I suspect most people who own a home or are thinking of owning a home have spent time watching home improvement programs on television. There are shows about decorating, renovations, and even shows about home inspections. One common theme that these programs typically have is that the “before” product is always hideous, awful, ugly, or “the worst of the worst.” This is because “typical” and “average” don’t make for good television. These shows leave people with the impression that most homes are a huge money pit and it’s just about easier and cheaper to tear it down and start again. I can tell you that this is simply not the case for most houses.
I’ve been working on houses all my life and have been in the home inspection industry for 12 years, having personally conducted over 5000 home inspections. The majority of properties I inspect are generally in good condition. As Canadians, our National Building Code must encompass the diversity of this wonderful and massive country that we live in. That means our houses are designed to handle the warm, damp climate of the West Coast and also the dry, and cold climates that a lot of the country has to endure. They are designed to do this with minimal routine maintenance.
This is not to say that major issues haven’t been discovered. As Inspectors, we say that a Home Inspection is “elephant hunting.” This means that we are generally looking for significant deficiencies that will have a negative impact on the safety and usability of the property. This means different things to different people, but some examples of what we consider a major issue would include:
- Structural rot or damage from wood destroying insects,
- Signs of unprofessional or non-standard workmanship on heating, plumbing, electrical, or structural work performed on the house that require further review by a licensed professional,
- Moisture and water ingress, and
- Dated components in the home that are no longer acceptable by today’s industry standard.
As a buyer, you want to be aware of these types of issues as they can be very expensive to repair, and can be a negotiation point with the seller. Many homes will not have any significant deficiencies. The home inspection report can also provide a maintenance checklist, with recommendations for future upgrades to keep the home in good condition. The report will also identify the expected service life for things like roof coverings, furnaces, and water heaters. The report will also typically satisfy questions asked by insurance companies like plumbing type, electrical size and wire type, etc. and will provide colour photos for reference.
Some inspection companies also perform additional services that may be important to a homebuyer. Thermal imaging, Indoor Air Quality Assessments, wood stove (WETT) inspections, and Radon testing are some of the most common. The inspection company can generally charge less for these services than bringing in an outside contractor because they are already on site for the inspection.
Homeowners will find that a home inspection report is a valuable document that can be referred to and relied on as the dwelling’s user handbook for as long as they own their home.
Marty Erletz, AHI, Pillar to Post Home Inspections Victoria