How to find a good building inspector
Last modified: 2019/01/17 | Approximate reading time 5 mins
For many people, investing in a real estate project only happens once in a lifetime. As such, most are not experts when it comes to choosing a building inspector. Still, since buying a property often implies spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, it is best to choose a professional who will not make any mistakes with regards to the state of the property.
Building inspection is an important step in the buying process. The role of the inspector will be to analyze the visible and easily accessible components of the various systems of the residence (plumbing, heating, roofing, insulation) to detect possible problems and hidden defects. The inspector then gives you a detailed report on all the findings. In the context of a real estate transaction, they are major players that can help you renegotiate the terms of the promise to purchase and in more serious cases, can help you cancel the transaction.
Problems related to foundations, radon, iron ocher and asbestos are all aspects that could lead you to permanently give up the purchase of a property. However, only an experienced professional could clearly identify this type of hidden defect, hence the need to choose your building inspector. Here are the essential factors to take into account when making your choice:
7 factors for choosing a building inspector
By typing "home inspector" on the internet, you will easily find dozens of professionals working in your area. But then, how do you find a reliable and experienced person? It is clearly recommended to get quotes and compare professionals to find one that meets these criteria perfectly:
1) Not being recommended by your real estate agent
If you are planning to buy a house, it is more than likely that you will use a real estate agent to find your property. Tip: Do not hire an inspector that is recommended by your real estate agent because, in this situation, they have a direct conflict of interest. Since the agent is paid only if the sale takes place, it would be a pity to come across a complacent inspector, whose sole purpose is to accommodate their friend.
2) Being covered by a professional insurance that compensates mistakes and omissions
In Quebec, there is no statutory requirement to become a building inspector. Therefore, since you have no certainty about their actual skills, it is imperative to choose an inspector who has professional liability insurance covering errors and omissions.
As the profession is unregulated, dozens of new homeowners have filed lawsuits against inspectors in recent years. Since then, most professional insurance companies have ceased to cover self-taught inspectors (inspectors who are not members of a professional order or an approved body obliging its members to hold this type of insurance). When the inspector has provided you with this insurance policy, contact the insurance company directly to confirm that the policy is still valid.
3) Provide referrals from past clients
A building inspector spends approximately one working day at each inspection site, which represents about three to six building inspections per week. As a result, any inspector should be able to provide you with referrals from at least ten clients who have used their services. All referrals are good to take, even the oldest, since you will be able to check if, after several years, any hidden defects have been found.
4) Complete the inspection report in a timely manner
The inspector must be able to provide you with the report within a reasonable timeframe. This means that it should neither be too long nor too short. Therefore, if the inspector offers to give you the report directly after the end of the inspection or on the same day, run quickly!
A formal report is delivered within approximately 48 hours. This allows the expert to study the photos taken during the visit and to carry out further research on suspicious elements. Since you will have at least four days after the inspection to declare yourself satisfied, withdraw from the transaction or renegotiate the offer to purchase, there is no point in rushing.
5) Having a professional past free of lawsuits and convictions
If you find such information and the facts are confirmed, this is a point that should definitely push you to choose another expert. It is not uncommon for building inspectors to be convicted for a poor inspection, so investigate before you hire. To be sure, check out the website of the Société québécoise d’information juridique (SOQUIJ). You can also do the same thing with the Office de la protection du consommateur.
6) Having relevant experience and training as a building inspector
Due to the fact that becoming a building inspector does not require any prerequisites, you must be extra careful in making your choice. Opt for an inspector who has a college or university education in the building sector and try to find out about their professional experience to see if they are truly qualified for this mission.
7) Be part of a professional order or an approved body
It is not uncommon to see building inspectors who also practice the profession of engineer or architect and who must be members of the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec (OIQ) or the Ordre des architectes du Québec (OAQ).
A building inspector may also be part of the Quebec Association of Building Inspectors (AIBQ) or the L’Association internationale des inspecteurs immobiliers certifiés – Québec (InterNACHI-Québec), two organizations whose mission is to protect the public by supervising their members.
Questions to ask before hiring a building inspector
• What is included in the inspection?
(Answer: visual inspection of the structure, piping, heating, electrical installation, roofing, interior insulation, ventilation, etc.)
• How many hours does an inspection take?
(Answer: 2 to 3 hours minimum, depending on the age and size of the house)
• What will be the price of the inspection?
(Answer: $ 250 to $ 1000 depending on the age and size of the property)
• Will you be allowed to be present during the inspection?
(An expert who has nothing to hide should not say no.).
Building inspector: what does the law say?
Unlike most real estate professionals, such as real estate brokers and mortgage brokers, the building inspector is not in itself a person governed by the Professional Code. However, if they practice another profession (engineer, architect), they are governed by a professional order.
As mentioned above, the AIBQ and InterNACHI-Québec have each put in place rules of practice and a code of ethics to better supervise their members. However, in the province of Quebec, the pre-purchase home inspection is not restricted to their members.
Indeed "Anyone with knowledge of construction can give themselves the title of building inspector and carry out pre-purchase inspections for consumers, whether or not they are a member of one of these organizations," says Mélanie Hébert, Prosecutor in the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions. Source: Quebec Bar Association, translation by Xpert Source.
According to the Quebec Bar Association, the purpose of the inspection is to determine the condition of the property at the time of the inspection. This is a general inspection and not an expertise or inspection regarding the building’s compliance with various codes or standards. The objective is mainly to identify the elements that do not work, to identify signs of damage, defects and to share this information with the client.
If hidden defects are discovered after the purchase has occurred, the court may share the responsibility between the seller (who had not communicated the hidden defect) and the inspector (who had not clearly identified the visible clues).
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