— We take our content seriously. This article was written by a real person at BREL.
We help hundreds of GTA home buyers each year, so we the importance of home inspections when it comes to buying a property and the potential risks of not getting one. But when do you need a home inspection? When can you skip it?
Does every house need an inspection? Do you need one if you’re buying a condo or loft? How about a townhouse? How about a newly built home?
Benefits of Getting a Home Inspection
Identify Potential Issues
Home inspectors identify potential issues with a property – structural problems, electrical issues, plumbing issues, etc. The issues you uncover will help you decide if there are deficiencies that are so serious that they may be dealbreakers; alternatively, the information might just help you decide how much to offer and budget for future repairs and updates.
Identify Maintenance Priorities
One of the biggest reasons to do an inspection is to help you prioritize and budget for the maintenance and upgrades you’ll do once the home is yours. A good home inspection report will outline which repairs need to be done right away and those you should be prepared to do in the short and long term.
Identify Safety Issues
A home inspection can help identify safety hazards, such as mold or asbestos. Environmental issues aren’t just dangerous – they’re expensive to fix too.
Help You Negotiate
Information is power, and having a better understanding of the guts of a house can help you negotiate. It can help you:
- Determine how much a house is worth to you: Depending on what you see in the home inspection report, a home may be more or less valuable to you and impact how much you offer. If you find out you have to replace all the electrical, and it will cost you $20,000, you’ll have to factor that into your budget.
- Negotiate a lower price: If the seller wasn’t already aware of the issues your inspection uncovered or didn’t factor the deficiencies into their asking price, your agent will use this information to negotiate a lower price.
- Negotiate Repairs: While we don’t see this very often in Toronto if a home inspection uncovers issues the seller was not aware of, there may be an opportunity to negotiate repairs into your offer, meaning that the seller agrees to fix or update certain things before you take possession.
Introduce You to Your New Home
It’s always a good idea to attend your home inspection – a good inspector will take the opportunity to introduce you to the important systems of the house and discuss ongoing maintenance. You won’t fully appreciate this until your toilet is flooding and you have to turn off the water.
When Do You Need a Home Inspection?
Do you need one…
… if I’m Buying a Freehold Townhouse?
Freehold townhouses – in other words, townhouses that are not part of a condominium corporation – are common in Toronto. And when it comes to freehold townhouses, a home inspection is just as important as with any other house because you own everything – the foundation, the roof, the furnace, the walls – you own it all.
…if I’m Buying a Condo?
When it comes to condo inspections (including condo townhouses), there are some notable differences compared to home inspections for houses. In Ontario, most of the building systems in a condominium are common elements, meaning they are jointly owned by the condo corporation and cannot be inspected by an individual buyer.
A condo inspection typically focuses just on the unit and doesn’t usually include an assessment of the exterior and inner workings of the building. Instead, it identifies potential issues with the unit itself – electrical issues, plumbing issues, or appliances that are not functioning properly.
While most condominium buyers opt not to have a home inspection, it’s important to review the status certificate, which outlines any major issues and costs to be borne by the condominium corporation. Knowing about potential costly repairs or renovations and whether the condominium corporation has the funds to cover them can affect the purchase decision and price paid in the same way as a home inspection.
There are, however, some cases where it’s a good idea to get a condo inspection:
- The heating and cooling unit is owned by the individual vs the condo corp and are no longer under warranty (this is common in condo townhouses)
- The unit is in a converted building (for example, a loft conversion)
- The unit is located in an older building or one that has a history of bigger issues
- You want peace of mind
…if I’m Buying a Brand New Condo or House?
Inspections for newly built condominiums and houses are typically conducted as part of the closing process via a Pre-Delivery Inspection (PDI). While you can attend the PDI yourself, you can usually bring a licensed home inspector with you to provide an educated opinion about any deficiencies.
…if there’s a pre-listing inspection provided by the seller?
In the GTA, it’s common for sellers to conduct a home inspection before they list their home for sale and make that report available to potential buyers. While a pre-listing inspection provides valuable information, it’s important to remember that it was conducted for the seller’s benefit and may not identify all potential issues with the property. It also might not have been completed by a reputable home inspector – the home inspection industry in Ontario is quite unregulated. It’s always a good idea to get your own inspection – the $500 you spend on one could save you thousands of dollars in the long term.
A home inspection is an important step in the house-buying process, and in most cases, the risks of not getting one far outweigh the costs, both financially and for the safety of your family. A detailed report provides you with the information you need to make informed decisions and helps determine value and future maintenance and upgrade priorities. It’s always important to conduct your own due diligence.
Home Inspection FAQs
Below, answers to the most frequently asked questions about home inspections:
You should schedule a home inspection as soon as possible after making an offer on a property, within the timeframe that you and the seller agreed. For example, if your offer is conditional on inspection for 3 days, you’ll need to complete it within those 3 days.
If the home you’re interested in has an offer date (meaning that the seller isn’t looking at offers for 6 or 7 days in hopes of generating multiple offers), you’ll likely want to bring in the inspector before the offer date, so that you don’t have to include that condition in your offer, making your offer more attractive.
The length of a home inspection varies depending on the size and condition of the property but typically takes between 2-4 hours.
The cost of a home inspection varies depending on the location and size of the property, as well as the inspector’s experience and qualifications. In Toronto, the cost of a home inspection can range from $350-$600.
Buyers are encouraged to attend the home inspection, as it can provide them with valuable information about the property and any potential issues.
If issues are found during the home inspection, you can use this information to negotiate repairs or a lower purchase price. In some cases, buyers may choose to walk away from the purchase altogether.
Home inspectors typically examine the property’s structure, roof, exterior, electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling systems, interior, insulation and ventilation, and appliances.
Home inspectors conduct visual inspections – they don’t look behind the walls and under the floors. They are not specialists and often recommend further inspections, for example, a mold, 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).
While home inspectors can identify potential issues with the property, they typically only provide very general cost estimates for repairs. Buyers may need to hire a specialist for further evaluation and cost estimates.
A home inspection report typically includes a summary of the inspector’s findings, a detailed list of any issues with the property, photos of the roof or anything else not easily visible, and recommendations for repairs or further evaluation. Here’s a link to a sample inspection report from Carson Dunlop, one of our favourite inspection companies in Toronto.
No, a home inspection is not required by law in Toronto, but it is highly recommended for anyone considering buying a property.
Yes, buyers can use the home inspection report to negotiate repairs or a lower purchase price. Keep in mind that this doesn’t happen frequently in Toronto because there is usually more demand than supply and the housing market is very competitive.
You don’t have to hire a professional home inspector, but it’s highly recommended.
Home inspectors in Toronto are not required to be licensed, but it is recommended that buyers choose an inspector who is a member of a reputable professional organization.
Buyers should research potential inspectors and choose one with experience, qualifications, and a good reputation. It is also important to read online reviews, review sample reports and ask your realtor for recommendations.
No, home inspections typically do not include environmental testing, such as for mold or asbestos. Buyers may need to hire a specialist for further evaluation.
If the report reveals major issues with the property, consult with your real estate agent to determine the best course of action.
When you hire a home inspector, you usually sign a waiver restricting your rights to sue the home inspector for more than the cost of the inspection, however, if your inspector was negligent, you may have legal recourse. Talk to your lawyer.
Yes, sellers can provide a pre-listing home inspection. They typically do that to ensure that there are no deficiencies they were unaware of and to help them price the property. If they are hoping to receive multiple offers, sharing details about the condition of the home can increase the number of buyers by giving them confidence. But it’s caveat emptor when it comes to pre-listing home inspections – the inspector has no obligations to the buyer.
While a pre-listing inspection can provide valuable information about the condition of the property, it is still recommended that buyers obtain their own to ensure they have a complete picture of the property’s condition.
The risks of not getting a home inspection include potentially purchasing a property with hidden issues or defects that can be costly to repair or impact the safety of the occupants. It is always recommended that buyers obtain a home inspection to protect their investment and ensure the safety of their family.
Related: Overview of Home Inspections