture showing the concern should also be given. During the walk through you would have seen some, but not all the concerns that were found. If you see something in the report that bothers you that your Inspector did not address call or email them and talk through it.
Also, a word of caution, some Inspectors tend to verbally brush over issues during the walk-through saying X problem is no big deal. But then in the report they will say X problem should be corrected immediately before the house falls apart. This is not best practice, but Inspectors who rely heavily on Realtor referrals do this so that they don’t piss off the Realtor, they are hoping you don’t read the report, buy the house anyway and when said house does fall down and you go back to the Inspector they’re covered because “Hey, it’s right here in your home inspection report.” And you are officially screwed. So yes, read your report.
Once you have read through it all and had all your questions answered. Evaluate that information with everything else. What is the price of the home? Is it at the top end of your budget and there is no way you have enough money to correct all the issues the home inspector found? Or maybe, this home is a steal of deal and it does not matter that it will take you 5 years and $100k to fix everything, you are still way ahead of the game.
Do you want to try to re-negotiate based on the home inspection? Or is it worth the risk that the whole deal may fall through if you do? These are all things for you to consider and talk about with those you trust.
Try to remain objective. Most deficiencies found during a home inspection are relatively minor. Concentrate on sorting out the big issues your home inspector identified. Then you can confidently purchase the home, or confidently walk away all without regret.