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Buying a home? Here are the top 10 things you need to know about home inspections in Toronto:
1. What a Home Inspection IS:
When you conduct a home inspection as a buyer, there are two things you’re hoping to accomplish:
- Identify any major problems with the house and get an idea of what’s involved in remedying those major issues. In all likelihood, in Toronto, you are not buying a new house. You’re buying a house that may have been constructed a century ago and renovated periodically (by the ex-owner’s brother’s friend who knew a little about electrical) over time. Your house won’t be in perfect condition and you need to know what to anticipate.
- Get an introduction to your future house so that you know how to maintain it. If you’re a first time home buyer, this will be especially important for you – owning a house is a lot of work and properly taking care of it is the only way to maintain your investment.
2. What a Home Inspection IS NOT:
Home inspectors conduct visual inspections – they don’t look behind the walls and under the floors (and yes, sometimes evil things are happening there). They are not specialists and often recommend further inspections, for example, a termite or environmental inspection, when they suspect there could other issues. Home inspections do not look for compliance with the building code or Toronto’s by-laws (for example, second suite apartments).
Related: Is that Second Apartment Legal?
3. Preparation for Home Ownership
One of the biggest benefits of a home inspection is that it prepares you for the house – what needs to be fixed immediately, in 2 years, in 5 years, etc. Most home inspectors spend the time to give you important maintenance tips (like telling you where the water main shut off valve is located). Good home inspection companies provide a written summary of their inspection AND a guide full of useful information about caring for your home. Some companies even offer advice from your home inspector for the time that you own your home. We especially love working with Carson Dunlop, our go-to home inspectors in Toronto.
Related: Deciding What to Fix First
4. The Home Inspection Process
A home inspection for most GTA houses takes between 2-3 hours, depending on the size, age and condition of the home. The inspector will go through the house, room by room and look for major issues; good home inspectors will go into the attic and onto the roof too. They’ll often take pictures which will form part of the written report you will receive after the inspection.
Sometimes, home inspections uncover big, unexpected stuff – for example, a roof that needs replacing, mould in the basement or knob and tube wiring. You may need to revisit your budget. You may need to decide if you want to take on major fixes or walk away from the house. And you may need to revisit the price you offered for that old Toronto house. In most cases, big issues are already known and have been factored into the asking price; but in other situations, you may need to go back to the Seller and re-negotiate the price based on what you now know (note: this is extremely rare in a Seller’s market). Although a home inspection should not be used to nickel and dime the little stuff that you uncover, it may force a discussion about the big stuff. A good REALTOR can guide you through that process. Knowing what we now know, what is the home worth in the market? What is the home now worth to you?
6. Licensing and Regulation
In 2017, Ontario passed the Home Inspection Act, which brought minimum standards of contracts, reports, disclosures and performance to the industry. That said, there is a huge variance in skill level, experience and standards of practice, so choose your home inspector carefully. Remember: the home inspection is intended to protect you and the money you spend by hiring a competent professional will be well worth it. Get recommendations from your REALTOR and friends and do your due diligence. If you unknowingly buy a lemon of a house, you’ll be talking about that home inspector for years to come.
7. Cost of a Home Inspection in Toronto
Home inspections can cost anywhere from $300 to $750, depending on the provider you use. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. Home inspectors come in all varieties – from the ex-handyman who now calls himself a home inspector to the engineer who uses thermal imaging.
Home inspection companies will generally make prospective homebuyers sign a waiver of liability, clearly indicating the limitations of the inspection. If something is missed, generally the only remedy is a refund of the cost of the inspection. So if they missed a $20,000 foundation problem, you may only be eligible to get your $400 fee back.
9. Pre-listing Inspections
In a market where there is more demand for houses than inventory, many Sellers choose to pay for a pre-list home inspection to help give potential Buyers comfort with the house in the hopes of creating a bidding war (and eliminating the need for 8 people to conduct and pay for a home inspection when clearly only one of them will get the house). Pre-list inspections are good – but remember that their client is the Seller. And in an unregulated industry, that could mean anything. Of course, there are some great home inspection companies out there who have reputations to protect, but we always recommend that our Buyer clients protect themselves by hiring a home inspector who works for them.
10. Condo Inspections
While most Toronto Buyers choose not to have a condo inspection because of the limits of what an inspector can look at, there are times when it’s important to conduct one. For example, older condominium buildings where the systems are not owned by the condo corporation.
Related: Should You Get a Condo Inspection?
Whether you’re a first time home buyer or an old veteran, home inspections are an important part of the home buying process.