Home inspection not what it seems

Nov 28, 2009

By Dale Goldhawk

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Whenever anyone buys a home, he or she is cautioned to have that home inspected before closing to make sure the place is not full of flaws that will cost many arms and legs to repair. The trouble is that the person who inspects the home may not be competent enough to okay a dog kennel much less a house or condo costing hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.

I spoke the other day with Alrek Meipoom, President of the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors, in an interview on Goldhawk Fights Back on AM740 radio. I was familiar with the area of home inspection beforehand but it was depressing to hear him confirm it all again. As Mr. Meipoom tells us, there are a lot of people out there calling themselves home inspectors but decidedly fewer who have the knowledge and experience to do the job properly.

Want to read my comments in Goldhawk.com about Age Discrimination in the workforce? Have you tried to find a job lately and run into bias against older people?   Click Here

Mr. Meipoom’s association members are probably better than the average because, at least, his members must attend community college courses before being accepted into the OAHI. But a community college course does not a contractor make; I would want a lot more to be certain the inspector I hire knows where to look when inspecting my home. As Mr. Meipoom candidly admits, most inspections are superficial – inspectors don’t look behind walls, or into attics unless they are readily accessible, or into chimneys, etc.

I talked with Mr. Meipoom because of a British Columbia Supreme Court decision which ordered a home inspector to pay nearly one hundred and ninety-two thousand dollars to a North Vancouver couple for a faulty inspection. The inspector’s estimate of twenty thousand dollars to repair a house was less than a tenth of the actual cost of more than two hundred thousand. The court ordered the inspector to pay the difference, saying he’d failed to inspect the entire home and should have advised the couple to hire a structural engineer before buying the one point one million property in September 2006.

The B.C. case was exceptional; hardly anyone goes after an inspector for a botched home inspection. We just accept the inspection report and cross our fingers. What we should be doing, as this case attests, is looking after ourselves a lot better when we contract a home inspector and other people to work for us.

We should protect our interests by learning what to expect when we hire someone like a home inspector – it is a lot less than we would think. We should check the qualifications of a number of inspectors before settling on one. We should accompany the inspector through the whole process instead of letting him or her look through the home without supervision. We should understand that what we are getting is only a surface look and that we could find all sorts of problems under the surface after moving into the home.

And, we should make sure the inspector we hire has liability insurance. If he or she misses things that will cost us many thousands of dollars to repair, we should be able to sue with some certainty of collecting if we win our suit. Otherwise, we have no comeback at all except, perhaps, the hundred or so dollars we shelled out for the inspection and the satisfaction of yelling at the errant inspector down the road.

Oh, yes; don’t take the inspector referred by a real estate agent. In fact, don’t ask your R/E agent for a referral in the first place because the agent has an inherent vested interest in the inspection.

 As Abe Lincoln said, ‘You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.’ In real estate, home inspectors have been fooling all of us pretty consistently. There are good ones out there but many of us have hired bad ones. And none of the inspectors in the business do everything we have expected them to do. It is about time we realize this and buy homes with our eyes much wider open than they have been. 

If you do have a complaint about a home inspector who belongs to the OAHI, listen to this part of my interview with one of the head guys in home inspection. 

 click here

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