The trouble with home inspectors

There is a big problem with the home inspection industry that many buyers don’t know about: pretty much anyone can call themselves a “home inspector” in Quebec.

A pre-sale inspection by a professional promises home buyers peace of mind that they aren’t moving into a money pit. But there is a big problem with the home inspection industry that many buyers don’t know about: pretty much anyone can call themselves a “home inspector” in Quebec.

Unlike real estate professionals such as realtors or mortgage brokers, there are no standardized forms or reports to fill out, no minimum levels of service mandated, and no required licenses or insurance necessary to practice.

Legislators in Quebec are currently working on a bill to regulate building inspections, but until it becomes law, the best advice is buyer beware.

Buyers can turn to their realtors for help finding a good inspector. The regulatory authority that oversees realtors and mortgage brokers in Quebec, the Organisme d’autoréglementation du courage immobilier du Québec (OACIQ), outlines strict requirements for brokers when referring home inspectors that help weed out the less-qualified.

According to OACIQ Vice-President, Enforcement of Practices Caroline Champagne, brokers have a regulatory obligation to refer more than one name, ensure that referrals are properly insured and have recognized credentials.

“It can be costly for the buyer and the vendor if the inspector isn’t qualified,” Champagne said.

Here are some tips for buyers when hiring a professional home inspector:

Check if your inspector has liability insurance

According to Quebec Professional Association of Real Estate Brokers VP Anouk Vidal, requesting written proof that an inspector has professional liability insurance before hiring them is a must.

“It’s very important,” Vidal said. “If they do make a mistake or forget something they should have seen, they need to have insurance so the buyer can make a claim.”

Ask which standards of practice your inspector follows

Home inspectors in Quebec are not required to belong to any professional associations, but there are advantages in choosing an inspector who does.

The OACIQ has agreements with three home inspectors’ associations: the Quebec Association of Building Inspectors, the Association des thermographes en inspection de bâtiment, and L’Association Internationale des inspecteurs immobiliers certifiés du Québec. Members of these organizations must complete exams to demonstrate technical knowledge, complete mandatory training, produce reports that meet the association’s standards, follow an agreed standard of practice and carry liability insurance.

According to Marco Lasalle, who is the Technical Service Director at the  Association des professionnels de la construction et de l’habitation du Québec (APCHQ), another route is to select an inspector who is also a member of a professional order of architects engineers or technologists, as the membership requirements are even more stringent than those of a professional association.

Get everything in writing

Choose an inspector who uses a written service agreement that clearly spells out the scope and limits of their services, as well as the cost. The inspector should also provide a written report at the end.

Lasalle said a good inspection report will give buyers a reasonable idea of what maintenance and repairs to budget for in the next few years, and should advise if an expert should be brought in to do a more in-depth examination of the foundation, drainage or other issues.

Know the limitations of a visual inspection

There are limits to what an inspector can determine about a building by sight alone, so it’s best to be clear about what to expect.

“Buyers need to understand it is a visual inspection. They won’t break a wall to see inside,”Vidal said. “It’s a limitation the buyer often doesn’t understand.”

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