Taking a closer look at home inspections

Since Sept. 1, 2011, home inspectors in Alberta have had to be licenced by the Alberta government.

By Dan Levia

In-Focus Home Inspections, Red Deer

Since Sept. 1, 2011, home inspectors in Alberta have had to be licenced by the Alberta government.

What that means is more protection for the average home buyer. In the past, anyone that wanted to could hang a shingle up and call themselves a “Home Inspector”. Now, the government insures home inspectors have the required education, experience and insurance.

On the Service Alberta website, servicealberta.ca/1773.cfm, a home inspection is described as “an opinion as to the condition of a dwelling based primarily on a non-invasive examination of readily accessible features and components of the dwelling.”

What that means is that home inspectors are paid to go through a house and visually inspect readily accessible systems and components of the building and describe them in a written report that’s then presented to their clients. A key phrase here is “readily accessible.” That tells us that the inspector will not poke holes in walls, move furniture, walk roofs that are slippery or covered with snow or even too high. The inspector won’t risk his safety to do something he’s not comfortable doing and by law he’s not required to do.

So what are you getting when you hire a home inspector? You usually are getting years of experience looking at systems (plumbing, electrical, roofing, etc.) and how they work together. The inspector is probably someone that has held a hammer or two and driven in the odd nail. He has received training on how and where moisture enters a house and different ways to keep it away. Most likely he has operated and looked inside of more different types of furnaces than you even knew existed. Chances are he can tell you if your outlets are grounded and what type and how much insulation is in the attic.

Is a home inspection worth getting? That is your decision, however, keep in mind that most people when looking at houses, are tied to their choice emotionally. A home inspector doesn’t have that emotional tie to stop him from seeing the house as it really is. He’s in the home for two to three hours and during that time he’s looking at it with a very critical eye. He’s operating the furnace, turning on switches, lights, furnaces, opening kitchen cabinets, and drawers, looking in closets, up the attic, through the crawlspace if there is one and generally going through each room systematically and writing notes and taking pictures of what he sees. After he’s finished the inspection, usually, he will take you through the house with him and point out what he has found, and give you maintenance ideas and tips on keeping up your house. This is usually the most valuable time for you as you’ll probably learn more about your new house in this half hour than all of your previous trips through it combined. It also gives you a chance to ask questions and it will give you a better understanding of the finished report.