12 Common Misconceptions about Ontario Home Inspectors

Common misconceptions about Ontario home inspectors

Common misconceptions about Ontario home inspectors

*This article was provided by OntarioACHI.ca


The media has had a lot to say aboutOntario Home Inspectors and home inspections in recent years, and not everything that has been said has been entirely accurate or even representative of the profession as a whole.

It is important that people thinking of employing a Home Inspector understands what a home inspection is, how to search for a Home Inspector and how to select the right one for their purposes.

We decided to help set the record straight about many misconceptions about Ontario Home Inspectors.

1. Ontario Home Inspectors are regulated by the government

This is not true.  In Ontario, there is no provincial licensing program for Home Inspectors.  While the provincial government is moving towards regulation of the home inspection profession, it has not yet completed the policy review or enacted any Bills in Parliament.

A Home Inspector may have a business that is licensed by the local jurisdiction, but we are only aware of one Ontario jurisdiction that demands a home inspection business be licensed and that is Barrie, Ontario.

An Ontario Home Inspector is not being truthful if he or she claims to be a  “Licensed Home Inspector.”

2. Home Inspectors work for the real estate agent

Ontario Home Inspectors should always work for the client.  The Home Inspector is there to assist the client, whether buying or selling, to understand the accurate condition of a property.

Oftentimes when a client selects an Ontario Home Inspector it is through the recommendation of the real estate agent.  While many real estate agents are professional, as in every profession there are some who put their own income before the needs of the client.

If you are thinking about purchasing or selling a home, the first thing you should look into after making the decision is who you are going to select as your Home Inspector.   You should do this before you even consider the real estate agent you are going to select.  The reason for this is that a professional Home Inspector will be the person who is going to not only tell you if there are any major problems with a property, but also help you understand the maintenance that is needed .

3. Home Inspectors should only be used for buying

This has been the case to date, but recently the advent of pre-sale inspections has been more frequent.  The past principle, again put forward by the realty profession, is that having an inspection is a snapshot in time and therefore the report is only relevant to the time of the inspection.

While this is true, it does not explain the benefit of having a pre-sale inspection.  Remember in this case the Home Inspector is still working only for the client.  Many people think that this means the Home Inspector will write a “soft report” to help the client sell their home.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Many Home Inspectors perform pre-sale inspections and this gives them the advantage of discussing their findings with the current homeowner.  Frequently, inspectors find more in a pre-sale inspection than they would in a buyer’s inspection because they can get the home owner to expose areas that might be hidden.  They can also query them, and ask for proof of previous repairs and maintenance efforts.

Generally the first pre-sale inspection report identifies a large number of defects which are categorized as major, minor or maintenance.  This allows the homeowner to make repairs before a second inspection which affirms the home to be listed is in the condition the homeowner wants it to be seen by other inspectors.

The advantage of this process is that it stops the 11th hour negotiations that are the main cause of a home sale failing.

4. Home Inspectors are responsible for everything that is missed

Unless, and only during a pre-sale inspection, the homeowner outright tells the Ontario Home Inspector about damage to the property, a home inspection is a visual inspection of the property.  A visual inspection is dependent obviously on what can be seen, at the time of the inspection.  It cannot absolutely diagnose the cause or any conditions, although many experienced Ontario Home Inspectors can hazard educated estimates at this.

It can never identify what will happen in the future, but again a well-trained, experienced Home Inspector should be able to identify from visual inspections the possibility of concerns occurring if remedial work is not done.  Sometimes a phenomenal weather condition will happen or a hidden defect will cause a problem.  The Home Inspector cannot be held responsible for these items as it is beyond their control.

If you feel a Home Inspector has missed something, talk to them first.  A professional Home Inspector will explain what was identified, and how and why something may have been missed, if indeed it was.

Generally a direct approach will generate a faster, less expensive resolution to a problem than getting lawyers involved.  A Home Inspector should not be relied upon as a source of financial support should a problem that was impossible to identify visually at the inspection manifests itself later.

5. All Ontario Home Inspectors are the same, so a cheap inspector is as good as an expensive one

It is true that all inspectors are limited by the visual nature of an inspection, and therefore bound by the same constraints.  This does not, however, make them all the same any more than it makes all bus drivers or all shopkeepers the same.

Your first question should not be “How much do you charge for a home inspection?”Your focus should be on the importance getting a Home Inspector who is trained, experienced, professional, trustworthy and independent.  Experience is sometimes difficult to come by, as the home inspection profession has a high turnover, mainly because of the reliance on the housing market and low income from inspections.  This is why when selecting a Home Inspector, you should ask for their credentials and certifications.

A properly certified Home Inspector will identify an inspector that has been trained and has proven experience.  Certified Home Inspectors generally have to be members of an association that offers a disciplinary process to ensure the award and removal of certifications are managed properly.

Professional Home Inspectors will generally have their own company, a company website, a company email address and publish this in full view for all to find.  Avoid the inspector who only has a telephone number and generic email address (hotmail, gmail yahoo).  All professional businesses have an address; your Home Inspector should have one, too.

Professional Home Inspectors also have an array of tools including moisture meters, electrical testers, plumbing pressure testers, thermal IR cameras, ladders and cameras. The Home Inspector should be using inspection software that allows you to view their reports online or print as you see fit.

A good inspector will look to protect the home they are inspecting so they will have indoor and outdoor shoes or booties to protect the floors.

Really good inspectors will have a police background check, they are, after all, going through someone else’s home and should be trustworthy.  All of this costs money, which pushes up the costs of being a Home Inspector and the price of the home inspection.

A cheap Home Inspector is just that.

6. The real estate agent is the best referral for a Home Inspector

Remember a Home Inspector only charges between $350 and $650, depending upon age and size, to inspect a home, and a traditional real estate agent stands to lose thousands if a deal fails to materialize.  If you are being referred to a Home Inspector by a real estate agent, check the following:

  • Does the Home Inspector have any ties to the real estate agent?
  • Are the Home Inspector and real estate agent related?
  • Is the Home Inspector on a paid referral list at the broker’s office?
  • Does the Home Inspector pay a referral fee to the real estate agent?
  • Does the real estate agent recommend three to five Home Inspectors but recommends one over the others?

If any of the above are the case, then there may be a conflict of interest between the real estate agent and the Home Inspector, and you should consider choosing a Home Inspector through someone else’s recommendation.

At the very least, perform your own background check.  Phone the inspector, talk to them, ask them questions.  You should be comfortable with them being able to talk to you in terms you understand.

7. Avoid the Ontario Home Inspector that is called a Deal Killer

There is a term used by some real estate agents when referring to some Ontario Home Inspectors:  “Deal Killer.”  This is not a term you will hear from a good professional real estate agent, but if you hear it, this is the Home Inspector you should seek out.

It is the Home Inspector who will be honest (sometimes brutally) about the condition of a property, which often scares the client away.  That said, sometime these inspectors are prone to covering their own liability by over emphasizing a problem with the property.

If you are ever in a situation where something your Home Inspector says concerns you, ask them questions about it.  Ask why they  are so concerned, ask them to identify what possible remedial fixes could solve the problems.

In my personal experience, most inspectors labelled “Deal Killers” are highly educated and can answer any question about the  concerns you have in terms that will either dispel or confirm any fears you may have, and allow you to make the right decision for yourself.

If your inspector can’t answer your question, then you have probably selected the wrong inspector.

8. Only older homes need an inspector

Brand new homes have problems.  This is why the Tarion Warranty was created.  Homes that are just three of four years old may have been neglected by their owners.  Houses that are 10-15 years old have components that are nearing the end of their life.

A professional Home Inspector is taught to look beyond the aesthetics of the home, they recognize modern codes that may not apply to older homes, but offer safety features you might want to incorporate.

Older homes certainly require more detailed investigations than the modern home, which is why many inspectors charge a premium for homes over 50 years old, but no home is guaranteed free of defects.

9. Registered Home Inspector (RHI) is the highest and best certification

The Registered Home Inspector (RHI) Certification is but one certificate for Home Inspectors.  It is awarded by the Ontario Association of Certified Home Inspectors (OAHI) who are part of the Ontario branch of the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors (CAHPI).  The media would have everyone believe that this is the only recognizable certification for Home Inspectors but this is not true.

In Ontario there are four certifications that are at least equivalent to the RHI, these are the National Home Inspector (NHI), the Professional Home and Property Inspector (PHPI), the Certified Master Inspector (CMI) and the Canadian Certified Home Inspector (CCHI).  Each awarded certification requires the holder to prove education and skills.

Some associations demand their certified members are educated solely using college courses.  Other associations recognize that not everyone learns the same way and understand the benefits of flexible education and allow distance learning and/or college work.

Some certifications require police background checks, others require mandatory operating insurance.  For more information about all the designations, associations and inspector qualifications across Ontario, check out OntarioACHI.ca.

In law, anyone who is a member of OAHI can call themselves a Registered Home Inspector, whether they are a student, retired member, candidate or full-member.  This is written in the Act of Parliament that was used to form OAHI.  Always check the OAHI website to see that anyone calling themselves an RHI does actually have the qualifications they claim.  This goes additionally for all the other certifications.

10. A general contractor is as good as a Home Inspector

A  Home Inspector is required to understand the home from both a construction and a rudimentary specialist level.  Home Inspectors must understand the mechanics of a home, how it breathes, what might damage it, or cause it to deteriorate quicker than it should.

A Home Inspector needs to understand the fundamentals of HVAC systems, wood burning heating, electrical systems, plumbing and waste and sometimes septic systems.  A general contractor generally knows only a small portion of this, and relies on specialized professionals to perform the work he or she can’t.

This is why a general contractor is not the right person to use for a home inspection.  In addition, there is the issue of conflict of interest.  A professional Home Inspector is bound by a strict code of practice.  Once a Home Inspector has inspected a home they are bound to not work on that home for at least 12 months.

A General contractor has no such standard of practice, and could easily be using the home inspection to generate other business.

11. Home Inspectors often recommend further inspections by other professionals, so why not use them from the start?

It is true that during an inspection a Home Inspector will defer to the skills of another professional, but relying on these professional alone will not guarantee you a better result.  It will definitely cost you more.  For example, an electrician will not recommend electrical bonding on a corrugated steel gas line, neither will a gas installer.  Each profession sees it as an areas that belongs to the other.

A Home Inspector is independent of these professions and is cross trained to an extent so can see issues that cross the areas of responsibilities.

12. The Home Inspector should be able to proceed immediately as soon as we agree on the price, property and time

This is an area that many Home Inspectors, real estate agents and clients misunderstand.  It is extremely important that before the Home Inspector starts the home inspection, the client has seen the home inspection agreement between the client and the Home Inspector, including the price that is to be charged for the inspection and has agreed to the terms of that agreement.  This must be done in writing, either by fax, e-mail or electronic confirmation (electronic signature).  Ideally a hard copy of the agreement should be signed by both parties prior to the inspection starting, but this is not always possible.

This is a binding contract between the Home Inspector and the client.  It protects both parties in the event of a problem.  The fact that the home inspection may be on short notice does not mean this important step should be missed.

All clients should understand fully what they are agreeing to when employing a Home Inspector, what the inspection consists of, and what the limitations are.  The Home Inspector should be able to answer any questions with respect to the agreement before the client agrees to it.  If a client is unsure of a clause, they should ask the Home Inspector to explain it.

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