Making home inspections a part of maintenance will extend the life of your most important asset and set priorities for repairs and renovations.
BY SHANNON MONEO
Catherine Lord and her two sons have bought and sold 10 properties over the last dozen years or so. For five of the homes, the Lord team used the services of a home inspector. Lord initially had home inspections done to ensure the property she was buying wasn’t a dud and, on the flip side, to make sure the property she was selling didn’t have major problems.
Today, the Victoria resident is a strong advocate for making home inspections part of home maintenance.
“Once you move in and get settled, you never think of a home inspection again. But you should do it at least every 10 years,” Lord says.
To make it more compelling, she thinks home insurers should offer discounts to conscientious homeowners who regularly get professionals to scour their big investment.
Results of Lord’s inspections included information that electrical sockets were in bad condition (a fire and safety hazard), a perimeter drain was failing, asbestos was detected and flooding inside a home had repeatedly occurred. Many failings would have gone undetected by the untrained.
Once a property is purchased, Lord says that having scheduled checks will inform the property owner what needs to be fixed and what the priorities are. The knowledge allows the owner to plan and create a budget for the work, in effect becoming a maintenance schedule.
“You don’t have to do it all at once,” she says. “But why wait for a breach in the plumbing?”
But inspections can be a hard sell, especially since some feverish buyers were forgoing home inspections during the recent buying frenzy and later discovering their million-dollar baby was ailing.
Russ Cass has been doing home inspections for over two decades and has found many homeowners don’t want to know about their home’s shortcomings. “They bury their heads in the sand. It never plays out well,” says Cass, owner of Home Check.
One exception is strata properties. “Some have really caught on,” he says. Strata-titled properties have been dealing with steep climbs for insurance costs over the last few years and to address possible insurance risks, inspections prioritize work that needs to be done. Unfortunately, often the board of a strata understands, but the other owners in the property don’t agree, leading to delayed or ignored work.
Joey Boulanger has been working for Home Check for three years and has witnessed how strata properties require inspections in order to complete necessary depreciation reports. Yet when it comes to individual property owners, ignorance is bliss.
“We certainly feel we need to see more inspections,” says Boulanger, a certified home inspector who also has a diploma in civil engineering technology. “Small, incremental repairs can extend the life of your home.”
Vested interests aside, the value of regular home inspections should not be ignored. Having an accredited professional walk around a home, using their trained eye, can save a homeowner thousands in repair work. Yet a tiny percentage, almost zero, do it, says Boulanger.
“People think of a home as a static thing, but it changes,” he adds.
And if a home is bought without an inspection and without a subsequent check, buyer beware.
“A huge chunk of what we do is to provide insight into extending the life of the home,” Boulanger says.
It begins with a 45- to 60-minute walk through the interior, with verbal feedback, followed by roof, attic and basement inspections, as well a walk around the outside. The inspector will discuss what was discovered, point out what’s of interest and answer questions.
A report laying out what was found is prepared. Conditions in the five main areas (roof/upper structure, plumbing, heating, electrical, foundation/lower structure) are categorized based on severity and whether other professionals like electricians or engineers are needed. Items that can be completed by the homeowner, such as painting or decorating, are not included.
The initial inspection provides instruction for about three to five years. In the interim, homeowners should do a walk-around their house twice a year and take note of any changes, Boulanger advises.
Common problems that get discovered during inspections are varied, often depending on the age of the home.
The roof can often present problems. A home may be sold with a 25-year roof guarantee, but if moss wasn’t controlled, the life span may drop by 30 per cent.
Siding or cladding can also be compromised without the homeowner realizing. Seals on windows need close inspection. HVAC systems require knowledgeable eyes to notice changes. Poorly installed drainage systems, perimeter drains and landscaping can lead to major fiascos. Drains, for example, should be snaked out every five years. Septic fields and tanks also need attention.
Lord used the services of three home inspection firms. Often, a real-estate agent has a company or two they consistently use. Lord has been happy with all of the home inspection firms, but there are a few aspects she would like covered. If it’s an older home, she’d like more details. She’d also like to know the seismic-related construction of the home and how the concrete was cast. She’d even pay more to know more.
“I’d pay $900 and get every little detail,” she says.
Getting your home inspected before you invest in a major renovation may mean resetting some priorities, but it may also prevent some big headaches.