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Pre-Purchase Home Inspection Tips: Protect Yourself

31 May 2019 by National Bank
Pre-purchase home inspection

A pre-purchase home inspection is essential to peacefully closing on your property purchase. Here are six things to consider.

1. Get to know the property better

Before purchasing a condo or a house, you want to know what awaits you. Should you plan for roof repairs in the near future? Does the electricity need to be redone? As all of these renovations are expensive, it’s best to understand these realities.

A pre-purchase home inspection can also direct your attention toward certain aspects of the home that require further investigation. Is there a damp smell in the basement? If so, is it due to a problem with the foundation? This is the type of clue you should follow more closely before making the final decision to purchase the home.

Because of this, a pre-purchase home inspector is a valuable asset, as their expertise is crucial. Since they have no personal interest in the transaction, they will present the facts as they are, and can suggest additional inspections in case of doubt.

A pre-purchase home inspection helps you get to know the property better, ensure the fairness of the agreed-upon price and plan what renovations should be prioritized.

2. Obtain an inspection report

If you assist in the inspection, you will have a good idea of the property’s condition and what aspects could pose a problem. However, the inspection report remains an essential element to making an informed purchasing decision.

In the report, you will find photos and details concerning different parts of the property: structure, land, siding, doors and windows, roofing, plumbing, heating, air conditioning, ventilation, interior, etc. If something is impossible to inspect—because it is hidden behind siding or buried under snow, for example—the report will mention this.

You will also find comments in the report that point out any defects that require urgent or major work, or if in-depth expertise will be needed. Beyond allowing you to have all the details in hand so you can make an informed decision regarding the quality of the building, you can also refer to the report once the property has been purchased. This will help you decide which work to prioritize first.

3. Watch out for hidden defects

A pre-purchase home inspection does not protect you against any risks related to hidden defects. “A hidden defect is, by definition, hidden and therefore latent, and any sign of one is difficult to see until the problem has already arisen,” explains Gérald Smith, president of Experts Immobiliers Smith & Associés and former president of the National Building Inspectors and Experts Association.

This means that a close visual examination of the building will not help you find a hidden defect. However, by analyzing the property from every angle and establishing the physical state of its systems and components, the pre-purchase home inspection will help limit risks when the time comes to sign a purchase offer.

4. Choose your inspector wisely

To get a good idea of the actual state of the property, take the time to carefully choose your inspector.

Although there is no formal training required to become a building inspector, the Quebec Association of Building Inspectors (QABI) verifies the skills of its members. The association requires members to undergo continued training and to hold liability insurance in case of errors and omissions. It may also be a good idea to work with an inspector that is a member of a professional order, such as an architect, engineer or technologist. After all, professional orders exist to protect the public.

The ultimate goal is to find someone who is best qualified to point out the property’s issues and recognize potential hidden defects.

5. Include the report in the promise to purchase

Not only is it preferable to get an inspection, but the inspection report must also be related to the promise to purchase. Generally, the promise to purchase provides a period of 7 to 10 days to complete the inspection and review the report.

The promise to purchase also states that the findings of an inspection must be satisfactory to the buyer. This means that, as a buyer, you may withdraw from the obligation to purchase the property if the inspection results are not to your satisfaction. The inspection results may even allow you to renegotiate the price lower.

6. Plan for the cost of a pre-purchase home inspection

The cost of a pre-purchase home inspection depends on different elements, such as the geographic location of the property, its size and, above all, the type of property.

Generally, for a single-family home in the greater Montreal area, you should expect to pay at least $500  for a thorough and proper inspection. The amount may be a little lower in other regions of Quebec.

If you are hoping to purchase a duplex or triplex, expect to spend a few hundred dollars or more. Conversely, if you have your sights set on a condo where the inspector will only look at your private portion, the amount will be lower. The cost of an inspection may also vary depending on the age of the building.

However, because a proper inspection could help you avoid unpleasant and often costly surprises, it’s in your best interest to prioritize your inspector’s qualifications, rather than saving a few dollars.

Purchasing a home is an exciting adventure, but to avoid unpleasant surprises, it’s best to take the time you need to conduct a complete and reliable pre-purchase home inspection. A skilled inspector is key to obtaining a detailed report, and the best way to make an informed decision.  

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