Since the dawn of Holmes on Homes and every other real estate related TV show, buyers have started to feel that they are building inspectors. Uncle Joe may have renovated 5 homes in the last 10 years but he is not up to date on codes and local issues. Professional building inspectors inspect 5 to 10 houses a week! I have attended too many inspections to count but I still rely on professional inspectors to advise me.
I want to make myself super clear here…
Hire a Real Estate Board approved inspector who has professional liability insurance covering fault, error and omission. Quebec doesn’t have laws to who can or can’t be a building inspector, all they have to do is get a business licence. However, the real estate board OACIQ, has 5 organizations of inspectors that they have approved. The 5 approved associations are;
The Quebec Association of building Inspectors (QABI)
The National Building Inspectors and experts Association (NBIEA)
Les inspecteurs thermographes de l’ATIB
The Quebec Order of Architects
These inspector’s must;
- Have Liability insurance
- Have a recognized inspection service agreement
- Practice standards recognized by the OACIQ
- Provide a written report
So step one; ask your real estate broker for a list of reputable and insured building inspectors from the area. If they are a member of an approved OACIQ association even better! Use a local inspector! They will know the issues relate to the neighborhood you are buying in, like Pyrite and iron ochre.
Step two; realize that an building inspector is like a GP doctor, they have a great base knowledge, can diagnose common issues but they refer to a specialist when for the bigger issues. An inspector is there to flag issues; he will let you know his opinion but if it is a bigger issue he should suggest to bring in a specialist.
I have had a building inspector tell a buyer that the house needed a new central support beam only to be told by the specialist that it just needed one support post. Big difference in price between the two! So make sure you ask a specialist before you run for the hills.
Have the chimneys inspected by a chimney inspector, a building inspector will just do a visual where a chimney inspector will go deeper.
If there is a septic system have the owner clean and ensure it is in good working order it prior to closing. Older Heating systems should be inspected as well if they are not regularly service.
Understand that inspections are for you to find out about the house and to verify there is not a major structural defect(s). A building inspection is not done so you can re-negotiate with the owner to fix small issues. The buyer must act in good faith under all circumstances. In most cases you are not buying a brand new home, maintenance and small issues are to be expected. I don’t think I have ever been to an inspection where the inspector didn’t say that the soil around the outside of the house needed to be re-graded slanting away from the house or that the insulation in the attic needed to be pulled away from the soffits.
What you are on the look out for is major issues that could significantly reduce the value of the property, approximately 2-3% of the value of the property. If something large is found at that point you have a few choices. You can walk away from the sale by providing the sellers a copy of the building inspection report and a written notice stating you are rendering the Promise to Purchase null and void. Or either you can get professional estimates for the work required and have your broker try to work out a fair price deduction for the work required or have the owner repair the issue. Here again you would provide the written report along with an explanation of the problems. Once an agreement is made an Amendment form will be written up with the changes to the Promise to Purchase.
What you need to understand is all of this must take place within the deadline set out in the Promise to Purchase, usually 11-14 days. Generally building inspection conditions are 7 to 10 days, that means the building inspection(s) must be completed within that time frame. However, there is a second deadline of 4 fixed days for reviewing the reports. So the original 7 days to 10 days plus the 4, equals 11 to 14 days to remove the building inspection clause. If at the end of the deadline the buyer doesn’t render the offer null and void or waive the condition, the condition waives itself and the buyer has deemed to waive it! So watch those deadlines!
Before closing I just want to touch lightly on Hidden Defects, it is a subject of another blog on its own.
A Hidden Defect is – hidden- no one, not the seller, not the brokers, not the inspector nor you the buyer are aware of the defect. It maybe behind a wall or in the floor but whatever it is no one knew about it when you bought the property. In Quebec unless removed in an offer, every home is sold with a legal warranty of quality protecting the buyer against hidden defects.
If there is a hidden defect after the sale and you take the vendors to court, the first question the judge asks is….”Did you hire a professional building inspector to inspect the property”. If you answer no, I wish you the best of luck in your court case because you are going to need it! How can you prove the defect was hidden from a professional if you didn’t use one?
Moral of the story, hire a local professional building inspector!
**The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.**