Home inspection is an unregulated industry in Canada, but thankfully there are a number of resources and organizations out there to help homeowners find qualified home inspectors. Home inspectors play an important role in the buying and selling of homes, and their opinions on the condition of a home can influence a buyer’s decision to purchase a house. Home inspectors are expected to have knowledge of and training in plumbing, heating, electrical, cooling and ventilation systems, building structures and foundations, and roofing. If a home inspector fails to do a comprehensive inspection, homeowners may find themselves dealing with serious and costly consequences, sometimes resulting in problems with home insurance.
This is why it’s important to make sure your home inspector is qualified and professional. Before hiring a home inspector, it’s important to ask a number of questions.
Are they a member of an independent professional association?
There are a number of independent provincial associations that typically operate under the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors (CAHPI), sometimes called the Canadian Association of Home Inspectors (CAHI). These associations have established standards of practice, codes of ethics, and a hierarchy of membership categories starting with students and eventually graduating to what they consider "Registered Home Inspectors." To make it to the top tier, home inspectors must continually update their "credits," which consist of a combination of education, fieldwork, experience, and a minimum amount of association-approved fee-paid inspections and written reports.
Still, each province runs its association differently and not all are as stringent as others. This is why there are also nationally recognized certifications.
In the 1990s, a "National Intiative" was established to create a set of national standards and to develop a country-wide designation. The National Home Inspector Certification Council (NHICC) leads this program. The organization awards home inspectors who complete this certification with the designation of "National Home Inspector." The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation not only supports this certification, but highly recommends homeowners seek home inspectors with this designation.
Also part of the National Initiative is the Professional Home & Property Inspectors of Canada. This not-for-profit organization acts as a third-party evaluator and awards Canadian home inspectors that prove their knowledge and skills with the "Professional Home and Property Inspector" (PHPIC) designation. This designation is considered equivalent to the "National Home Inspector" certification in accordance to an agreement and administrative contact made with the NHICC.
Each of these organizations lists accredited home inspectors on their websites. That said, to be a home inspector in Canada it is not mandatory to have these certifications—unless you live in Alberta or British Columbia, in which case home inspectors are required to be licensed by law.
Are they insured?
It is not mandatory for home inspectors to be insured, but be wary of any that aren’t. You’re going to want to make sure your home inspector carries liability insurance, specifically Errors and Omissions Insurance. This will protect you and them in the event they are negligent or make a mistake in your home inspection.
Do they come recommended?
Many real estate agents will recommend specific home inspectors, but that does not mean that they are the right home inspector for you. Look also to your friends and family for recommendations, and when you have the names of a few home inspectors do your due diligence in researching them. Websites such as HomeStars feature consumer-ranked and rated home inspectors and other home improvement professionals. Some of the home inspectors on there have hundreds of reviews, and each year the site identifies the top companies and contractors based on these reviews. Take advantage of resources like these to ensure you’re choosing the right inspector.
Do they offer any guarantees?
Some companies and independent home inspectors offer guarantees so that if something significant is missed, or if the inspector makes an inaccurate assumption about something such as a furnace, you will receive a refund or they will pay for the repair. This provides an additional layer of protection and security in your home inspection. Just make sure to get the agreement in writing.
Can you join them for the home inspection? Do they have a home inspection checklist?
If your home inspector does not want or allow you to be present during a home inspection this should raise a red flag. Although some home inspectors prefer to do their jobs independently, it’s always a good idea for the home buyer to be around near the end of the home inspection to receive the summary report in person. This gives you an opportunity to learn more about the house, and to ask the home inspector any questions you may have. At this time, the home inspector can explain things to you in more detail and show you any areas of concern. This knowledge is good to have—and can even help you renegotiate the asking price of the home if components need repair or replacing.
Now that you’ve found your home inspector and your house has been inspected, The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation recommends homebuyers use this checklist to ensure the house has been properly examined. If you have a guarantee, this is the time when you could consult your home inspector about anything you feel was missed.
Good home inspectors are out there. Just do a little research to find the one that makes you feel comfortable and confident.