FAQ Frequently Asked Questions by Home Buyers
When Should An Home Inspection Be Completed?
What Is A Home Inspection?
A home inspection is a limited visual and non-evasive examination of all major systems of a home. The focus is on identifying existing or potential problems. These include:
Roof, vents, flashings, and trim.
Gutters and downspouts.
Skylight, chimney and other roof penetrations.
Decks, stoops, porches, walkways, and railings.
Eaves, soffit and fascia.
Grading and drainage.
Basement, foundation and crawlspace.
Water penetration and foundation movement.
Main water shut off valves.
Water heating systems.
Interior plumbing fixtures and faucets.
Drainage sump pumps with accessible floats.
Electrical service line and meter box.
Main disconnect and service amperage.
Electrical panels, breakers and fuses.
Grounding and bonding.
GFCIs and AFCI.
Fireplace damper door and hearth.
Insulation and ventilation.
Garage doors, safety sensors, and openers.
And much more.
Why Do I Need An Inspection?
The purchase of a home or commercial building is one of the largest single investments you will ever make. You should know exactly what to expect — both indoors and out — in terms of needed and future repairs and maintenance. A fresh coat of paint could be hiding serious structural problems. Stains on the ceiling may indicate a chronic roof leakage problem may be simply the result of a single incident. The inspector interprets these and other clues, then presents a professional opinion as to the condition of the property so you can avoid unpleasant surprises afterward. Of course, an inspection will also point out the positive aspects of a building, as well as the type of maintenance needed to keep it in good shape. After the inspection, you will have a much clearer understanding of the property you are about to purchase, and be able to make your decision confidently.
What Does An Inspection Include?
A complete inspection includes a visual examination of the building from top to bottom. The inspector evaluates and reports the condition of the structure, roof, foundation, drainage, plumbing, heating system, central air-conditioning system, visible insulation, walls, windows, and doors. Only those items that are visible and accessible by normal means are included in the report.
How Long Does The Inspection Take?
Typically an inspection will take between 2 and 4 hours, depending on the size and accessibility of the property. Larger homes or homes in poor condition may take longer to inspect. We allow for as much time as needed to complete a thorough review of the property and answer all of your questions. ost importantly, the number of defects that are found must also be documented and will therefore dictate the amount of time required. There are many aspects of a home that NEED to be reviewed carefully. For an average size home of 2000 sq ft in average condition you could count on 3 hours.
When Do I Request An Inspector?
The best time to consult the inspector is right after you’ve made an offer on your new building. The real estate contract usually allows for a grace period to inspect the building. Ask your professional agent to include this inspection clause in the contract, making your purchase obligation contingent upon the findings of a professional inspection.
Is There A Warranty or Guarantee offered with The Home Inspection?
No. Inspectors are not insurance companies, we do not offer a warranty. What you are buying from us is our opinion about the home. This opinion is based on our expert knowledge and experience, but is still a time sensitive and limited visual inspection of the home. What is hidden, non-accessible, and apt to happen over time is not within the scope of the inspection.
A home inspection is a professional opinion based on less-than-complete information. It’s a little like getting a check-up from your doctor: It improves your odds of good health but there is no guarantee or warranty. Some problems can only be discovered by living in a house – they cannot be discovered during a home inspection. For example, some shower stalls leak when people use the shower but don’t leak when you simply turn on the shower. Some roofs and basements only leak when specific weather conditions exist. Some problems will only be discovered when carpets are lifted, furniture is moved or finishes are removed. As we did not build the structure or manufacture any of its components, we cannot and do not offer any kind of warranty on the house.
Can A Building “FAIL” The Inspection?
No. A professional inspection is simply an examination into the current condition of your prospective real estate purchase. It is not an appraisal or a Municipal Code inspection. An inspector, therefore, will not pass or fail a building, but will simply describe its condition and indicate which items will be in need of minor or major repairs or replacement
What If The Report Reveals Problems?
If the inspector finds problems in a building, it does not necessarily mean you shouldn’t buy it, only that you will know in advance what type of repairs to anticipate. A seller may be willing to make repairs because of significant problems discovered by the inspector. If your budget is tight, or if you do not wish to become involved in future repair work, you may decide that this is not the property for you. The choice is yours.
If The Report Is Favorable, Did I Really Need An Inspection?
Definitely! Now you can complete your purchase with peace of mind about the condition of the property and its equipment and systems. You may have learned a few things about your property from the inspection report, and will want to keep that information for your future reference. Above all, you can rest assured that you are making a well-informed purchase decision and that you will be able to enjoy or occupy your new home or building the way you want.
Can I Inspect The Building Myself?
Even the most experienced building or home owner lacks the knowledge and expertise of a professional inspector who has inspected hundreds, and perhaps thousands of homes and buildings in their career. An inspector is equally familiar with the critical elements of construction and with the proper installation, maintenance and inter-relationships of these elements. Above all, most buyers find it difficult to remain completely objective and unemotional about the building they really want, and this may lead to a poor assessment.
What Will The Inspection Cost?
The inspection fee for a typical single-family house or commercial building varies geographically, as does the cost of housing, similarly, within a geographic area the inspection fees charged by different inspection services may vary depending upon the size of the building, particular features of the building, age, type of structure, etc. However, the cost should not be a factor in the decision whether or not to have a physical inspection. You might save many times the cost of the inspection if you are able to have the seller perform repairs based on significant problems revealed by the inspector. Consult your professional agent for guidance.
Should I Attend The Home Inspection?
It is not required that you attend, but it is highly recommended. During the inspection tour, you will be able to discover the problems with the property that your inspector is trained to find. Seeing and discussing the property with a trained professional gives you a much better understanding of the overall condition of the home. Even if there are few problems, the home inspector will show you some of the systems and devices in the home with which you should be familiar. Your inspector will also point out some of the positive aspects of the property that may help you in your decision-making. He may be able to make recommendations or suggestions that can ease anxiety about the purchasing process.
We can’t be there for the inspection, is that OK?
While we highly recommend that our clients be present, we understand that in some cases it just isn’t possible. Our reports, however, are the extremely comprehensive and include not only detailed descriptions of any issues found, but photos as well. After reading the report, if you have any questions, our inspectors are happy to review their findings with you.
Should The Seller Be There During The Home Inspection?
It certainly is their right to be present as you and the inspector go through their home. However, if they are in a defensive mood, it may add tension to the situation. Out of professional courtesy, the listing agent can try to arrange for the seller to be absent. On the other hand, they can sometimes be a great source of information about the condition and maintenance of the property.
Is There Anything I Can Do Better To Maintain My Home?
Inspection reports often identify the same neglected maintenance items. Performing some basic maintenance can help keep your home in better condition, thus reduce the chance of those conditions showing up on the inspection report. To present a better maintained home to perspective buyers follow these tips from the Spot Home Inspection Services®. Most of these items can be accomplished with little or no cost, while the benefits of selling a well maintained home can be worth the effort.
1. Clean both rain gutters and any roof debris and trim back excessive foliage from the exterior siding.
2. Divert all water away from the house (for example, rain-gutter downspouts, sump pump discharge locations, and clean out garage and
3. Clean or replace all furnace filters.
4. Remove grade or mulch from contact with siding (preferable 6-8 inches of clearance).
5. Paint all weathered exterior wood and caulk around trim, chimneys, windows, doors, and all exterior wall penetrations.
6. Make sure all windows and doors are in proper operating condition; replace cracked windowpanes.
7. Replace burned out light bulbs.
8. Make sure all of the plumbing fixtures are in spotless condition (toilets, tubs, showers, sinks) and in proper working order (repair leaks).
9. Provide clear access to both attic and foundation crawl spaces, heating/cooling systems, water heater/s, electrical main and distribution
panels and remove the car/s from the garage.
10. And finally, if the house is vacant make sure that all utilities are turned on. Should the water, gas or electric be off at the time of
inspection the inspector will not turn them on. Therefore, the inspection process will be incomplete, which may possibly affect the time
frame in removing sales contract contingencies.
How Do I Keep My Basement Dry?
The unusually heavy rainfall that we have seen lately has brought this question to the forefront. While nobody can guarantee that a basement will never leak, there are things that can be done to improve the odds of keeping it dry.
Once a homeowner is faced with water penetration, they often seek advice from contractors. Unfortunately, they are often advised that they need to spend thousands of dollars to dig up the yard to install new drainage tile and apply damp proofing. While this may be appropriate in some instances, it should be considered only as a last resort. Quite often, the problem of moisture penetration can be solved using simpler methods which cost a lot less.
In my experience, the best way to keep water out of the basement is to manage it so that it flows away from the house. This can usually be accomplished effectively by improving grading, extending downspouts, adding window wells and/or covers and trimming or reducing the greenery/gardens that may be close to the house.
1. Grading: Lot grading is an important aspect of the water management around the home. Properly done, it can have an enormous positive impact on basement dampness concerns. When reviewing lot grading, emphasis should be placed on a six foot perimeter surrounding the home. This area should be sloping down and away from the home to help direct water away from the structure.
2. Extending Downspouts: Downspouts should discharge at least six feet away from the home to help relieve water pressures near the foundation. Consideration must be given to avoid creating trip hazards. While mentioning downspouts, it is important to note that in order to offer effective water management, downspouts and eaves troughs must be kept secure and clear of debris.
3. Adding Window Wells and/or Covers: Basement windows that are close to, or at, grade present a moisture penetration vulnerability. Installation of a window well with a clear plastic window well cover can be quite helpful in reducing this vulnerability. For window wells currently without covers, adding an appropriate cover can help reduce the snow/water/debris accumulation in the window well.
4. Trimming or Reducing Greenery/Gardens: When greenery (trees, shrubs, vines etc.) or gardens are in close proximity to the foundation, they can effectively reduce air flow and evaporation of moisture in this area. They should be pruned at least twelve inches away from the house to allow wind to assist in the evaporation process. Also, when a garden placed up against the house is watered, so is the foundation.
One of the most common foundation materials is poured concrete. This type of foundation commonly develops hairline cracks which may allow moisture penetration. Should a hairline crack actually leak, the homeowner should consider having a resin injection done on the crack. The cost is approximately $350.00 (plus GST) and usually comes with a ten to fifteen year warranty. This can be a much simpler and less expensive solution than digging up the yard, which is commonly the first suggestion offered by the contractor.
Will The Inspector Walk On The Roof?
Only if the roof is accessible with an approved ladder and conditions are considered safe should an inspector walk on the roof. Obviously, snow or rain on a pitched roof are not considered safe conditions on which to walk. Because of their brittle nature, wood shingles, slate and tile roofs are prone to damage if walked on. If there is a suspicious detail on the roof that causes concern, most inspectors will climb a ladder up to the eaves to get a closer look.
What if you can’t get on the roof?
We able to walk on well over 90% of the roofs on the homes we inspect. If your home is one of the small numbers on which we are unable to ‘walk the roof’ then we will, if it is a peaked roof, inspect from the ground using binoculars. If we can put a ladder up against the gutter or eave then we will perform a ‘ladder lean’ inspection in which we get up close and personal with the roof covering but do not actually walk on the roof itself. Some roof coverings should NEVER be walked upon except by someone who is prepared to repair the damage done by the stress of foot traffic. Such roofs include slate, wood shakes, clay tile, and others. Once again, we have a deep desire to get all the information we can from the home we are inspecting … if something keeps us from doing that then we are disappointed. Home inspectors are generalists, we have to be knowledgeable about many different systems and components. Sometimes though, just like your general practitioner M.D., we have to rely on specialists to get more information for us both. We may need to call in a roofing contractor on occasion to actually get on top of a roof. That may result in an additional fee payable directly to the roofing contractor.
What If The Roof Is too High To Reach Or There is NO access Hatch To The Flat Roof?
For roofs that are beyond reach, the inspector will view it from the ground with binoculars as best as possible. If this method is not satisfactory to you, they will suggest a qualified roofing company to send a small crew with the appropriate ladders or scaffolding to reach the roof line. There will usually be an additional fee for this service.
What If The Condominium Management Will NOT Allow My Inspector On The Roof?
As with all areas and systems that are inaccessible in a condominium property, we strongly urge you to study the condominium documents with particular attention to management reports and association board meeting minutes to find references to recent, on-going, or anticipated repairs. Please note: in some cases you must make prior arrangements and schedule access to these areas and systems with the engineering staff. The seller or listing agent typically makes these arrangements. Even then, it may be a matter of policy not to allow unauthorized persons on the roof; i.e. high rise buildings.
Will My Inspector Give Me Cost Estimates For Any Or All Of The Reported Repairs He Recommends To Be Made?
Some will. Some won’t. Even those who do will tell you that it is a very inaccurate science and will give you a very broad range of costs. This is due in part to the very wide range of prices offered in the marketplace and to the limited view he has of the problem at hand. There may be larger problems hidden behind what appears on the surface to be something very small and manageable.
What If The Inspector Finds Dangerous Defect In The Property? Who Does He Tell?
As your advocate, he will, of course, tell you. Depending on the nature and degree of the defect (i.e. seriously leaking natural gas from a corroded pipe) he is obligated to tell the owner as soon as possible so they may take action to repair the defect immediately. If they cannot be reached, he may take the initiative to call the respective utility company so they may shut off the service before catastrophe strikes. Again, depending on the serious nature of the problem, all occupants of the building should be informed and perhaps evacuated.
Do You Recommend Contractors To Do The Repairs?
No. That is a direct conflict of interest and a violation of company policy. We do not solicit or perform any of the work that we recommend. We have no affiliation with and do not receive referral fees from any contractors. We will provide you with information on how and where to begin your search for companies that may be able to assist you.
Does Your Inspection Include Photos Of The Problem Areas Of The Property?
Yes. We provide digital color photos of the more serious problems we discover during the home inspection. For problems concerning water leakage and/or poor insulation, we also provide infrared thermal images to help illustrate the scope of the problem.
Do You Use Thermal Imaging/Infrared?
Yes, each inspector at Spot Home Inspection Services® owns and uses thermal imaging equipment. It is a great tool but it is NOT an X-ray machine and it doesn’t make us omniscient. It’s functionality is dependent upon many factors including: the temperature difference between indoors and outdoors at the time of the inspection; whether or not we’ve experienced any recent rain and which direction the rain came from; whether the water service to the home is on or off at the time of the inspection; and other factors too numerous to detail here. In short, we use thermal imaging as is appropriate to the home being inspected at that particular point in time.
What Are The New Insurance Issues Homeowners Are Facing When Buying a Resale Home?
The new rules, regulations, and numerous restrictions that insurance companies have written and rewritten since Sept. 11, 2001 continue to surprise us. Homeowners that have never had a problem insuring their homes are suddenly faced with unbelievably high premiums or facing the reality of no insurance at all. In the case of no insurance, these homeowners are being asked to make changes (in some cases changes that are costly upgrades), in order to make the home "insurable". I may not agree with the definitions of "high risk" as a Registered Home Inspector, but this is the reality many purchasers face when shopping for insurance. It is also my understanding that some real estate agents are adding insurance clauses into the offer of purchase and sale to help protect their clients.
Some companies will still offer a "high risk" category for homeowners who are either unwilling or unable to comply with the required upgrades, but these companies are getting harder and harder to find and the "high risk" premiums are usually two to three times higher than they are for a similar home where the upgrades have been done.
Insurance companies today are finding themselves in tough market conditions. In situations where they are not making money in the markets, the income they make from premiums is that much more important. Individual brokers are forced to be very careful not to write too many of these "high risk" categories as they need to ensure their "loss" ratio stays at a reasonable percentage. If a broker's loss ratio rises too much, the company writing the insurance will cut the broker off. It is for this very reason that brokers are reluctant to take on too many new clients in a high risk category.
I would like to address some of the common culprits that are being flagged by insurance companies as the high risk items. By sharing this information with you. I hope that together we can help protect home buyers and home sellers from being side swiped by these new realities.
1. Knob & Tube Wiring: Was installed in homes that where built before 1950. The Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) does not have a problem with Knob & Tube as a category of wiring, they only suggest it be reviewed on a case by case bases. Insurance companies seem to take the simple view that Knob & Tube = Bad.
2. Aluminum Wiring: Was installed in homes that were built from the mid 1960's to the mid 1970's. Insurance company’s attitudes seems to be getting more restrictive on aluminum wiring.
3. Electrical Services Less Than 100-Amps. In Size: These smaller services have been an insurance issue for a number of years. Most insurance companies require an upgrade to a 100 amp. Service, even though, technically, there may be no need for such a service size. An example would be a small bungalow with no air conditioning, gas heating and appliances.
4. Galvanized Water Supply Piping: This category is very restrictive (insurance companies don't like paying for water leak damage). Galvanized pipes corrode from the inside out which makes them a higher leak risk.
5. Old and/or Buried Oil Tanks, and/or Buried Fuel Supply Lines: In addition to insurance issues, a homeowner may find that their supply of oil is suddenly cut off by the fuel delivery company as well. For a much greater understanding of the issues with older and buried oil tanks, please refer to our other FAQ on the subject entitled
6. Wood Burning Stoves: Poorly maintained and/or improperly installed units can produce fire/safely concerns.
This is, by no means, a complete list but it does address some of the more common concerns. For even more information, you can check out the Insurance Bureau of Canada's web site at www.ibc.ca.
It was my intent when I started this FAQ to provide you with a list of brokers currently writing policies for these high risk categories. However, with a heightened awareness of their business practices, I am now suggesting that insurance shoppers start with their own insurance company or broker first. If this proves fruitless, I recommend that the insurance shopper contact a different broker and strongly encourage that broker to contact one of the following three insurance companies currently known to write these high risk policies. These companies will not accept phone calls directly from anyone other than an insurance agent or broker. The following is not a complete list of companies but it is a place to start.
1. South Western, 2. Ecclesiastical Insurance 3. Elliott's Special Risk
I hope this information will help both real estate agents and their clients to avoid any unpleasant surprises related to home insurance.
What Are The Issues With Oil Tanks?
The issues with oil tanks are both environmental and insurance/delivery related. For non-underground oil tanks above 15 – 20 years of age, insurance companies are encouraging their replacements either by requesting very high insurance premiums or refusing to insure the home as long as the old tank is present. The reason is that the insurance companies have concerns about the older tanks leaking and the costs associated with an environmental cleanup.
The environmental concern is that if an oil tank (indoor, outdoor or underground) leaks, it can produce a very expensive cleanup problem. The worst residential case we are aware of in Ontario was in the Belleville area and the cost for that cleanup has exceeded one million dollars! Fuel oil suppliers are now required to inspect tanks before filling them. If this inspection finds the tank to be unsatisfactory in any way, the fuel delivery person is prohibited from filling the tank. This is based on TSSA regulations enacted in June of 2001. For more information on TSSA regulations, go to http://www.tssa.org/.
How Do I Find A “Qualified” Inspector?
When Should A Home inspection Be Completed?
A Home Inspection should be completed on a few scenarios:
1. Pre-listing inspection
– Allows you, the home owner, to address and correct concerns prior to listing
– You can find safety issues prior to having people walking through and around your home
– You will know all concerns ahead of the listing so there will be no surprises
– Can minimize negotiations when an offer is submitted
2. Pre-purchase inspection takes the risk out of your purchase. Reduces the possible impact of unknown issues in the home. Foundations, plumbing or electrical can cost several thousand dollars in repairs. Know the details before purchase.
3. Maintenance inspection. A home should be inspected every three to five years. A maintenance inspection gives you the same comprehensive and detailed inspection that you would get when buying or selling. The real difference is your are mitigating risk in your own home. Over time, everything deteriorates…electrical, plumbing, foundation, roofing, windows, doors, caulking. A maintenance inspection allows you to find the areas of deterioration and address the concern before it becomes a problem.
4. New Home Inspections (PDI or Pre-Delivery Inspection). When you walk through your new home with the builder for your pre-delivery inspection it is wise to have a certified Home Inspector with you. This will help to identify deficiencies which will be covered by your new home warranty.
5. A new homes first year (Tarion Warranty). Before you have been in your newly built home for a full year have it inspected by a Certified Home Inspector. Any deficiencies that occur during the first year of the home settling will be covered by you new home warranty.