To buyers: there is no perfect house

Always a good idea to get a professional for a thorough inspection

  • Nov. 2, 2012 8:00 p.m.

Imagine buying your new dream home and finding out there was just one or two things missing, like attic insulation.

That’s just one of countless good reasons to make the call to a house inspector before you sign on the dotted line, says Roger Rygg, an inspector with 14 years experience and who found an empty attic in a new house in Maple Ridge after a busy builder missed the final touch.

“I could probably write a book,” says Rygg, who operates Pillar to Post.

“Some people think they can save a few bucks from bypassing an inspection. That’s a foolish, foolish thing.”

Home inspectors take a visual examination of things like the structure, plumbing, electrical and appliances in a home and give some idea how long they may last.

The home inspector can help prospective buyers identify needed renovations or problems with a house and give buyers piece of mind that there won’t be any ‘surprises’ after the purchase.

But inspectors are not experts in all fields and don’t take apart walls or floors to identify problems, so there are limitations to the scope of their investigation.

In 2009, B.C. became the first province in Canada to license inspectors, followed by Alberta, and now Ontario is looking to begin demanding home inspectors be regulated.

Before, anyone could hang out a shingle and there were no measures to help ensure independence and consistency from the profession, the B.C. government argued when licensing was instituted.

Consumer Protection B.C. now oversees the regulation and demands inspectors belong to one of several possible associations, including the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors B.C., Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of B.C., Canadian National Association of Certified Home Inspectors and National Home Inspector Certification Council.

“We went through many, many, many MLAs to make that happen,” Rygg says. “It’s all about protecting the consumer. If you can’t meet the standards, you shouldn’t be there.”

In 2011, Consumer Protection added the stipulation that all inspectors must do a minimum of 150 hours of academic training from a post secondary institution. Both Douglas College and BCIT now offer inspector training in conjunction with industry professionals.

The agency suggests a typical home inspection takes about three to four hours, and Rygg agrees. He says there are no rules on how long to take to do an inspection and says that some inspectors will still take less time to cut costs, but warns, once again, that you get what you pay for.

Inspection costs vary depending on the time it takes, the size of the house and whether there are extra areas that need inspections.

The typical range is between $400-$700 for a standard inspection that also includes a report.

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation suggests buyers walk through the home with the inspector and ask plenty of questions.

A run-down of what the inspector has found is included in a report the customer keeps.

Don’t feel shy about asking for explanations of anything you don’t understand, CMHC states.

“We’ve come a long way in how we can detect issues within the house and how we can report quickly with digital photos right on the spot,” Rygg said.

The inspection business has slowed down a bit this year after a decade of whirlwind activity as bidding wars led to several inspectors wandering through houses at the same time.

Or worse, the inspection process being skipped to make sure a sale goes through quick.

A saner buyer’s market will mean buyers can pay the proper attention to their inspection and make sure they are getting a solid home, he said.

In 2011, a house inspector was fined $192,000 after a North Vancouver couple sued for the difference between the estimate and actual costs of repairs to the million-dollar home they bought in 2006, at the height of purchasing frenzy and before licensing became mandatory.

“I always say there’s a lot you can do with paint and floor coverings,” he says. “ If it’s a pig dressed up with lipstick and mascara – it’s still a pig.”

While inspectors are often recommended or listed as possible contacts with realtors the new regulations demand inspectors remain independent and unbiased in their reporting if they expect to continue to be accredited, according to Consumer Protection B.C.

“We’re not doing this for the realtors,” Rygg says. “We work for the buyers, and there’s no perfect house.”

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