Buying Step 6: Home Inspections

An offer to buy a home can include a “subject to” clause that is dependent on a home inspection. Not all buyers elect to include this clause because they may be purchasing a new home that is already under warranty, they may know enough about homes and building that the inspection is unnecessary, or they may want to save money.

Home inspections give you a professional assessment of a home’s condition. With such a major purchase as a home, an inspection gives you peace of mind in knowing whether there are any deficiencies that need to be dealt with now or in the future.

When writing your offer, include a clause that purchase is contingent on a satisfactory home inspection. Also include a clause for a final preclose walkthrough to ensure the property is in the condition you have agreed to and that any required fixes have been made.

Types of Inspections

A number of inspections are common in residential realty transactions. They include

  • structural inspections (which may also include the foundation, roof, boiler room, furnace, heating, plumbing, appliances, etc.)
  • termite inspection
  • property boundary survey
  • preclose walkthrough

Structural inspections are particularly important. During these examinations, an inspector comes to the property to determine if there are material or physical defects and whether expensive repairs and replacements are likely to be required in the next few years. This is the kind of inspection discussed in this article.

Condos: Review Strata Minutes

For condos, it’s crucial for the buyer and buyer’s agent to closely review the strata minutes. The agent will often do this beforehand because they know what to look for. Any structural or mechanical issues and potential special assessments based on structural problems found in reviewing the strata minutes can be brought to the attention of the inspector in advance, so he or she can keep an eye out for these issues and for associated problems.

Finding an Inspector

Your REALTOR® should be able to advise you on which types of inspections you need and where to find a licensed inspector. You can also look in the yellow pages or online for home inspection associations and home inspectors. Be sure to shop around and find an impartial inspector, as this can often be an issue.

Inspections

Be aware that new home builders or sellers may try to prevent inspections and make final settlement walkthroughs difficult by not allowing enough time to schedule and carry out an inspection. Be suspicious if the owner refuses to have an inspection done.

Time must also be allowed for you to receive and review the inspection report. You may choose to forego an inspection, but then you also choose to forego finding any issues that may cause major problems and expense in the future.

Inspections for a single-family home often require two or three hours, and buyers should attend. This is an opportunity to examine the property's mechanics and structure, ask questions and learn far more about the property than is possible with an informal walk-through. The buyer agent should be present so that questions and issues can be discussed and noted. The listing agent may sometimes be present.

After the Inspection

After inspection, the buyer may decide to proceed with the offer as is, make a counteroffer with terms that address any issues found in the inspection, or withdraw their offer.

Inspectors can also offer suggestions for making appropriate and cost-efficient repairs.

Final Walkthrough Inspection

Before you close on your property, do a final walkthrough to ensure everything is in the condition specified in the sale agreement and that any repairs that were agreed to based on the inspection report have been made as arranged.

Buying a home is a major investment and doing inspections gives valuable professional assessments that allow the buyer to make an informed decision on whether or not their investment has any significant defects.