Home inspections

Buying a home can be one of the most important, life-changing decisions you will make. The information provided in a reliable home inspection can should play a vital part in your decision-making.

A home inspection is most often used to evaluate the condition of a home before it is bought or sold. It may inform you if the home has components that are defective, damaged or unsafe.

When looking to buy a home, getting a reliable home inspection may help you avoid unwelcome surprises. A complete home inspection report can help you make more informed choices about your purchase or possible repairs that need to be made.

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How to find a reliable home inspector

Not all provinces and territories have industry regulations or require certification for home inspectors. However, there are steps you can take to find a reliable home inspector before you make an offer on a home.

First, do your research:

  • Ask for home inspector referrals from your home renovator, friends and family.
  • Compare services offered by various home inspectors. Services can be provided by individuals who work for sole proprietorships, independent businesses, franchises, and consulting firms.
  • Look at whether your province or territory certifies home inspectors, and consult with home inspection associations in your region for general information and a list of approved members.

It’s a good idea to find an inspector who’s a member of an association or professional order, because their work often includes liability insurance in case of malpractice, which protects the buyer in some respects.

Before you hire a home inspector:

  • Verify that the inspector is currently licensed in your province or territory, if applicable.
  • Make sure the inspector has experience and training in the field. Ask about the years of practice and the number of inspections carried out by the inspector, as well as their experience with the type of home you’re considering (e.g., condos, cottages, etc.). Find out if any diploma or certificate was received from an approved program.
  • Check if the home inspector is accredited by the Better Business Bureau or an industry association. These organizations may also be able to inform you of complaints or sanctions made against the home inspector or home inspection business.
  • Ask for a sample report to see if it is easy to understand, covers all main systems of the home and includes photos and explanations.
  • Ask for a written contract outlining the items you need to have inspected, the home inspection report deadline and the total cost before the work gets started.
  • Check if the home inspector has professional liability insurance. Not all provinces and territories require inspectors to have insurance coverage, however many inspectors do have policies that can include general liability or errors-and-omissions coverage.

What to expect from your home inspection

A good home inspection includes a non-invasive, visual evaluation of all main systems and components of a home. It helps inform you about the physical condition of the home and possible repairs needed before you buy or renovate it.

A home inspector should walk you through the home and—typically based on a non-invasive, visual evaluation—point out any existing or potential problems, including the condition of:

  • Site (i.e. driveway, fence, deck, lot)
  • Structure (i.e. foundation, walls, roof)
  • Envelope (i.e. windows, insulation)
  • Plumbing (i.e. water heaters, fixtures, water pressure)
  • Interior finishes (i.e. floors, cabinets, trim)
  • Heating, Ventilation and cooling (HVAC) systems (i.e. furnace)
  • Life safety systems and fire separation (i.e. smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, fire egress)
  • Electrical systems (i.e. junction boxes, distribution panel, light fixtures)

You may wish to ask your home inspector if the CSA A770 Home inspections standard will be applied during the inspection. If the home inspector does not use the CSA A770 Home inspections standard, consider asking how his or her inspection procedures compares to the procedures listed in the standard.

For more information, register with the CSA Group to get free, read-only access to the CSA A770 Home inspection standard.

How accessibility can affect your home inspection

A home inspection report will be limited to describing conditions in the areas of the home that the inspector can see or has access to during the inspection.

If an inspector is unable to see a portion of the home—like a snow-covered roof or a locked furnace room—it will not be possible to report on its condition or safety.

Make sure that the seller or real estate agent makes all areas of the home accessible for inspection.

What to consider before accepting a home inspection report

Get a written contract outlining the items you need to have inspected, the home inspection report deadline and the total cost before the work gets started.

Be aware that a home inspector should not give you estimates of repair or renovation costs, either during the inspection or in the report.

Is a home inspection worth it?

While not a requirement when purchasing a home, a home inspection can save you a lot of money in the long run. If you purchase a home without getting a proper inspection, you could end with problems that cost you tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

You can also see if the seller has had a pre-listing inspection done. Some sellers do this to share with prospective buyers and speed up the selling process.

If the inspection reveals issues with the house, you can ask the seller to fix the problems or you can adjust your offer so you can make the repairs yourself.

Introducing the national standard for home inspections

National standards help to make products and services more reliable for consumers across Canada. When the approved practices and terms of standards are adopted by professionals, consumers can make more informed decisions.

In 2016, CSA Group—a non-profit standards organization—published a national standard for voluntary use by home inspectors. The CSA A770 Home inspection standard helps ensure that all key aspects of a home inspection are covered. It helps give confidence to consumers that the inspection is thorough and carried out in line with best practices outlined in national guidelines.

Register with the CSA Group to get free, read-only access to the CSA A770 Home inspection standard.