How to Choose Your Next Home Inspector

Thanks to Reinhard Thomas of Inspection Professionals for his guest column with great reference material on choosing an inspector and what to expect from an inspection. You can reach him at 403-650-5159 or inspectionprofessionals@shaw.ca with any questions. Enjoy!

Hiring a home inspector is a lot like buying organic food. You need to look behind the label to see exactly what you’re getting. Not every “organic” fruit comes from the Garden of Eden and not all “certified” home inspectors are the kind of people you should trust when spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a home.

Home Inspection is a unique discipline requiring special training, knowledge and communication skills that differ substantially from those of other building trades.

  • Presently there are no requirements for home inspectors to take any courses or to have passed any tests (Note from Amie: as per my previous blog, this is changing later this year). Anyone can say that they are a home inspector and there are many “home inspection cowboys” in the business with no proper training or certification. That is why it is important to choose an inspector wisely.
  • Do not hire an inspector because he/she is using specific tools such as an infra-red camera during the inspection process. These tools do have their applications but they are not useful for the purpose of a home inspection because of their limitations.
  • “Certified” home inspector does not mean that the inspector is knowledgeable. Franchises do train their own inspectors – often only for one week – and then “certify” them. Anyone can receive “certification” through self-administered tests taken on the Internet.
  • The only home inspector designation you can trust is RHI. It stands for Registered Home Inspector and it is a designation that not just anyone can claim. Only inspectors who’ve fulfilled specific professional and educational requirements can legally call themselves RHI. The Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors (CAHPI) grants this designation. CAHPI is the only home inspector association in Canada that is recognized by all authorities including the CMHC (Canadian Mortgage & Housing Corporation).
  • Some of the requirements to become a RHI include the successful completion of several courses (approximately 400 hours of education) and the passing of 3 exams. After that a minimum of 250 inspections and inspection reports must be completed. These inspections and the reports are examined and verified by an independent committee of experts.
  • RHI’s follow the CAHPI Standard of Practice and the Code of Ethics. They must carry errors and emission insurance.
  • Choose an experienced RHI for your inspection. The more experienced a home inspectors is, the more he/she has seen during the inspections, the more likely it is that he/she will be able to detect any less-obvious problem. Experienced inspectors know where to look for problems and are in a better position to reduce the homebuyer’s risk.
  • Select inspectors which offer you the most comprehensive service and who include an inspection for visible mold, moisture and possible indoor air quality problems in their standard inspection.
  • Do not hire a home inspector based on the inspection price only. There are good reasons that some inspectors charge less for the service they provide. It does not pay to save $100 up front on a $500,000 purchase and then discover major problems with the home you just bought. When choosing your inspector, base your decision on professional qualification and experience only.

What to Expect from Your Next Home Inspection

  • You do have to sign an inspection agreement before or at the time of the inspection. This is an insurance requirement. The contract and the CAHPI Standard of Practice outline the limitations of the inspection. You have to be aware that limitations do exist.
  • A home inspection is a comprehensive, objective visual inspection of all readily accessible major systems and components of the home. It should make you aware of existing problems and potentially expensive repairs. It identifies major deficiencies and safety concerns.
  • The inspection complies with the Standards of Practice of the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors. It is to the benefit of the buyer to make him/herself familiar with these standards before the inspection. The standards are readily available at www.cahpi-alberta.com. These standards are a minimum requirement for all inspections and all good home inspectors will exceed these standards.
  • The inspection is a snapshot of the home at the time of the inspection only, based on past performance of the home and structure.
  • Within 24 hours of the inspection you should receive a written inspection report with a clear description of all major deficiencies. The report should give the reason why a system or component is considered deficient and a recommendation to correct or monitor the recorded deficiency. It will also point out the components, which are at or near the end of their expected service lives.
  • The inspector should provide you with free, unlimited follow up and answer any questions you might have.
  • The home inspector will not make the buying decision for you. He will provide you with the information that you need to help make that decision wisely.
  • You will benefit most from your inspection if you attend and participate in the inspection. A home inspection should be educational and provide information and maintenance requirements specific to the house. It is also a good time to become familiar with the home.

What NOT to Expect from Your Next Home Inspection

  • Not a building code inspection.
  • Not a tool for the buyer to renegotiate the price without a good reason.
  • Not intended to point out every small defect.
  • Not a guarantee warranty or insurance policy of any kind.
  • Not the OPINION of the inspector but only comments on the visible FACTS.