In a market as heated as the Greater Toronto Area, realtors are increasingly advising their clients to provide a home inspection with their listing. Sellers, keen on getting the maximum amount of interest in their property, want to avoid alienating any buyers who feel uncomfortable bidding without a report.
In such a tight Toronto real estate market, buyers simply don’t have the time to do their own inspection. When houses can be snapped up in less than 24 hours, waiting around for a home inspector or putting a condition in an offer could end up costing them the property of their dreams. Since buyers are likely to lose out on a few bids before successfully landing a house, they’d also have to hire a home inspector for hundreds of dollars each time.
But no matter how convenient, some buyers are wary of a seller’s home inspection reports. They wonder how trustworthy they really are, paid for as they are by someone with such a vested interest.
That’s why it’s essential to ask these three questions before putting down an offer on a house with a seller-provided home inspection:
1. Who is the home inspector?
A home inspection is only as reputable as the inspector. Ensure the home inspector is accredited by the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors, the only provincially recognized body of home inspectors. Ontario is also introducing licensing for home inspectors which will prevent anyone unqualified operating in this field. Still, spend time searching the internet for reviews of the home inspector. Don’t be afraid to go to the step of calling him/her up and ask them how long they’ve been working, if (s)he’s a full or part-time home inspector and how experienced he/she is with this home type. This is likely the biggest purchase of your lifetime, it’s no time to be shy.
2. What is the report missing?
A home inspector’s main job is to check for deficiencies that are likely to be costly or are a danger to a person’s health such as missing railings. The report should include information about the foundation, wiring, the water heater and furnace, among other things. A home inspector, however, doesn’t have an X-ray to see through the walls or floors, and will probably not climb onto the roof for liability and safety reasons. Information about asbestos and rodents, for example, may not be included. It’s not so much that the seller is trying to hide something, they may not even know about it.
A properly trained home inspector sees homes differently, but that there are some natural limitations to all home inspections. Dig deeper and ask the seller or his agent questions. When you’re walking through the house, do the best you can to check for any red-flags yourself. Bubbling wall paint, for example, could indicate water damage.
3. How much will it cost to fix these things?
It’s hard to estimate how much repairs will cost unless you’re a contractor. Hopefully, since the seller has gone to the trouble of paying for the home inspection, they’ve already fixed the minor issues, like window caulking and leaky faucets. Ask your real estate agent for advice on how much the more serious issues cost, like moisture problems that cause mould, or cracked foundations.
Remember: just because it’s provided doesn’t mean you have to depend on the seller’s home inspection report. You can call in your own home inspector for another look.
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