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How shallow an actual home inspection really is

"I have found the inspections to be somewhat cursory in nature and, unless you are totally blind, for the most part a waste of money."


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September 19, 2014 by Steve Payne

This from Jiggs, posted two days ago.

Seems like more work went into Jiggs’ post than some of the home inspections he is talking about.

Over the past 35 years I have bought & sold nine resale homes. I have never used a home inspector and IMHO after selling homes that were “inspected,” I have found the inspections to be somewhat cursory in nature and, unless you are totally blind, for the most part a waste of money. When you read over what they “do” inspect and what they “do not” have to inspect, one realizes just how shallow an actual home inspection reallyis.

For example, a friend was buying a home that was only eight yrs old. I went with him & the inspector to check out a home that he had placed a conditional offer on. Here is what I found that the inspector missed or didn’t report on.

-Basement window broken
-Sewer gas coming from a former drain pipe where the water in the trap had dried up from non-use
-Rust – and a lot of it – all over the side of the furnace where the humidifier was attached
– Sump pump not working correctly
-An extremely and I mean extremely loud furnace motor
-Bathroom fan not working. There was mold on the ceiling and when I put a kleenex on the running exhaust fan, it fell off!
-Downspout blocked
-Living room window would crank open but wouldn’t shut
– Shingles turning up on the south side exposure
-Holes in the ceiling drywall in the garage..there is a bedroom above the garage.
-A half dead 40 ft high willow tree that overhangs part of the house.
-A portion of the fence that surrounds the yard is leaning over towards the neighbors property as it appears that a cement patio is actually moving! Several repaied cracks in the patio also indicate a very large amount of stress is present due to the shifting.
– In-ground pool liner is pulling away from the side of the pool.
–It “appears” that the liner is floating!
– The pool pump sounds like “popcorn”
– The property is extremely wet at the back even though it hadn’t rained in days, lots of moss growing instead of grass….possible drainage problems.

Here is what the home inspector reported on….

NOTHING!!

Are you kidding me? When my friend asked the inspector about the other things we had found he said that he was not obliged to report on them. For example, there was nothing structurally wrong with the house. The wiring appeared to be in good order, the plumbing, absent the sewer gas (yeah he admitted he missed that) was functional. He did not “observe” the humidifier leaking so he could not comment on that; the tree although half dead did not “appear” that it was going to pose any immediate problem as it was still partially alive, the fence although leaning was still intact, he wasn’t authorized to report on the pool.

OK, what the heck good was he? My friend was still facing the prospect of incurring some significant expenses with repairs, etc. in the very near future and this “inspector” was not “obliged” to report them as defects as they “technically” weren’t defects yet. Wow, what a waste of money and time. As it turned out, although the house “passed” inspection, my friend suddenly couldn’t get “suitable” financing… another saving grace condition.

Anyway, onto contractors.

Having totally renovated three of my homes, I have a process I follow. 1) research research research. Research the type of renovation I’m doing, estimate the cost of the material (Home Depot) so I have a general idea of that cost at least. Research the trade that I need. I will do the Yellow Pages first, google the contractor and look for complaints. Check the BBB and of course get estimates. If I choose one, I will ask for proof of insurance, liability & WSIB and I will call and verify where I can. They, of course, will show me their photo albums of their before and after pictures so I will ask them for names and addresses: You would be surprised how many I have “weeded” out by doing this alone!!!

Once I have agreed on a contractor we write up a contract in which I specify that all major work must have a permit & inspections.

Money in advance. Most will ask for 25% down. I will do 20% at the most with another 20% payable at what is agreed as the half way point of the job. The remainder payable upon final inspections/approvals & job completed in full. I have never been burned and with a contract in place everyone knows the ground rules up front.

If people use common sense & do their own due diligence up front, a lot of potential problems can be alleviated before they even arise.


Steve Payne

Steve Payne

Steve Payne is the editor of Canadian Contractor magazine
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5 Comments » for How shallow an actual home inspection really is
  1. John Oborne says:

    Not a bad list on researching a contractor but here is the one I supply to my clients to ask other contractors.

    What To Look For In Legitimate Contractors

    For your own safety and reassurance you should be asking for and ensuring (get proof) the company you hire has or does the following.

    1. Updated contractor/builders license
    2. Registered company
    3. Insured
    4. Bonded
    5. WSIB clearance (check before commencement and before all payment installments)
    6. Trades WSIB clearance before entering site
    7. Certification in all materials installed (as required)
    8. Fall Protection Awareness certificates (updated) (all employees and trades must carry on their persons at all-time on site it’s the law)
    9. WHIMS certificates (updated) (all employees and trades must carry on their persons at all-time on site it’s the law)
    10. First aid certificates (carried by one employee on site at all times, it’s the law)
    11. Supervisory Safety Awareness certificate (carried by one employee on site at all times, it’s the law)
    12. Updated safety laws are implemented continually (in compliance with the MOL)
    13. Posted notice of project (it’s the law)
    14. Mandatory onsite safety box and signage
    15. Mandatory weekly tool box talks and site safety inspections
    16. Form 6 (certificate of substantial performance) is provide and registered (if requested)
    17. Warranties laid out under the construction performance guidelines
    18. Provides detailed estimates/contracting outlining the entire project, labour and materials to be provided
    19. Contract instalments with 10% or less deposits, no more then 25% continuous progress draws and 10% substantial completion draw.
    20. Company policies and procedures
    21. A minimum of 3 references for every year they have been in business (example: 10 years = 30 references)

    Most clients have no idea about any of this and don’t think or know to ask (until it’s too late). Most contracts may not know their responsibilities to clients and employees or do and prefer not to inform their clients or protect their clients and trades. Ask for all proof and make the calls to confirm (do it, don’t be afraid of the answers, you need to know!)

    JOHN OBORNE
    OBORNE CONTRACTING

  2. Andrew Jack says:

    My comment relates to the writer’s payment to contractor’s. Although he feels very proud of dictating the terms of payment and hence has never gotten “burned” by a contractor, he fails to acknowledge that many customers are not as honest, up-front, and forthright as himself. Any contract is intended to be fair to both parties. By having only paid 40% of a contract until HE approves the construction, he puts himself at an unfair advantage over the contractor who has invested 80% to 100% of the costs into this homeowner’s property. Unlike investigating a contractor and ensuring he has all the prerequisites, it is much more difficult from the contractor’s end to investigate dishonest customers who would use this type of deposit structure to leverage unwarranted discounts to the job, or not pay at all. Contractors always get the bad wrap, and there are bad ones out there, but there are also dead-beat homeowners (particularly the “investors”) and any contract structure, including deposits, should be fair to both parties. I would never enter into a contract with Mr. Jiggs under his dictatorial terms.

  3. Mike Piazza says:

    I have to agree with Andrew on the pay structure. I also would never enter into a contract with Mr. Jiggs on the basis that it puts the contractor (me) at a great financial disadvantage. Mr. Jiggs is assuming that the contractor is making 60% pure profit on the job without the additional misc costs of running his business (ie fuel, rent, insurance, employees, etc) let alone the fact of the contractor himself NOT getting any form of pay for the length of the job.
    I have always found it fair to ask for a reasonable down payment (20-25%) and regular draws of funds throughout the project at specific mild stones (or on completion of specific stages) – ie. upon completion, inspection and approval of: framing, insulation, vapor, drywall, plumbing, electrical, etc. This way as well, (hopefully) those trades get paid off leaving a smaller chance of sub-trade liens against customer.

  4. Steve, you hit the nail dead center!! I have been practicing as a Building Consultant and Home Inspector since 1992. Over the years I have experienced a growth rate that is very unsettling to say the least. When I started doing home inspections in 1992, there were only 14 Home Inspection Companies in the Vancouver, BC area. Fast forward to 2014 and there are over 500. The standard per-purchase inspection averages $400.00 for the purchasers of the dwelling. This is based on the lower end of the POORLY SKILLED and POORLY TRAINED, Home Inspector. Everybody or should I say the majority; that comes into the business DOES NOT do any market research, I DID in 1992. The key is for a an individual seeking a career in the home inspection field requires the following: Sound Knowledge of residential construction, a clear understanding of there role and RESPONSIBILITIES to the client, have adequate knowledge and education to provide the inspection service and to be PROFESSIONAL. I have found over the years of my academic training and experience as a consultant/home inspector that this is what it takes to be efficient and competent to offer your services to clients. I have found many quasi home inspectors, that are poorly trained and educated offer the level of service you have outlined in your article.

    They hide behind the veil of contracts in the hopes this will mask and protect them from their responsibilities and duty of care to the client. This is completely unacceptable in my professional opinion.

    Lloyd E. Lucas, AScT, CPI
    Licensed Home Inspector # 57747 BC
    Emerald Inspection & Consulting Services Ltd.

  5. Elizabeth Muckle says:

    I ordered 15 triple pane windows from Home Depot to my house in Manitoba. They requested50per cent of the price, which we put through on my credit card. When they came in the fall to install, they first removed all existing windows and then installed. They did not repair the living room frame which they had promised to do if inspection warrented. The caulk was nauseating and attracted bugs that fall and the next spring. Iscraped ice off the interior of the windows throughoutthe winter. I studied windows and found they had no permanent label as to manufacturer as legally required. The removable sticker indicated the width of the window unit was Wider than in fact it was.inches. Upon removal, it measured 11/16 inches. The letter from NRC energy efficiency office told me that the space between panes was not acceptable . Each space was to be approx 1/2 inch. Yet the removable labels said they were CSA rated and Energy Star rated. It became obvious that at some point, the company had provided a cheap substitute. They promised to address my concerns but tried different angles to evade the error. Consumer Protection negotiated that if I paid additional money (approx$7000) then they would provide the correct windows. They told me first of all the windows were made in Quebec and later they said they were made in Ontario.
    The display windows in the Winnipeg HD store had the correct Code spacing and labelling. The HD salesman told me that HD had a large legal department. Can you come up with any way to make HD provide triple pane windows that are to Code ?