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Published May 8, 2024
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Home Inspection Checklist for Buyers and Sellers

A home inspection is an evaluation by a qualified professional. Here's why you need one and what it will likely entail.

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While it’s not mandatory, a home inspection is something that most buyers will arrange prior to closing on a new property, and it’s one of the most vital steps to buying a house.

Here’s what to expect when you hire a professional home inspector and tips on how you can prepare for your home inspection.

What is a home inspection?

A home inspection is an assessment of a home’s current condition, typically paid for by the prospective buyer. The process involves a visual inspection of the entire property and examines everything, including the foundation, roof, attic, gutters, walls, windows, doors and more.

The processional home inspector will also evaluate the electrical, heating and ventilation systems, as well as the plumbing and insulation. If there are additional attached structures like a garage or deck, these should also be assessed. 

The goal of a home inspection is to assess whether a home is safe and livable before the buyer proceeds with the purchase.

A home cannot “pass” or “fail” a home inspection. Instead, the inspection may reveal major issues, minor issues, or no issues at all. The types of issues that are highlighted, and the way they’re characterized, may vary by inspector.

The buyer receives the home inspector’s findings and can use them to decide whether or not they still want to buy the home. The buyer can also ask the seller to fix any issues, or reduce their offer to accommodate the costs of fixing the issues after purchasing the home.

Why do I need a home inspection?

There are two main reasons to get a home inspection.

Reason 1: To assess whether the home is safe and livable and to document any necessary repairs, which may affect how much you want to pay for the home or whether you want to buy it at all.

      As a buyer, you can ask your real estate agent or broker to submit an offer with a contingency clause based on the home inspection, also known as a subject. If the report comes back as less than favourable, such a clause allows you to rescind your offer. Or, if you prefer, you can get quotes to fix any issues and use them to try to negotiate a different price.

      Reason 2: As a seller, getting a home inspection can reveal existing issues so you can make repairs before putting the house on the market. In this case, you would pay for the home inspection, but you are not obligated to show the results to any potential buyers, who are still free to order their own inspection.

      How to choose a home inspector

      Approach choosing a home inspector the same way you would choose any other professional. Ask friends, family members or even your real estate agent for referrals, and take the time to read online reviews of the inspectors you’re considering.

      A positive review or referral goes a long way, but you should also consider a few other factors when choosing your home inspector:

      • Qualifications, certifications, and any special training
      • Whether or not they carry professional liability insurance (which is required in some provinces)
      • Knowledge of building codes (both provincial/territorial and local)
      • Years of experience inspecting homes
      • Any related work experience, such as past experience in plumbing or electrical work
      • Experience with specific property types, such as older homes, new builds or condos
      • IAsk if they are a member of the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors (known as CAHPI). Individuals who are registered members of this organization have to follow strict codes and standards.

      Home inspectors are regulated and licensed in British Columbia and Alberta, so if you’re in one of these provinces, your first step should be to confirm any potential inspector is licensed. 

      A home inspector may not be able to inspect all systems on a property, as some might require additional specialized experience. For example, a property with a septic system may require a separate septic inspection by a licensed septic system installer or sewage hauler.

      What to expect from your home inspection

      Once you’ve chosen a home inspector, they will make an appointment to visit the home in question.

      The inspection itself typically lasts two to three hours and you’re allowed to be there during the process, though it’s not required. You can also ask your real estate agent to be present.

      What inspectors look for

      The home inspector will do a thorough visual examination of the indoor and outdoor components of your potential new home, including the structure and systems, such as heat and electricity. The inspector will identify any problems, needed repairs, evidence of past issues, and anything that might need to be updated or is considered unsafe.

      “Visual” is a key term here. Home inspections are non-invasive, meaning that an inspector won’t look behind walls or remove flooring. They may also be unwilling to move furniture or debris that might be blocking their access to certain areas. If the home inspection takes place in the winter and the roof is covered in snow, the inspector won’t be able to see it. 

      If any big problems are found, the inspector might suggest an additional evaluation by a more specialized professional, such as a plumber or structural engineer.

      Home inspection cost

      The cost of a home inspection depends on the home’s location, age and size. It will also vary by province, but you can expect to pay around $500 for a home inspection in Canada

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      Home inspection checklist

      If you’re selling your home and the potential buyer organizes a home inspection, it helps to know what to expect. Since the goal is for the home inspection to go as smoothly as possible, you might want to do a mini DIY home inspection first so you can prepare and perhaps even fix any minor issues before the professional inspector comes.

      Here’s how to prepare for your home inspection:

      • Thoroughly clean your home, which immediately makes a good impression.
      • Leave all interior doors unlocked since the inspector has the right to look in every room.
      • Make sure that there is unobstructed access to the attic hatch, electrical panel, furnace, hot water tank, main water line and air exchanger.
      • Unclog any slow drains in sinks or showers, and make sure there are no leaks.
      • Trim any bushes or trees that are too close to the roof or foundation.
      • Clean gutters and make sure downspouts drain away from the foundation.
      • Have paperwork ready to document any recent checkups of your heating and air conditioning systems.
      • Ensure all electrical systems are working properly.
      • Ensure all doors and windows open, close and lock properly.
      • Repair any cracks or issues in the outdoor masonry.

      Finally, you should make arrangements so that you, your family members and any pets are out of the way during the home inspection.


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