Are you a Savvy Home Buyer?

model-houseGet in the Driver’s Seat
In a heated real estate market don’t be fooled by the feeding frenzy. You are still in the driver’s seat if you want to be. In a buyers market, don’t weaken your purchase strength by engaging a fast low-cost inspection, by an overpaid (per hr) inspector.

Ease the Pressure to Buy
Sellers and real estate agents are always eager for quick, uncomplicated sales and customer turnaround. That puts extra pressure on agent-recommended Home Inspectors to view the property with a kinder eye. Yes, Inspectors do protect their relationships with agents.

As much as real estate agents are supposed to be your advocate, remember they are salespeople first and foremost. you should be wary of panic inducing coaching.  Keep your head; remember that true professionals make it all look easy!


Deodorizers are a common feature when selling a home. A must in moldy homes. Keep an eye open for these devices. Your Inspector should ask for the deodorizers to be removed 24 hours prior to your inspection.

Decrease the Sale Price
A thorough home inspection may reveal undisclosed deficiencies; the cost to remedy them can often be negotiated when you can clearly demonstrate the home or parts of are not as advertised. Yes, even in a HOT market.

You are Not an Actor in their Play
House sales are a carefully staged and rehearsed play, so keep some perspective. Just know; you are being skilfully guided down a garden path of professionally staged homes, with clever concealment, deodorizers, coffee, cookies and agent approved/preferred Home Inspectors.

Get in the Picture
It’s very common for home inspectors to describe all the wonderful services and gizmos they use for inspections. These days home inspectors are trying to be a fast, one stop all round service provider when, in my opinion, they simply do not have the time to do a thorough investigation in any particular field of practice and within a 2 to 4 hour inspection window.
Too many promises and not enough beef.

Franchise mentality
Generally franchises are a turnkey, (get rich by hardly trying) business model. It’s a smart business investment because there is a ready market  due to brand recognition but most importantly; real estate agents open their arms to proven team players. Everyone speaks the same language: High-Volume, Quick Turnover.  (Keep the ball rolling)

drive-thruA popular Canadian home inspection franchise markets their business with:

“Providing You With Comprehensive, Factual Information
Our home inspectors provide you with comprehensive, factual information helping you make a well-informed, confident decision about your house. We encourage you to attend the inspection and ask questions that may come to mind. Most home inspections, including the report, take on average between 2 – 3 hours to complete.”

And a popular North American franchise says:

“Pillar To Post is the #1 North American Home Inspection Franchise with more than 450 locations in North America. We are part of an elite group of real estate partners that select us as their preferred home inspection company.”

These inspectors are promoted by real estate agents with their low inspection fees of around $500, reports are non alarmist and inspection turnaround is fast (ideally do 2 or more inspections per day). Incredibly, by being an affordable/inexpensive business you can gain a very fast and steady market share. Human nature as it is, means that many home buyers cannot resist a low inspection fee by a recognized “Reputable Company“, or resist a discount for: seniors, veterans or any other excuse to sell you on a make-believe savings. Even a $25 discount can hook people. People just don’t want to give up that special discount no matter how insignificant. This does not represent the proprietors generosity it’s simply an underhanded, cynical sales gimmick. It must work because inspection companies still use this “discount” strategy.

If you don’t know what a thorough and detailed inspection can do for you why would you pay more. The irony is:  by paying more, a thorough inspection and detailed report could save you thousands …

consumer-protection-licence-ted-gilmourQualifying Service Providers
As with many things, in the current deregulated marketplace, government and private organizations are getting in on “qualifying”  service providers.

Licensing was supposed to create a level playing field so consumers would have confidence in hiring home inspectors, yet it is simply a way for the government to reach into home inspectors pockets for annual licensing fees. In March, 2009 there was a mad rush to get everybody licensed, but from what I could tell, everyone who applied became licensed. In essence the government has enabled anyone with the inclination to be a licensed home inspector to become a “legitimate”, licensed home inspector.
Ironically, the adage, buyer beware, applies more than ever to home inspections because; as much as licensing was supposed to take most of the risk out of hiring a home inspector, the actual licensing practice has lumped in, in my opinion, would be home inspectors; under educated (online courses),  and were not mentored into the profession. Inexperienced people who simply paid their license processing fee, stood up to the plate for their chance to strike a business home run.

The claim, “BBB Accredited” has no real value. The Better Business Bureau has no jurisdiction on anything, BBB Accredited simply means a business has paid the BBB for this phony accreditation.  You can look up a business name even if they haven’t paid the BBB to be “accredited”. They will have a report on their service performance.

The 2/5/10 Home Warranty

Watch the Video

Coquitlam family sounds alarm about home warranty coverage: Watch the Global News Video Report by Anne Drewa

With the new 2/5/10 Home Warranty in BC, people will tell you that you do not need to get a home inspection! Why would you get a home inspection when the warranty is there to protect you and will fix everything that turns up wrong. (These same people may also tell you that all you need to spend on a home inspection is around $300-$400. More info about low-cost inspections.)

Global’s Anne Drewa

Suggested you seek out a reputable real estate agent, a mortgage broker, a lawyer and a licensed home inspector“. While that may be good advice, I’m left wondering where do you find these reputable people.  Looks like we could use another global news story to help people seek out reputable service providers.
As far as home inspectors go, it’s the wild West.
There are so many new home inspectors with great-looking websites, high rankings on referral websites and all the toys. It’s becoming more difficult than ever to engage the services of an experienced and thorough home inspector who does not depend on real estate agents for referrals. Beware of websites that have lots of pictures and no content such as how long an average inspection takes, a sample inspection report and fees.
Home inspection students believe that technology will lead to their success in the marketplace, from my experience it’s actually working. Yeah they want to run before they can walk. Yes these tools are valuable assets but they are not the pointy end of the stick, yrs of experience provide the best tools for investigation. In many cases technology confirms and in some cases can better demonstrate suspicious findings to the buyer. Their main function is to impress buyers.

As you can appreciate most every deficient home was once marketed as a great new home.  Homes with defects are simply products that were; rushed to market; under funded/budgeted; built by unqualified tradespeople; or built by developers who were greedy or inexperienced. Your inspector should have years of hands-on building/renovation experience to have a chance of making deficiency discoveries.
You might say what could go wrong, it’s a brand-new home !
From my experience some/many of these new homes have such a multitude of deficiencies that left un-repaired will impact building components around them.

If you identify most of the deficiencies you can request the builder make repairs prior to your moving in. At this point the builder is motivated to complete the project, make the sale and not have to think about it again. Once you buy it, repairs can be rather more difficult to get done. Do your due diligence now, not after.

As a Home Buyer You Need:

1) A Sample Inspection Report

Most inspection reports I see these days are merely computer generated  boilerplate descriptions with an accompanying “insert photo here” box.

These instant inspection style report systems are rather slick, superficial and generic products. A product designed for the inspector’s efficiency rather than a thorough buyer disclosure. Ask for a Sample Inspection Report. (You may find your inspection report is nearly identical to the sample.) These simplistic reports essentially act to facilitate the sale rather than to inform the buyer.

View My Sample Inspection Report

2) Knowledge of the Inspector’s Background

Experience = Competence
When did the inspector become licensed, how many years have they been doing inspections?

Did they do their inspector training at a reputable school (e.g. a technical institute such as BCIT) or via an online course? Were they mentored?

Does the inspector have firsthand building experience, and if so, how many years?
Incredibly, a surprising number of inspectors have little or no building experience. You should ask what their previous building related experience was and how many years. .

Without firsthand building experience, inspectors can only guess at what’s going on or may not even recognize subtle indicators of a defect or failure, simply because they have no firsthand experience or do not know what would be required to rectify the problem. Some might say nothing or recommend you get a professional electrician, plumber, roofer, etc. to inspect what they have limited experience with.

Don’t Shop by Price
A thorough inspection will more than pay for itself in the long run, whereas a good deal could prove to be a short-lived economy.
You may recall your realtor saying that you should be able to get a good inspection for $300 – $550 … Consider the seed has been planted. Sales people are well trained in persuasion tactics; you become fixated on the $550 price limit. Therefore any inspection fee above that amount will seem outrageous and not warrant any further investigation.

I know money is tight with all the expenses of a home purchase and closing costs, but not getting a proper, professional inspection is not the place to try to save. By getting an average costing inspection (damn hard to resist) you are limiting your defect discovery and analysis. Limited information equals limited options for compensation.

Find out what’s wrong with the property before closing the deal and let the seller pay for it. If the seller doesn’t disclose an issue with the home that represents an impending cost, regardless of prior knowledge, this new information  is rightfully negotiable. The agents want to get paid, sooner the better. Let your agent work with the seller to bring in a better sales price with the report documentation and photo proof. Even if your agent says there is no way the seller will negotiate, the sale price is final, this is simply not true. Nothing is final until it’s final. Both buyer and selling real estate agents want to get paid, they will push your deal through, so they can get paid, sooner than later; that’s their job. That’s how they promote themselves: “We negotiate for you!”

When you browse home inspector websites you will not see statements or information like on this site, besides not wanting to sound like a crazy man, Inspectors don’t want to upset real estate agents; the hand that feeds them.

More info About Ted Gilmour, C.P.I.


3) The Home Inspection Contract

Some prominent home inspector associations limit their liability to the fee charged. You might want to ask to see their contract. Essentially this means they are not responsible for the quality and validity of the information they provide in their inspection report. If you discover deficiencies after the sale closes then you alone are responsible for the repair costs. Make sure your home inspector takes the required time to go through your home, an inspection and report should take all day or longer.
Caveat emptor, as they say.

Please review my contract, as provided by ASTTBC Property Inspectors. It does have legal limitations (as do all contracts) but it does not prevent me from reporting everything I see. Low-cost inspector contracts actually enable them to avoid reporting deficiencies that are not on their checklist/contract even if that inspector finds evidence of an ineligible deficiency.

View the ASTTBC Property Inspectors Home Inspection Contract (PDF)

Notes about Testimonials and Referral Websites

Unfortunately most home buyers have no yardstick to measure their inspectors competence. I often see feeble client testimonials on referral websites claiming the inspector was very knowledgeable, fast, helpful, polite, and showed up on time.

I find it quite amusing when reading home buyer testimonials about their home inspector being very experienced and knowledgeable. I equate this to a Caucasian writing a Yelp review on how authentic a Chinese restaurant is. Generally home buyers have limited building and home maintenance knowledge and are easily impressed. Without examples in their testimonials these statements do not have currency. Most home buyers are not qualified to qualify their inspectors, especially after a 2 to 5 hour inspection turnaround. When homebuyers make statements like: my inspector made sure we understood how our house works, how to fix and maintain it; that is more of a genuine, home buyer opinion/experience. Quite a number of testimonials sound scripted.
A genuine testimonial should be because of exceptional service, not because: he was a nice guy and showed up on time. Many of these referral websites are so gamed. The real sad part is people just keep on playing into them.
If you are being asked to write a testimonial think about what your actual opinion is and not what the really nice inspector would like to see. Remember exaggerated accounts of your inspection experience may be demoting/hurting a more worthy inspector.

Referral Websites
“Top rated service providers” (inspectors) who pay for placement on Referral Websites have simply paid for their success. Testimonials are often coerced by the referral websites like Yelp and HomeStars. (Watch the CBC Marketplace report, Fake Online Reviews, for more info.) Service providers who do not pay the Referral Website often will not have their profile pages displayed in their listings or will be lower in the listings and be allowed only a very basic profile. That’s the hook: “pay us $2-$3000/yr and we will post your website link and promote your business by securing client testimonials for you and other wonderful positioning benefits”.  You don’t pay them and the paid service providers will Hoover up all your potential clients, simply because their profile is promoted and physically elevated above others, not because they are better, but because they paid.

Unfortunately in December 2015 I made the business decision to sign up with HomeStars just to stay in the game. Almost any business these days needs endorsements by past clients/customers to even be considered.

I also have to wonder how someone can have hundreds of testimonials on a Referral Website; most all with a 10 out of 10 star customer rating. Seems rather unrealistic to me considering these home inspectors can do a complete inspection turnaround in 3 to 4 hours. To me that’s superhuman or a testament to the referral website’s abilities to coerce testimonials.