I’m thinking about getting a home inspection before I list my house. How do I find a competent home inspector?

Completing a home inspection can be a useful step toward selling your house. That’s especially the case if it’s more than a few years old. A home inspector will examine a property’s features and components — such as the foundation, roofing, electrical and plumbing systems — and write a report based upon what they observe.

Home sellers are opting for home inspections because the information can help develop a strategy for selling. If the inspector finds any problems, they can either be repaired before the property is listed or the real estate salesperson can advise potential buyers.

Speaking from personal experience, I found the results of my home inspection to be a big help when it came to planning, and budgeting for necessary repairs after I took possession of my house.

How do you find a competent home inspector? Talk to your salesperson. Your representative is a knowledgeable resource who should be able to recommend a reputable home inspector, as well as other industry professionals, such as appraisers or home stagers. If you haven’t yet signed a listing agreement with a brokerage, you could always ask friends, relatives or co-workers for recommendations.

The home inspection business has been largely unregulated but that’s already starting to change. Last year, the government passed a bill that included the Home Inspection Act. The new law requires that home inspectors be qualified, licensed and insured, and it sets standards for home inspection reports, contracts, disclosures, and the performance of inspections. One of the Act’s main features is that it requires signed contracts between home inspectors and homeowners, and a written report must be delivered after the completion of an inspection.

There are also plans to establish an independent organization to oversee and regulate the home inspection industry.

What sort of questions should you ask a prospective home inspector? Well, you’ll probably want to start by asking about their training, accreditations and work experience, and whether they have examined your type of property. For example, if your property includes a well, septic system, oil tank or any other special feature, it’s a good idea to ask about the inspector’s experience with such items.

If the main home inspector hasn’t worked with these specialized items, you may wish to ask a second inspector with the right experience to inspect them and ensure they are operating as they should. Similarly, an inspector who has focused mostly on relatively new homes might not have a keen understanding of cottages, or heritage properties.

You could also request references, and ask if they carry both general liability insurance (which is important if anything gets broken or damaged), and errors and omissions insurance in case their inspection overlooks a major problem.

You would be well-advised to ask to take a look at a blank copy of the inspection report they use, and insist upon a written contract, so there aren’t any surprises later on. Remember to read and understand it thoroughly before you sign.

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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