I tend to leave my fellow professionals alone when it comes to their way of inspecting. We all do things differently, and while we might have an opinion on how to inspect homes, the vast majority of my peers are professional.
When you read the press, however, it seems as if all Home Inspectors are incompetent. The truth is actually the reverse. In Ontario, Canada in 2014 there were over 200,000 homes sold. The real estate industry suggest that 60% of those homes had home inspections. That’s 120,000 home inspections. The number of lawsuits successfully that prosecuted negligent Home Inspectors in Ontario in 2014, found trawling through CanLii, are….. well….none.
That’s 0 (zero) negligent Home Inspections out of 120,000. Now I don’t want to trivialise the impact of a negligent Home Inspection, but that’s nothing like what we are subjected to by the Media.
Of course, the favourite Inspector basher is none other than Mike Holmes. So I was dismayed to see Mr Holmes used as the figurehead when someone else in his empire reported in a recent publication.
While most of the piece gives good advice to the public, it is where they allegedly report his findings on a home where I have a particular issue.
I’ll get to those in a minute. First the good advice Mr Holmes spokesperson allegedly gives.
- In some cities, it’s a seller’s market, and you’re lucky to even buy a house or a condo. But if you buy the wrong one, you will lose it all and you will regret it
- Too many people have gone bankrupt and too many marriages have fallen apart because of one bad decision: Buying a house that needs a fortune to make right.
- What’s the rush? I’d rather not buy a house than buy the wrong one, and you should too.
- Sometimes people get a home inspection and still end up buying a lemon
Here’s where it all starts to go wrong. The hypothesis for the reason this last statement is made is tendered as “Why? Because they didn’t hire the right professional. Just because they call themselves a Home Inspector doesn’t mean they’re any good.”
It can be plainly seen from the above statistical analysis that the Home Inspector is not, even usually, the cause for someone buying a lemon. Most lemons get sold to people who don’t have Home Inspections. Yep! count them, there were over 80,000 homes sold in Ontario last year alone that did not have a Home Inspection. That’s 80,000 chances of a lemon. The 120, 000 that did have Home Inspections generated……ZERO…..valid lawsuits.
Sorry Mr Alex Schuldtz of Mike Holmes Group, while I agree with you that not all Home Inspectors are good Home Inspectors, it’s not the main reason for people buying lemons!
Here’s some more good advice/bad/ugly advice from Mike Holmes Group.
The worst advice of all.
Don’t select your Home Inspector by the price they charge. A cheap inspection is a cheap inspection. If you think paying $300 or less for an inspection that takes less than 2 hours is good for you, best of luck.
I can tell you from my experience, to perform a thorough, professional, Home Inspection on a home up to 2,000 sq.ft. (total space including the space below ground that Realtors forget to mention in the listings) takes around two and a half-hours…..minimum.
Anything bigger than that you are looking at 3-4 hours. Add to that the preparation of the paperwork, travel time, the analysis of any photographs and videos taken, the preparation of the report and any discussions you may want after you receive the report, you can be looking at 7-8 hours of time on your inspection. Add to that the Inspector has to have a vehicle, tools and equipment, continued professional development. This doesn’t add up to cheap. A reasonable price to pay for a regular (less than 3,000 sq. ft.) Home Inspection is around $400-$500 plus tax.
In some areas, at some time of the year, or for repeat business you may get it less expensive, but it’s the real cost of providing a professional Home Inspection. anyone who can continually do it for less is not running a full-time home inspection career and are doing Home Inspections as a side business.
So at the beginning of this post, I mentioned the article posted on behalf of Mike Holmes Group. I said I’d get back to the findings posted in the article. It’s very important as a Home Inspector to ensure you as my client are educated about the home you are either trying to sell (pre-sale inspection) or attempting to buy (buyers inspection). Part and parcel of that education is making sure you understand not just the potential problems but also the chances of those problems happening.
The Home Inspection Report is a snapshot in time full-disclosure educational session. Here’s the 101 on it.
First and foremost, inspectors don’t have X-Ray vision. We can’t see through walls, or underground.
Second, it’s not our house. Unlike Mr Holmes in his HGTV programs, we can’t go round knocking holes in walls to see what’s hidden, we can’t move items that would damage the property, in any way. Believe me, even a paint chip can create a court case from an irate seller whose home failed to sell because of a negative report in a home inspection.
Third, we have to consider safety. Yours, the homeowners and ours. If something is too heavy, too unbalanced to move we won’t move it. If there are a couple of boxes in a basement hiding the foundation walls, and they are all easy to move and there is somewhere to move them to without damaging them, the home or any person, then a Professional Home Inspector will move them. If an electrical panel or appliance appears old, damaged or in any other way compromised, a Home Inspector is not required to inspect them other than from a distance that ensures the inspector’s safety.
So what about the items Mr Shudltz mentions in the media piece? Let’s take a closer look.
- Missing downspouts or downspouts that direct water to the roof or foundation; could lead to leaks
Not could….will, they Will lead to leaks. Foundations are porous. Some more than others. Fieldstone walls leak through the mortar joints, block walls leak through the mortar joints and the blocks themselves, poured concrete is porous and will eventually allow water to diffuse through. Even the modern “waterproof” barriers have nail holes. I have never seen a hole that didn’t leak! Keeping the foundation dry is the most important thing anyone can do to reduce the likelihood of water entering the foundations, basements and crawlspaces.
- Vertical foundation cracks; more than one could mean structural problems, like a cracked footing
Or it could just be shrinkage cracks, or settlement cracks and the footings could be perfectly OK. The actual shape of the crack, where it is in relation to the wall and other components and other cracks along with the loads on a wall and the soils or other things adjacent to the wall can tell a lot about what type of crack it is. Deeply diagonal or horizontal cracks, however, are a totally different story. Any crack that is excessive in its angle (over 45 degrees for example) or horizontal in the foundation wall, either above or (especially) below grade should have a structural engineer report on it.
- Missing insulation in the attic and/or exterior walls; leads to higher energy bills and potentially mould
Mould requires moisture, if the attic and walls are properly ventilated, it’s unlikely mould will grow. I’ve seen more mould in “insulated” homes that I have in those homes with none.
- Trees next to the foundation; could get into plumbing and interfere with proper water drainage around the home
The roots might get into the plumbing (hopefully not the trees themselves) but what about the possible compromise to foundation walls themselves of the fact that some trees drain the water from the soil compromising it too.
- Lights that flicker; could mean something’s wrong with the electrical
With the electrical what? Electrical light, electrical panel, electrical wiring. I have fluorescent lights that flicker when the ballast fails, it wouldn’t stop me buying a house. Being precise in identifying the symptoms is as important as being precise when identifying the possible causes.
- Blocked soffit venting; leads to poor air circulation and possibly mould
Unless there’s another form of ventilation to replace it! There are thousands of older homes that don’t have soffit vents, there are tens of thousands of new homes that don’t have soffit vents, I don’t hear of mould popping up in all these homes.
- Mouse droppings and insect wings (could mean termites)
I blame this on the journalistic writing as I don’t believe anyone in the Home Inspection profession could relate mouse droppings to termites. Termites are pretty devastating to timber framed properties, so proper identification of them is important. I wouldn’t make that call solely on seeing a lot of wings. They could be ant wings, bee wings, fly wings or even Paul McCartney and Wings. Saying a home has termites just because you see wings is analogous to saying someone has lung cancer just because they have a cough. There is a host of evidence that would be visible in the case of termites or for that matter any other wood destroying organism (WDO).
- Patch jobs on the walls and ceiling; could mean a leak
It could also mean little Johnny put his baseball through the wall while playing inside. Again wild statements like this do not encourage me that an inspector, using such little visible evidence could professionally come up with a rational defence to making such an outlandish statement!
All the above indicate why you should choose a Professional Home Inspector. We are trained to observe, identify, assess and then recommend, not as it would appear some might do from the article, just look and guess.
I couldn’t agree with the last sentence in the article more. “Buying a house shouldn’t be like playing Russian roulette. You should know that you are making a smart investment.”
That smart investment starts by choosing a Professional Home Inspector that is working for you, and actually knows what they are talking about.
A Professional Home Inspector will give you an unbiased, accurate, balanced view on the condition of the house, not some snippets from a Stephen King novel.