Before moving in to a newly purchased home, many people wouldn’t dream of not having house insurance in place to protect their belongings.
Having a home inspected before you buy, however, can be just as important. It’s a form of insurance against being rudely surprised with major unforeseen expenses long after the contract is signed and the keys are turned over.
Victoria-area realtor Jeff Bishop, who has sold homes in the area for the past eight years, says it’s important for home buyers not to get scared off by a home inspection report that shows work needs to be done.
“It’s the inspector’s job to point out deficiencies,” he says. “But things have to be put into perspective with the age of the home.”
People need to realize an older home, unless it has undergone a top-to-bottom renovation, may need certain things replaced, he says. The key is being realistic.
“It’s a fine line,” Bishop says of working with buyers. “You need to manage expectations. It depends on what the buyer’s needs are and what’s important to them.”
That may mean asking whether they’re looking at a property as an investment or as a fixer-upper to live in, for example, and what their budget might be to take on certain renovations.
Major undertakings to consider might include switching from septic to sewer or from oil to natural gas, both of which may require a separate inspection, Bishop says.
Colwood-based Garth Anderson of Insight Home Inspections Inc., a longtime house builder who got into the inspection business 10 years ago, makes it a point to highlight positive aspects of a home along with any potential problems.
“As a home inspector you’re looking from the roof right down to the foundation and everything in between,” he says. “You have to bring everything to the table, both the pros and cons. You’re giving people information to make an educated choice.”
When home buyers come across what they feel is the right home for them, they often fall in love it for its features or layout. But a different story can sometimes lurk beneath the surface.
“We go into places where a lot of people, when they walk into a house, they don’t see that,” Anderson says. “People can cover up a lot of stuff with paint and carpet, but you can have mould or asbestos in the attic or problems with water seeping into a crawlspace.”
He uses such tools as thermal cameras and moisture meters to help see the effects of wear and tear on a home.
Lee Ottewell of Crest Building Consultancy, a 25-year veteran inspector based in Cordova Bay, has seen numerous scenarios over the years which illustrate the value in having a home inspected before an offer is made. While the majority of homes have good structure when built, deficiencies are usually the result of improperly done alterations or a lack of proper maintenance, he says.
One particular house he inspected had a truss-style roof. At some point, someone had cut the middle sections out of the weight-bearing trusses to build a bedroom, he says. “I was amazed that the roof hadn’t collapsed.”
Bishop, who routinely gives three names of inspectors to prospective buyers, suggests that people interview potential inspectors and ask questions about their experience and the depth of their inspections.
While inspectors vary in thoroughness, all are licensed in B.C. and must complete specific educational requirements and do regular upgrades.
Inspections range in price, based on the property size, but tend to average between $400 and $600. Inspectors write a report, often onsite, and should take prospective buyers on a walkthrough to clarify any issues.
“It’s a small fee, but it gives you peace of mind (about a major investment),” Anderson says.