The Wright Sisters Group | Union Realty Brokerage Inc. - The Beaches, Leslieville, Riverdale and East York Real Estate Specialists – Your East End Toronto Real Estate Team

Home inspections: what you need to know in 2020

06 March 2020
Melanie Wright

Congratulations! After endless hours searching online and likely more lost weekends than you care to count visiting open houses you have finally found that perfect home. Now to think about all of the logistics involved with purchasing that perfect home. Sooner or later the question about having a home inspection will come up. It can be a little daunting to think about it if you are not really sure what’s involved. Here’s what you need to about home inspections in 2020. 

It is entirely your choice

In Ontario a standard agreement of purchase and sale form includes a clause, stating that the buyer has the opportunity to include the requirement for an inspection report in the agreement. This applies whether the seller has supplied a home inspection or not. Generally speaking, having a home inspection is a good idea. A home inspection will give you a good idea about what repairs the house needs, how well maintained it has been kept and an estimate of cost for any major repairs. This can help you decide whether or not this is the right house for you or if there are simply too many issues for your comfort. You may decide after going through the home inspection that you still want the house, but you want to pay a little less than you had thought, and you may decide to go back to the seller and ask to renegotiate the purchase price.  

You can easily purchase a home without ever having a home inspection at all, although that obviously carries more risk to the buyer. Most realtors will advise their clients to have a home inspection of their own, even if one is offered by the seller. Whether or not to have a home inspection is entirely your call. 

Time is of the essence 

Once you make an offer the clock starts ticking. Many buyers are not aware that obtaining a  home inspection is time sensitive. Often the offer is conditional on a home inspection happening within a limited time frame, typically 4-5 days maximum. In that time, you will have to choose a home inspector, agree to the inspector’s fees and, arrange access to the property with the seller and then you will need to have time to review the report with the home inspector. If you are having your inspection done prior to submitting the offer you may even have less time to get it all done before the offer date. It is a good idea to have a conversation with your realtor ahead of time about the time lines and process of having a home inspection done. Often your realtor will have a list of reputable home inspectors that they have used in recent transactions and who they can recommend if you don’t happen to know one. Remember a home inspection is different than a contractor. Although contractors have a wealth of knowledge a home inspector is a person who is certified to complete the inspection and provide the report.

Tag along if you can

I like to think of a home inspection as a deep dive into the workings of the house you are buying. An inspection can take from a couple of hours to half a day depending on the size of the home and the state of repair. If you are able to take the time to tag along with the inspector while they do their inspection you will learn all kinds of interesting details about your new home. The inspector will be able to explain all of the workings of the home from the wiring to where the water shut off valves are to the age of the windows and eaves and even the termite activity in your new neighbourhood. Home inspectors usually have a wealth of knowledge and approach a home in a much different way than a homeowner. It’s a great opportunity to pick up a few pointers and don’t be afraid to ask any questions. You have hired the home inspector and you are paying for their time. Make the most of the visit and stick with them if you can.  

What does a home inspection cover?

A home inspection is like your annual medical checkup. The doctor will sometimes take your blood pressure, your temperature, look inside your mouth and listen carefully to what you have to say. The doctor will not do an x-ray MRI or ECG at your annual checkup. 

A home inspection is similar in that the inspector will look very carefully at all the systems, structure and mechanics of the house. 

Your inspector will check the condition of:

  • Floors, walls, ceilings
  • Insulation in the attic
  • Plumbing and electrical systems
  • Foundation and basement
  • Roof and shingles (weather permitting)
  • Downspouts and eaves
  • Heating and cooling systems
  • Condition of windows and doors
  • Structural components of the house 
  • Grading around your house
  • Moisture inside your house
  • Sump Pump
  • Termite activity and make recommendation to bring in specialists if needed. 

In addition to all of this the home inspector will usually provide an estimate for any repairs needed. 

What doesn’t a home inspection cover?

Of course, this is not a guarantee of any kind that the house you are buying won’t have issues. The inspection is limited to what the home inspector can see. Just like the Doctor analogy there is no x-ray, MRI or ECG. The inspector cannot see inside the walls, beneath a carpet, under the house or inside the plumbing. The inspector will not typically look at outside structures such as garden sheds or a playhouse. The inspector will not look at your appliances and assess if they are in good working order. They do not usually assess septic tanks and they will not typically do more than a surface inspection for insect infestation. If something does show up that the home inspector feels requires further investigation, they will recommend bringing in a specialist, perhaps a structural engineer or a termite specialist at an additional cost to the buyer. Again, the annual checkup example…your doctor may send you to a specialist if they find your blood pressure is too high. Your home inspector will not do any repairs along the way. If something is not right in the home, they are there simply to note it not repair it. 

Home inspection etiquette

Yes, this is a thing. When attending a home inspection just as when you go to see a house be respectful of the homeowner’s personal items. Remember even if you are buying this house it is currently someone else’s home. Some areas are off limits even during a home inspection, the homeowner’s personal items, dressers, storage boxes, treasures in the attic. Don’t be nosy. Bring along a family member or friend if you like. It is always nice to get a few hours in your new home. Just remember to be respectful of everyone’s time. The homeowner will be anxious to get back into their house. Often the inspector will have another appointment in the same day, remember this is not a social visit. If it is a two-hour window note the time that the appointment is over and wrap it up. If you need more time often the inspector will offer a follow up phone call. It is totally fine to ask for a printed or an electronic report. The inspector will usually offer to provide a report same day but almost always within 24 hours.  

Pay the inspector at the time of the inspection. Ask ahead of time about payment options and bring your debit or credit card or a personal cheque or cash to take care of the payment at the time of inspection.