First-Time Buyer Tips: What to Expect From the Home Inspection

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By Kris Lindahl

Home inspections are a fairly standard contingency for most home buyers so they can be assured their home is structurally sound before moving in. But many buyers don’t understand the nature of home inspections and how important it is to have clear expectations of what they do. To clear up any confusion, learn more about what home inspections do, how they happen, and what buyers can do if the inspector finds a problem.

Finding the Right Inspector

It’s important to check the reputation of an inspector before moving forward with one or the other. Some have been known to downplay the problems they find, either because they’re loyal to a third party or because they simply don’t understand the extent of a problem that’s staring them right in the face. Inspectors are regulated in some provinces like Alberta and British Columbia, which can make it easier for buyers find qualified professionals. But in places where they aren’t regulated, such as Ontario, it’s especially helpful for buyers to do their homework.

Dos and Don’ts

A home inspector is primarily looking for damage or degradation throughout the home. They’ll check everything from the state of the floor sills and joists to the stability of the roof and the foundation. A good inspector will be able to spot warning signs such as mildew as well as note the presence of cosmetic problems such as peeling paint. What a home inspector won’t do is make any kind of changes to the home. They’re not authorized to break down walls to ensure the pipes are entirely up to code or tear up floors to guarantee the electrical wiring isn’t starting to wear away.

Why Home Inspections Matter 

If an inspector can only tell the home buyer so much about the structural integrity of their home, then buyers may question if it’s even worth it to hire one. But while a home inspector isn’t all-knowing, they can see far more than a home buyer or even a real estate agent can when it comes to the quality of the components and the longevity of the home’s design. A home that’s been poorly tended to over the years or one with shoddy construction will often have small problems that no one catches until they balloon into catastrophes. Just a small gap in the foundation can be just the invite insects need to take over the home, and a home inspector can catch that gap long before the infestation occurs.

How It Happens 

Inspections take between 2.5 to 3 hours to inspect both the interior and the exterior of the home. Inspectors will be looking at everything from circuit panels to distribution piping to drainage, so buyers are highly encouraged to attend the inspection as inspectors go about their work. Home inspection reports are not only detailed, but they’re also confusing to people outside the industry. Buyers may not know the terms, which can cause them to either make assumptions or give up halfway through. Going with the inspector gives buyer a chance to ask questions in real time, which can be the key to understanding what they’re about to jump into.

How to Handle a Problem 

If an inspector does happen to find something, a buyer has a few different options if they made their offer contingent on the home inspection. They can either back out of the sale, request the seller fix the problem (either in full or in part), or take responsibility for the issues themselves. In the case of purely cosmetic (inexpensive) repairs, it usually makes more sense to swallow for the buyer to swallow the cost of the repairs. Escrow periods can be complicated enough without adding additional conditions. However, it the case of major trouble, buyers may want to consider taking the either canceling the sale or demanding the seller fixes the problem.

Home inspectors perform a valuable service to buyers, even if they can’t predict the future. They’re often the only thing that can stop a buyer from making a huge mistake. Once buyers have a better understanding of what they do, they can make better decisions about whether or not to follow-through on their original offer.


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