I have been referring my clients to this list of 20 questions, along with several trusted professional home inspectors in the Lower Mainland, since 2010. This content was originally published at http://www.home-inspectors.com/20questions.htm by Home Inspectors Ottawa. I have reproduced this content here simply in case this amazing resource is ever taken down. I have removed “their answers” for length and the fact that my clients in BC will not use an Ottawa inspector.
THE 20 QUESTIONS:
- How long have they specifically been in the home inspection business?
Generally, the longer the better. There is NO substitute for experience! Some inspectors only work part-time and many quote X years of experience – but experience at what exactly?Your goal with this question, is to try to gain insight into their specific home inspection experience. What you need to determine is how many years of actual full time home inspection experience the individual may have and not simply construction or related trade experience. Contrary to what you may hear – There is a huge difference!
Also be cautious of inspectors claiming to use all sort of “gadgets” like moisture meters. We agree that thermal imaging can be very useful and we use a thermal camera as a complimentary value added service, however homeowners need to understand that it does have certain limitations. Usually better results are obtained at night and during months where there are large temperature variations between outdoors and indoors). Since home inspection should only be carried out during daylight hours for the ENTIRE duration of the inspection (for your protection) and often occurs during months where temperature variants are not really great enough to be useful, thermography is not always as accurate as we would like it to be.
As for moisture meters, they are ONLY useful if you know the entire history of what has occurred in a home for the past 48 hours. Does the home really have a moisture issue or does the homeowner simply have three children that all took showers earlier in the day and never turned on the bathroom fan?. Some gadgets can be very unreliable in the hands of an inexperienced inspector.
Parts of our region are very prone to Radon Gas issues. Radon detectors that offer results within 24 hours are not always as accurate as those left for extended periods of time. Anyone who suspects that their home may be exposed to Radon, need only open a window to skew the results of a “Grab Sample” type of instant Radon detector.
Be mindful that regardless of the equipment an inspector uses during an inspection, they are only as good as the person using them. Home inspection experience is still the key to getting your moneys worth.
- How many home inspections have they personally completed?
You are trying to determine the number of inspections that the inspector in question has completed and not the aggregate total for their firm. Multi-inspector firms often have one “seasoned” professional on staff along with several other inspectors whose actual inspection experience may vary greatly from a few months to a few years. The more inspections completed, the better, as there is no substitute for experience! Seasoned, professional home inspectors may have completed inspections numbering well into the thousands.
- Do I need an Engineer and what standards do you inspect to?
Do you really need to hire an Engineer to inspect your home? No you don’t!
You need a Defect-Recognition Specialist. While professional engineers are very good at what they do, being an engineer does not necessarily make them a home inspector without additional training in defect recognition.A formal engineering analysis of a home involves sophisticated equipment, hours of assessment, and may cost thousands of dollars. If you hire an engineer to conduct a residential home inspection, a full engineering analysis is NOT what you will receive as part of a standard home inspection.
All members of the PHPIC, NHICC, CAHPI, OAHI & ASHI (including members who are Engineers) must inspect to the standards of practice of these associations. These standards of practice do not cover an engineering analysis of a property. Currently the highest home inspection designation available in Canada is a “National Home Inspector” through the National Home Inspector Certification Council (NHICC).
- What qualifications does the inspector have?
Home Inspection is still totally unregulated in Canada – So consumers must take care that they are hiring a professional who knows what they are doing. Some independent and nonaligned inspectors are indeed, professionals and well trained, however many are not.So how can you be sure that your inspector is a properly trained professional?
CMHC now recommends that you hire a professional such as a “National Home Inspector” or NHI. This is absolute highest and most prestigious national home inspection designation available today and is granted by the National Home Inspector Certification Council, an totally independent body responsible for the certification of only qualified individuals. This council ensures that their designates have the necessary background and training in defect recognition that is imperative to this profession. They also ensure that their inspectors are dedicated to continuous learning and are kept up-to-date by having yearly mandatory education requirements. Professional inspectors with this designation are bound by strict code of ethics and must adhere to specific standards of practice.
The National Home Inspector Certification Council who awards this designation ensures that all designates have also passed a Test Inspection Peer Review where they are tested by their Peers in the field conducting actual inspections. Retesting is required on a regular basis. At this time, this is the only designation that has this requirement and strictly enforces it.
While National Certification does not require home inspectors to belong to any association, many chose to do so. In Canada, there is a national home inspection association strictly for National Home Inspectors. The Professional Home and Property Inspectors of Canada – PHPIC ( pronounced fippic). PHPIC® is a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting the National Initiative for Canadian home and property inspectors across Canada.
Through its mandate PHPIC® represents the interests of its member and the public by promoting and enhancing member’s professionalism and competency. To become a full PHPIC member, one must achieve National Home Inspector certification with the NHICC® (National Home Inspector Certification Council) an independent third party certification body. By achieving this highest level of competency, in the Canadian home inspection profession, PHPIC® awards its members the prestigious PHPI (Professional Home and Property Inspector) designation of excellence.
PHPIC® is dedicated to helping every Canadian Home Inspector achieve their National Certificate Holder designation. This ensures consumers, governments,
stake holders, all associated agencies and professionals across Canada that its full members have undergone the highest degree of third party evaluation available.
PHPIC® is the only Canadian home inspection association to be found in reasonable compliance with CAN-P-9 and hold an equivalency agreement with the NHICC®. For more information on PHPIC visit www.phpic.ca
Many years ago, The Canadian Home and Property Inspectors (CAHPI) was formed as a spin-off of the American Society of Home Inspectors – ASHI. CAHPI now has chapters in most provinces but has often been critisized about the inconsistency between them when it comes to requirements of it membership. In Ontario there is CAHPI Ontario (aka the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors OAHI). Their full members are Registered Home Inspectors (RHI). While not as well respected by some industry stake holders as the NHI designation, RHI’ s are also required to have industry specific training and must abide by association standards of practice. While home inspection is unregulated in most of the country, by hiring either an NHI are RHI inspector will ensure that you are dealing with a professional in the field.
If you hire an inspector who holds the new National Home Inspector designation, you can be assured that you are dealing with a true Professional who has specialized training in defect recognition and undergone a full peer review test of their inspection expertise, techniques and reporting skills. While all recipients of this designation are not necessarily members of any home inspection association, they are subject to regular retesting to ensure that their knowledge remains up-to-date. Holders of this designation may practice home inspection anywhere across Canada. In Ontario, to hire a home inspector who has both their RHI and National Certificate Holder designations, means you are hiring a true professional who has attained the best credentials available in the profession today.
In 2001 the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) endorsed professional home inspection as “one of the best ways to understand a home’s condition, habitability and safety.”
You may view the CMHC document on “How to Hire a Home Inspector” from the CMHC web site
- Will I get a written report on site?
Verbal inspections with no report offer absolutely no recourse for the home buyer. Obtaining your report at the time of inspection may prove beneficial in the event that you need to make a quick decision on your purchase. The report however, is only part of the inspection process.Many consumers mistakenly judge the quality of home inspectors by the length of their reports. Some inspection firms provide large 400 page binders as part of their service. While these binders are indeed impressive, the actual report portion of them is often limited to a handful of pages which are comprised of mostly tick boxes and may not offer as much specific information on your particular property as many reports much shorter in length. Often home buyers never refer to the book again.
So if you don’t read the book prior to buying the home, how much of what was in the book, made an influence on your actual purchase decision? Isn’t that why you hired a professional to inspect your home in the first place – to make an informed decision? Some large reports even go so far as to state that unless you read the entire book, they are not responsible for your true comprehension of their report. Hope you’re not in a hurry to make your decision! Many reporting formats simply have tick boxes to indicate that items were checked and offer no comment on their condition or remedial action required. So what exactly does the tick mean? Some inspectors offer computer generated reports that produce long narratives that may contain “canned” generic commentary – which again while useful to know at some point, may not be specific to your homes condition at the time of inspection.
Regardless of the report format, a good report should contain comments specific to the subject property and should offer both observations and recommendations. Any report is only as good as the person completing it. It’s not the length of the report; it’s the information in it that is important!
Equally as important, is the information and explanations that you receive during the inspection process! Reading a statement like “drainage is poor around the home’s perimeter” means exactly what in real terms? Do you simply need eavestroughing, which is quite inexpensive or is excavated tile drainage costing tens of thousands of dollars required? The difference in cost between them is huge! Having an experienced inspector who can provide a running commentary on all the conditions of the components of a home, be willing to answer your questions, provide maintenance and energy saving tips and tricks along the way, give details about remedial actions needed and their approximate costs, will provide you with valuable information that may not appear in any variety of reporting format – so bring a notepad and take notes.
- How long is the average inspection?
A typical pre-purchase inspection of an average size home of 1800 – 2500 sq. ft. should usually take 2 – 3 hours (dependent on property age and condition). Longer is not necessarily better or required, but an extremely short inspection of an hour or a quick walk through should be cause for concern. Bottom line -your inspector should be willing to stay, as long as it takes to complete their inspection to the professional standards – period!Whether a purchase of a resale home, a newly constructed home – pre or post delivery, a one-year warranty inspection, homeowner assessment or pre-listing inspection, all should be completed to the same standards.
- May I attend the inspection?
If the answer is NO, find yourself another inspector!Consumers often assume that an inspector will simply pass or fail a home. A Registered Home Inspector is not allowed to make that call. Their job is to provide their clients with all the information necessary for the clients to make an informed decision about their purchase. To simply be handed a report may prove confusing and findings could easily be misinterpreted. It is in the consumer’s best interest to attend the inspection. Most consumers find this is the perfect opportunity to understand a homes condition so they can then decide why they do or don’t want to continue with their purchase. An inspector should be able to point out problems areas and offer recommendations for solutions. Good inspectors should also be able to offer maintenance tips and suggestions.
If the client decides to go through with the purchase, they should have a good understanding of both the good and bad aspects of their new property and it’s components. Often, new homeowners finish an inspection knowing more about the property than the current owners of several years.
Can they provide approximate costs for repairs and improvements?
A qualified inspector should be prepared to discuss this question with you verbally and encourage clients to obtain independent written quotes from qualified contractors for the repairs required. Remember however, that costs for repairs and improvements may vary greatly depending on their quality. For example, window prices will vastly differ between a single pane as opposed to a triple glazed, low E argon model.
- Do they contract for any repairs or improvements?
Under their professional code of ethics, professional home inspectors who are members of the PHPIC, NHICC, CAHPI, OAHI and ASHI are not allowed to be associated with any other construction or house related trade. While they may provide you a personal opinion based on their past experiences, they should recommend that you obtain 3 independent quotes from qualified contractors.Many reliable home inspectors will try to assist former clients with suggestions of reputable products, trades, or suppliers as part of their – after sales service – should a client require renovations or repairs at a future date. It should never however, be part of the inspection process! We suggest that you always get several quotes from various sources for any prospective purchases or repairs.”
- Are they affiliated with any real estate or construction company?
If you are dealing with a National Home Inspector, the only ALLIANCE is to their professional home inspection association and their only ALLEGIANCE is to YOU the client.(CMHC agreed with us wholeheartedly, they liked it so much, they used this exact wording on their web site!)
While many real estate professionals provide their clients with names of Home Inspectors who are members of know home inspection associations, others often recommend inspectors who are not. Knowing whether a suggested reference will prove a truly unbiased opinion is often difficult to determine. It is always suggested that consumers do their own investigation.
CMHC offers tips on hiring a qualified inspector, advising consumers to beware of real estate agent recommendations. “The only alliance home inspectors should have is to their professional association,” the CMHC web site states, “and their only allegiance should be to the home buyer.”
Many solicitors suggest that you hire a professional home inspector of your choosing rather than taking a recommendation from a real estate professional. Real estate agents are supposed to refer several home inspectors for your consideration – Regardless- Do your homework and check each company out in detail. Many real estate agents will not refer a “TOUGH AND THOROUGH” home inspector as they are often referred to as “deal busters”. A thorough and professional inspector is what you want and need whenever considering a real estate purchase. Someone with strictly your interests in mind.
- Do they solicit, receive or give referral fees?
Absolutely not as it contravenes their code of ethics!
12. Do you offer professional opinions on Construction Deficiencies or Renovation/Installation dispute resolution?
Recently, quality control combined with a lack of skilled labour has created an increased need for this type of service. Increased housing prices have also convinced some homeowners to renovate their current home rather than purchase another. Sadly many of these homeowners become recipients of substandard workmanship and/or materials. The introduction of the HST has also created a huge “underground” economy in renovation work done for cash. Sadly our experience shows that many cash deals go terribly wrong and often leave the consumer in a tough spot. In these cases an unbiased third party inspection by a professional home inspector will provide you with an honest and objective opinion of whether you received value for your renovation investment.
13. Can I call at a later date for information or advice?
Follow up advice is part of good business practice. Often clients want to talk directly to the inspector prior to booking an inspection, or may have questions afterward. Depending on the size of the inspection firm and their demand, you may simply get a pager or answering service. Some inspectors actually try to answer all their own telephone inquires in the field by cell phone.
14. What are their inspection hours?
As many people are at work during the day, it is often asked if an inspection can occur at night. When you really think about it, you might want to reconsider taking time out of a working day to ensure that your inspection is done correctly. It is very difficult to accurately inspect a roof or foundation during twilight hours and virtually impossible after dark. Would you buy a used car in the dark? Beware of any inspection firm that claims they do evening inspections.
15. What is your availability?
Most good full time professional inspectors are generally booked 2-3 days in advance. When making your offer to purchase, give yourself at least 5 – 8 business days to complete all of your conditional activities such as inspections, mortgage financing, appraisals etc…
16. How much is this going to cost?
A question that almost always gets asked first and yet should be in fact, one of the last and least important in your decision process. What good is a $50 discount if the inspector you are hiring isn’t the most qualified or experienced available. When you are about to make one of the largest decision and investment of a lifetime, this is not the time to think about saving a few bucks by cutting corners. You need experience on your side and lots of it!
Ask all the previous questions first to get a feel for their level of expertise and professionalism and to ensure sure that you are making a fair comparison.
There will always be someone who charges less!
The question is – are they your best choice?
The amount of the fee should be the least of your worries when you consider how much you are planning on investing in a home. Home inspection is no different than many other professional occupations – you generally get what you pay for. Cheaper is rarely the best. A professional home inspection conducted by a fully qualified individual is well worth the expense.
17. What are their methods of payment?
Cash or personal cheques are acceptable; some firms take credit card payments as well. Always ensure that you obtain a receipt. Payment is generally due and payable at the time of inspection.
18. Do they offer New Home Construction inspections covering all phases of the building process?
Many times new home purchasers overlook the importance of having construction inspections. Having a qualified professional oversee the construction process of your new home may alleviate many headaches prior to ownership as have been reported recently in the media.
Consumers interested in purchasing a new home from a builder should consult with their lawyer before signing any purchase contract. Your solicitor may be able to include a clause that would accommodate home inspections during the construction process.
One of the best ways to find out about a homebuilders reputation, is to knock on a few doors in a new home development and ask a lot of questions! You may be surprised how many new homeowners are willing to share their experiences with you. This type of research may change your mind about your choice of builder or simply reconfirm it. It’s amazing how many people say that if they had inquired with neighbours who were already in nearby homes, they might not have bought from that particular builder. Whatever the case, many new homeowners will tell you that they wish they had taken advantage of a construction inspection service.
19. Do they have a web site?
Many professional inspectors provide company details, inspector qualifications, range of services and other valuable information such as home maintenance tips. You may be able to gather much of your home inspection information from this source prior to making your telephone inquiries.
20. Can they provide references?
Any qualified professional home inspector should willingly provide this information upon request. If they have a web site, there may be comments posted on it. Clients or professional contacts who are happy with the service that a company provides generally allow their full names to be posted on a company’s web site. Seeing a testimonial from “Sue M.” or simply “Dave” might make you wonder if they are legitimate or not. Please bear in mind that Privacy Laws in Canada often make the sharing of very recent clients, extremely difficult. Prior to the exchange of this information, all parties must be contacted and their permission granted.