1. Choose Home Inspectors Wisely
Don’t rely on real real estate agents to recommend home inspectors, says Steve Maxwell, a home improvement coach based in Manitoulin Island, Ont. Instead, find a certified, independent inspector.
2. Make Sure the Inspection is Thorough
It should take home inspectors between two and four hours to check a house. “Any inspection that takes less than that is a warning,” says Maxwell. A small home with no basement might take less time.
3. Ask the Right Questions
Inspectors can’t tell you not to buy a home—they’re not supposed to give real estate advice. But they should outline major issues such as foundation damage.
4. Prepare Your Space Properly
Sellers: prepare your house for home inspectors the same way you would for a showing. Julie Peck, of Peck Home Inspections, also suggests taking care of smaller repairs, like loose doorknobs, before the inspector arrives.
5. Ask for a Sample Report
Take a look at a sample report before you hire someone, says Graham Clarke, president of the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors. Are there pictures? Recommendations for how to address any defects discovered? Be sure you can understand the document.
6. Even Newly Built Homes Should Be Inspected
There’s a lot that can go wrong during construction, from poor roofing design to electrical issues, says Mike Holmes, Jr., of Mike Holmes Inspections. “There are builders making homes one after another,” he says. “They’re flipping them out like hotcakes. It’s not quality.”
7. Read the Full Report (Not Just the Summary)
Home inspectors use the summary to outline high-priority issues, but your concerns might extend beyond that.
Looking for more home improvement tips? Find useful tricks and expert advice here.
8. Know What to Look For
Look for a home inspector who tests air quality—specifically checking for mould and testing for radon, a naturally occurring gas that is the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. “These tests are fairly inexpensive,” says Holmes, “but if there are issues, the fixes can often be costly.”
9. Timing is Everything
Have your house inspected before you put it on the market. You can inform the buyer of any issues upfront—and avoid a renegotiation—or you can complete necessary renovations or repairs with a trusted contractor yourself.
10. Don’t Forget to Look Outdoors
Pay special attention to your roof and foundation—issues with either can stop a sale in its tracks. Peck suggests trimming large tree limbs to prevent damage to your roof. To prevent a leaky foundation, keep your downspouts draining away from the home.
11. Keep an Eye Out for Shoddy Repairs
When it comes to DIY homes, be cautious. Some DIYers don’t do repairs the way a professional would. Bad fixes could lead to unsafe electrical systems or leaks in basements, Clarke says.
12. Don’t Trust Blindly
Most homeowners are honest, but some aim for a cover-up, says Clarke. Is the basement empty except for a cluster of boxes pushed against a foundational wall? Has one wall received a fresh coat of paint? These clues might indicate a hastily concealed defect.
13. You May Be Allowed to Tag Along
Ask to accompany your inspector during their evaluation. “This is your chance to get to know your new home,” says Peck. “I encourage the buyer to take an active role.”
Ready to start searching for property? Read these 7 Tips for Successful House Hunting first.