I’d like to have a home inspector check out a property before I make an offer. The seller says she hired a home inspector and there’s nothing wrong with the place. Should I take her word for it?

You’re going to need more details about the seller’s inspection before you make a decision. If the inspection was recent, and you’re convinced the inspector was qualified and took a thorough look at the seller’s home, you might have enough information. If the seller is sketchy with the details, can’t provide you with a copy of the written report, or you still have questions or concerns about the state of the house, I strongly advise you to insist upon your own inspection. Please keep in mind that you will first require the seller’s permission first.

A home inspection is an on-site, in-person visual assessment of a home’s condition. An inspector will look at the home’s features and components and provide you with an honest appraisal of its overall condition without poking any holes in the building. Some inspectors may also be able to provide additional services, such as checking indoor air quality, or collecting and sending swab samples to a lab to detect mould. If you’re looking for a qualified home inspector, remember that your real estate will likely be able to point you in the right direction.

In the past, home inspectors were hired mostly by would-be property buyers, and it’s still a common practice for buyers to present offers that are conditional upon the residence passing an inspection.

Increasingly, however, sellers are seeing the advantages of having an expert examine their home before it goes on the market. A pre-listing inspection can help a seller develop a game plan; if the inspection reveals any major problems, the seller may either initiate improvements or provide that information to their real estate rep so potential buyers have a better idea of the time and money it will take to address issues.

Home inspectors approach buyer-initiated and seller-initiated inspections the same way. Still, there’s always the fear that a seller could instruct an inspector to do a very basic inspection so that a major defect goes undetected and undisclosed to potential buyers. Buyers often don’t have the same level of confidence in a report prepared by the seller’s inspector.

It’s important to ask questions, perform your own due diligence, and also read and understand everything you’re asked to sign — including your contract with the home inspector. It’s a good idea to keep copies of the contract and written report for your records down the road.

I mentioned that you’ll need the seller’s permission before you go ahead with your own inspection. The house is still her property and you’ll have to make an appointment if you wish to see it again; that appointment is actually open only to you and your sales rep, unless the seller OKs inviting others along.

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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