I’ve made my offer to buy a home conditional on a home inspection. But how do I choose a home inspector? There are so many options.

It’s clear that you understand why a home inspection is important, and that’s a great first step. For readers who aren’t so informed, a home inspection can identify underlying problems with the home’s major systems, like heating, air conditioning, electrical, roofing, foundation, and plumbing systems. That’s why it’s usually a good idea to make an offer to buy a home conditional on a satisfactory home inspection.

However, the experience, knowledge and qualifications of home inspectors vary greatly. Currently, there are no minimum qualifications or other requirements for a person to call themselves a home inspector. The Ontario government is looking at mandatory qualifications for home inspectors, but in the meantime, a little vigilance is important.

First, I’ll talk about how to identify potential home inspectors, and then I’ll explain the criteria you might consider when choosing a candidate. Ideally you should interview two or three inspectors before deciding which one is best suited to your needs.

Talking to your real estate representative is a great first step. As a regulated professional with a lot of experience with the buying and selling process, there’s a good chance they will be able to refer you to  home inspectors who can provide quality work.

If you do decide to go with an inspector recommended by your real estate representative, there are a few things you should be aware of.

Among the many services your real estate professional may offer, they might propose to retain an inspector on your behalf. Since you’re the one buying the house, you should have a direct relationship with the inspector. Being a party to the contract with the home inspector could prove important if a dispute arises later on.

Also, in some cases, your real estate professional may receive a referral fee from the inspector. You can expect your representative to disclose the amount they receive for the referral.

Of course, your real estate representative is just one of many sources available to help you find a home inspector. You can also ask friends and family who have been through the buying and selling process recently. They might have had a home inspector who provided good service to them.

In addition, there are various associations for home inspectors in Ontario. They typically provide references if you’re looking for an inspector in your area.

So, once you’ve identified candidates, how do you choose one? There are a few key factors to consider.

First, consider the inspector’s qualifications and level of experience. How long has the individual worked as a home inspector? And do they have any accreditations? Some inspectors are also licensed architects, engineers, electricians, plumbers, and so forth, or they may have other construction related experience. If they do have such an accreditation, they may have more expertise in that specific area.

For example, any home inspector can point out cracks in the foundation, but if they are a professional engineer, they may be able to provide more detail on the issue. An engineer could offer a detailed opinion that tells you how serious the issue is, how it could be remediated, and how much that remediation may cost. That kind of detail can be very helpful if you’re negotiating a reduced selling price in order to compensate for repair costs. You could also follow up by getting a quote for repairs from a contractor if time permits.

Home inspectors also provide varying levels of reports and support documents. Over a decade later, I still refer to my home inspection report from time to time, because it has so much good information both about my own home and things I should know about all of a home’s structures and systems.

Once you’ve chosen an inspector, read the contract carefully to see what is included in the scope of the inspection.  You should also confirm that your inspector carries Errors & Omissions insurance.

Of course, signing a contract with an inspector is just the start. Next week, I’ll tell you about how you should approach the home inspection process and what kind of questions you should ask.

Joseph Richer is Registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). He is in charge of the administration and enforcement of all rules that govern real estate professionals in Ontario. You can find more tips at reco.on.ca, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/RECOhelps.

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