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Home inspections: Know before you buy

When you’re buying a new home, you need to look beyond just the location and the overall aesthetics of the house. Sure, they’re important, but you need to find out if there are any problems with other aspects of the overall construction of the house, before you make your buying decision. A competitive housing market can put pressure on buyers to put in offers on homes without getting inspections; however, buying without an inspection can cause large future repair bills and a lot of headaches. Inspection costs vary from $300 to $500 but it is a worthwhile investment when you consider the overall value of the home, and the future frustration you could be avoiding.

Problems with the flooring, wiring, moisture ingress and the overall home structure, can turn into big trouble after you purchase the house. The only way to find out about these types of concerns in advance is to get a home inspection done. There are a variety of key areas the home inspector will review for you, not limited to the following:

  • Exterior walls: reviewed for damage to siding, cracks, or any evidence of insects
  • Foundation: inspected for evidence of cracking or settling
  • Grading: Does the water drain away from or toward the home? Improper grading can cause significant future issues with water damage, and this is important to identify early, as continuous leakage and seepage is an exclusion on many home insurance policies
  • Garage: checked for ventilation, and safety
  • Roof: checked for signs of water ingress, or damage to shingles, as well as the condition of the gutters. The home inspector should be able to estimate the remaining life span of the roof
  • Plumbing: checked for visible leaks in any faucets and showers; the type of plumbing in the home would be identified, as well as the location of the main shutoff valve. This is especially critical if the home is older, as home insurers will want to know if the plumbing is original or if it has been upgraded.
  • Electrical: identified wiring, tested outlets, checked for functional ground fault circuit interrupters in key areas, and reviewed the electrical panel for safety issues. Again, the age of the home could be a factor, as home insurers will want to know if there is any remaining knob and tube or aluminum wiring in the home, and if the existing electrical system has been bought up to code. Old electrical systems were not designed to bear the load of modern appliances and electronics.
  • HVAC system: checked age, functionality and identified any leaks in duct work. This can also be useful to determine if the home is insulated effectively to minimize your energy bills.
  • Water heater: Determine age, and overall condition, including estimated remaining life span
  • Laundry room: checked to make sure it is properly vented
  • Bathrooms: checked for visible leaks, adequate ventilation and properly secured fixtures. You want to make sure there are no concerns with mold or mildew, as again loss or damage due to mold can be excluded on home insurance policies.

Home inspectors are licensed and trained to carry out inspections of a condo, house, or townhouse. They are equipped with the tools and techniques required to look at a home’s structure, and physical components. They know from experience what could potentially occur should conditions not be corrected.

Licensed home inspectors in Canada focus on reducing the likelihood of water entering the living space through the building envelope. Water ingress is a huge problem in our wet climate. It can damage buildings, and promote the growth of mold creating unhealthy living situations. Water can enter from the top, sides, and the bottom of the building.

Getting a home inspection done not only educate you, but it may give you the opportunity to ask the sellers for a lower price or have them repair or replace items prior to subject removal. You can also use the home inspection as a contingency in your purchase offer, providing that if the defects that are identified are significant enough you can back out of your offer free of penalty. Either way, it is best to be prepared.

It is easy to get carried away with focusing on the aesthetic of a home when you are considering purchasing it. Use a home inspector so that you have access to the information you need to ensure that your home will be as beautiful to live in as it is to look at.

A special thank you to Michael Zegarra for his contributions to this article. Michael is a licensed home inspector and an advisor for Square One. Should you have any questions, or if you’re interested in getting a home inspection, please contact Michael Zegarra at www.zegarrahomeinspections.com. For more information on insuring your home, contact Square One at 1.855.331.6933.

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