When buying a home, a condition to purchase is often a home inspection. Home inspectors examine a long list of items in and around the house, from the roof to the basement. The article What does the home inspector inspect? shows a fairly extensive list of what a buyer can expect from a home inspection. In addition to that list, most buyers have many questions regarding the home inspection. We try to answer the most asked questions regarding home inspections.
Disclaimer: The following questions and answers are related to Calgary and area, where we actually live and work.
Is a home inspection worth it?
That is a subjective question but, in our opinion, yes, it is worth it to get a home inspection done by a professional. A few reasons why:
- You reduce the chance of buying a home with costly issues.
- A home inspector has experience and tools to discover any issues that most people can’t detect that easily.
- The cost of a home inspection is considered low when you compare it to the magnitude of the investment -a house.
- If you offset the cost of the home inspection with the general repair cost, again, the price of a home inspection is low. One leak in a home can easily pay for the cost of the home inspection.
- Peace of mind! Moving into a home knowing there are no major issues gives more comfort.
- Knowing any issues upfront gives the opportunity to contain a problem before it grows into a more costly issue. And it gives the opportunity to budget for future expenses.
- Consider a home inspection as a 3 hour ‘crash course’ which teaches you a lot about home maintenance during a ‘one-on-one’ consultation. It can’t get much better!
How much does a home inspection cost?
Consider a home inspection a 3-hour, one-on-one ‘crash course’ on home maintenance!
In reality, no home in Calgary is perfect. At least, as a new owner who includes an inspection, any issues in the home that need attention are known and can be addressed. And in the rare case that nothing problematic comes out of the home inspection, it is still money well spent for the buyer’s peace of mind.
In addition, a buyer can learn a lot from a home inspector. The inspection usually takes several hours, and a buyer can, and should, tag along with the inspector to learn and to ask questions. A crash course, if you will, for the biggest investment in your life!
How long does a home inspection take?
On an average home, a home inspection takes about 2.5 to 3.5 hours to complete. Condos obviously take less time, while bigger homes take longer. It is advised to tag along with the home inspector as, in our experience, most home inspectors are very willing to explain and teach. Consider a home inspection a 3-hour, one-on-one ‘crash course’ on home maintenance!
Does a home inspector need to be licensed?
The short answer is yes, the home inspector must be licensed. When a buyer asks for a home inspection, the contract states:
A buyer needs to show proof of a problem in order to re-negotiate. A seller would likely not accept the opinion of the buyer’s ‘friend of a friend’ to just give the buyer a reduction on the purchase price.
Can I renegotiate if an issue is discovered during the home inspection?
Renegotiate or not? Many factors will determine the answer. Much will depend on the buyer’s level of comfort, or even the level of expectation of the buyer. No home is perfect, and very few home inspection reports come up empty. “What are the issues?” is the question.
- Are the matters easy and cheap to remediate or expensive to fix?
- How many issues appear? One or two, or is it a long list of items that need attention?
- Does the issue need immediate attention? Think of a leak that could do more damage before possession.
Many buyers will try, obviously, to get some things repaired, replaced or ask for a discount on the purchase price. However, at all times, a seller can refuse any request. Then it is the buyer’s choice to accept that, or to walk away and pursue the search for another house.
At the end of the day, buyer and seller need to come to an agreement about who takes care of which issue to fix, replace, or perhaps to take money off the purchase price for repairs. There is a level of fairness expected from both parties.
Can I walk away from a home after a home inspection?
If the home inspection was a condition in the contract, yes, a buyer can walk away from the purchase if the inspection report raises any issues. However, as the contract between buyer and seller states, the inspection must be done by a licensed home inspector.
Technically, a buyer can decide to not waive the home inspection condition for even the smallest issue. Sometimes, we see buyers getting ‘cold feet’ about the purchase and use a small issue in the report to ‘walk away’. Strictly speaking, this is not right because most homes have at least one small issue. However, a seller can do very little in such a case.
In a normal course of a transaction, the seller wants to sell, and the buyer wants to buy the home. Buyer and seller agree on who takes care of which issue or repair. A level of fairness and civility is expected here, so both parties are amenable and satisfied with the outcome.
How often and what kind of issues do we see in a home inspection?
Much depends on the kind of home, the age of the home, and how it was maintained. We sometimes joke that if the house has a humidifier, then at least one thing is broken. For some reason we see many humidifiers out of order.
Many home inspection reports reveal smaller items: a loose bracket here, a furnace that needs cleaning, doors not closing correctly, the GFI (grounded electrical) not up to code, missing parging. Sometimes we see leaks in plumbing, which are most often handled by the seller. Many issues are repairable. Only with a few major problems, such as major foundation issue, have we seen buyers walk away.
In general, we don’t often see a buyer walk away from a purchase after a home inspection. Again, most issues are repairable. When the cost to repair is expensive, seller and buyer are often willing to re-negotiate. At the end of the day, the seller wants to sell. Any issue in this home inspection report will likely show up during the next home inspection, as well. Or, even worse, a seller may need to disclose the problem in discussion with the next buyer.
Should I do a home inspection on an apartment or townhouse?
An apartment gives a home inspector less to inspect. After all, roofs, foundation, furnace, hot water tank and anything exterior are under the care of the condo corporation. For these items, an apartment buyer needs to do a condominium document review. In general, we see about 50% of the buyers still doing a home inspection on an apartment. Leaking pipes, faucets and toilets can still come up. Over the years, we have also encountered faulty electrical and broken dishwashers. Home inspections for condos are cheaper than those for homes. If nothing comes out during the inspection, the buyer still has peace of mind.
In a townhouse, an inspector has more to inspect. Townhouses are often larger in size and have their own furnace and hot water tank. Therefore, most buyers of a townhouse decide on doing an inspection. Again, if not for peace of mind, a buyer learns a lot about maintenance, as well.
Should I do a home inspection on an acreage?
When buying an acreage, it is important to step up when it comes to a home inspection. Water wells and septic systems need the attention of a professional. Are the water well and septic field functioning correctly? What are the flow rate and quality of the well providing water? Most home inspectors are not qualified to perform these kinds of inspections. The costs of an inspection on an acreage are much higher.
When not to do a home inspection?
No realtor can force a buyer to get a home inspection done; however, every realtor should advise a buyer to get a home inspection done. Sure, in essence, it is also part of the liability of a realtor to say you, the buyer, need a home inspection. But taking everything into consideration, it is worth it for the previously mentioned reasons.
In reality, we only see those buyers who are professional contractors themselves who would dare to skip a home inspection. Also, in a seller’s market, we see more buyers skipping a home inspection. The ‘Covid market’ was a good example. During Covid, the market was so overheated that many buyers left the condition of a home inspection out (as well as the financing condition, for that matter). Otherwise, most buyers wouldn’t have gotten a chance of getting the house. However, having no home inspection is always more risky. Lastly, foreclosures are often purchased without any conditions including home inspections.
The general rule is that a buyer is in a stronger position when negotiating a purchase with fewer conditions. This was really prevalent, again, during that Covid market. Sellers left tens of thousand of dollars on the table, choosing the offer given without a home inspection condition.
The goal of a home inspection is to eliminate risk when buying a home. The goal should not be to try to get the cost of a home inspection back
The goal of a home inspection is to eliminate risk when buying a home. The goal should not be to try to get the cost of a home inspection back
Should I get a home inspection on a brand new home?
Yes, also get a home inspection done on a brand new home. Many owners of new built homes will be surprised about the issues that (can) come out.
Most builders don’t allow a home inspection. Instead, builders work with a deficiency list which is determined between builder and buyer on their walkthrough just before possession. These walkthroughs are completed without any tools like thermal imaging that a home inspector uses. In this case, it is prudent to have a professional home inspector perform an inspection immediately after receiving the keys to the home. Any concerns and issues can still be tagged onto the deficiency list, and are now on the plate of the builder to fix. Read more about home inspections on new built homes in Warranty on new built homes in Alberta.
What is not included in a home inspection?
Typically, in Calgary, WETT inspections, tests for asbestos and radon, and sewer line scoping are not included in a general home inspection.
- The WETT inspection (Wood Energy Technology Transfer) is an inspection on the wood burning fireplace. Only a certified WETT inspector can do this.
- If a home inspector suspects asbestos, s/he will refer a buyer to a certified asbestos remediation company. Samples are taken and tested in a lab, something that a home inspector does not do. Technicians working on asbestos need to complete an asbestos training course approved by the Government of Alberta.
- Radon testing needs about 3 months for accurate results. Typically, time wise, a buyer cannot request this from a seller. If a buyer wants a radon test, it is advised to do one after possession. Since 2015, the building code includes a pipe for radon ventilation, which makes it even easier to remediate.
- Sewer line scoping is typically not included, although some home inspectors in Calgary have started to include these in their services, but at an additional rate.
What does the home inspection report look like?
A general home inspection report is divided into different sections such as plumbing, roofing, foundation, electrical, etc. Every section gives a summary of what is expected as a norm, followed by, obviously, any issues found during the home inspection. Photographs in the report can clarify the issue and be shown as proof. The report is a perfect summary of what building issue needs repair, needs replacement or just needs monitoring. Also, every report indicates what was not checked or tested because it was out of the scope for the inspector. Asbestos is one example.
Most inspectors have their own style and software for the reports, so the structure of the reports can be quite varied. Many home inspectors are willing to present a sample report to give an overall impression of an inspection.
How to find a good home inspector in Calgary?
Most realtors are able to refer home inspectors who have proven to be good and reliable. Sometimes we hear concerns from the public that one shouldn’t rely on the realtor’s choice. The concern is that the two may work ‘together’ in the sense that a home inspector may cover up issues to ‘seal the deal’. If trust is an issue, it may be time to part ways with the realtor anyway, because trust is one of the most important factors when buying a home.
Besides the realtor, one can discuss with family, friends and colleagues their experiences with their home inspectors. Also, the Government of Alberta offers tips on finding a reliable home inspector.
The home inspectors branch has become more professional over the years. Home inspectors used to be non-regulated, and a ‘6-week online course’ could turn anyone into a home inspector. These days courses are much better, and there are several accreditations. You can check members at https://certifiedmasterinspector.org/members and https://www.nachi.org/certified-inspectors. Also here, the Government of Alberta gives information regarding home inspections which includes regulations and training options to become a certified home inspector in Alberta.
Many home inspectors have a background in certain construction trades such as plumbing, roofing, electrical etc.
Do you know any home inspectors you can recommend?
Yes, we can provide several names of home inspectors in Calgary whom we trust and recommend to our clients. We have referred one particular home inspector since 2009, when we started our real estate career. For liability reasons we (and all realtors) must give 3 names. Over the years, all 3 inspectors have been shown to be knowledgeable and honest. Two key factors of home inspectors.
Can I hire a home inspector for a second opinion on issues in my home?
Certainly, you can ask a home inspector for a second opinion! Unfortunately, some trade professionals seem to be too focused on selling. Sometimes, that results in people spending money on issues that were not really all that necessary. We have come across people who were advised to get a new roof, while the home inspector’s opinion was that said roof was good for, at least, another 10 years! We also heard of people replacing an entire furnace, while this was not yet necessary. It could have been easily repaired. The same occurred with a concrete issue, where people were told to spend $100,000 on renewing concrete, while the second opinion led to a cost of only $3,500.
A home inspector has nothing to gain by selling you a product
So, if in doubt, asking a home inspector for a second opinion can be worthwhile. After all, the inspector has nothing to gain by selling you a product.
As well, many home inspectors offer their thermal imaging services. This machine has the amazing power to find leaks in places you cannot see with the naked eye. Also, thermal imaging can detect active mould, cold drafts and missing insulation. Hiring a home inspector for just this service can save you many dollars.
For sellers; should I do a pre home inspection before listing?
It is an option to get the home pre-inspected before listing it. There are some pros and cons in having a pre-listing home inspection. Firstly, the ‘buyer beware’ principal counts. Therefore, most buyers still ask to get their own home inspection done, even if the seller provides a home inspection report.
There are some pros and cons in having a pre-listing home inspection
In Calgary, pre home inspections are not very common, even rare. However, pre-inspections are more common in other parts of Canada. And perhaps in some situations it might be a good idea to have a home pre-inspected. Also, realize that different home inspectors may come back with further issues and concerns. This is something to discuss with the realtor.
Who we are?
We are Tanja van de Kamp and Ariette van Pelt, working as a team, both buying and selling homes in Calgary. Calgary has been our home since 2004, and real estate our full-time profession since 2009. Tanja was a lawyer in The Netherlands for 12 years, and learned how to negotiate strategically, and to work in the best interests of her clients. Thanks to our honest and transparent approach to real estate and towards our clients, we have built our business. It’s been a privilege to work with our clients, and, over the years, many clients reciprocated their appreciation of us, as shown through their many referrals.