Why a Home Inspector Didn’t Have a Home Inspection and Where It’s Going to Cost Us.
Okay, I get it now. We Home Inspectors like to preach that everyone should get a Home Inspection. I still believe that. I still believe that when you’re spending this much money, it’s important to take the time to go through the house with a fine-toothed comb to learn about how it works and what the areas are that will need attention. A Home Inspector’s trained and practiced eye can help you stop problems before they happen, catch problems before they cost too much, or help you budget for problems that will inevitably cost you a lot of money. It’s a small investment to protect your hard-earned money.
So why didn’t we get a home inspection when we bought our house in Guelph? Well, we had good realtors who gave us a good picture of what the market in Southern Ontario is really like. We felt lucky when our not-too-aggressive bid won over three other offers. But we knew that attaching a Home Inspection clause would put us at the back of the bus. People have said to us- “Yeah but you’re a home inspector. You could inspect the house as you viewed it”. Well it’s not that simple. First of all, you can’t carry a ladder or tools with you when you’re viewing a home or at open houses. You typically don’t get a chance to go into the attic or open the electrical panel. Second, when you’re house hunting you look at the house in terms of how it will fit your lifestyle. A home inspector follows a process to look at the condition of the home’s component systems. It’s really hard to do both of these things at the same time. Your head is in two completely different places.
That is why I booked a local Home Inspector to inspect the house after we completed the purchase. I wanted to get a good idea of what other items would need attention before our mortgage was signed and sealed so we could make some adjustments, if needed. If some extra cash is required to correct high ticket items, I want to be prepared. Plus, I thought an unbiased set of eyes would be a good idea. Unfortunately, we ran into another issue that I didn’t expect. The seller refused to allow a home inspection even after the purchase was agreed to. That’s their right, I guess. Every home sale has its own unique set of circumstances and I guess you never know what could happen. But I still didn’t have all the answers I want about the condition of the home.
As buyers, we did get to visit the home a couple more times before possession. If you’ve read any of our blog posts on “House Hunting Like a Home Inspector” you know there are some things you can do as you tour the home to learn more about it. I think I practiced what I preach on the first visit and there are some things I noticed that we will have to correct. We’re planning to develop a basement apartment for some rental income, so we plan to do some work on the home anyway.
The house has an old panel with fuses, and I saw that- although I didn’t specifically look at the amperage. It turns out that it’s a 60 Amp panel and that level of power supply doesn’t meet the demands of a modern household, let alone one with a rental unit in it. So add the cost of a new panel. Well actually, we’ll probably get two separate meters, each with its own panel. On a subsequent visit I had a circuit tester with me and was pleased that almost all of the circuits were grounded, which means the wiring had been upgraded at some point. This is an important safety feature in modern wiring. But more rewiring will be required than we planned. Hopefully not too much more.
On our first visit, I also discovered an abandoned oil tank in the basement hidden in a cupboard. I’ll pat myself on the back for that one. There are fill and vent pipes on the front of the house that are hidden behind a bush. It might have been missed even during a home inspection. On the second visit, I made an extra effort to confirm that it was empty and if there was any sign of leaking anywhere near it. It looks good so the removal will probably only cost $500. I will have to dismantle the cabinet that’s built around it so it can be removed easily. But it could have been a lot worse.
The home is heated by a gas fired hot water heating system with radiators. There don’t appear to be any issues with the water/radiator system, but after the second view we’ve decided we’ll probably replace the boiler. It’s old and it’s a less efficient model that draws house air and vents up the chimney. Energy efficiency is important to us so we’ll replace it with at least a high efficiency boiler. So there’s another bill. If we choose to get a little more creative with the heating system it could go much higher. The hot water heating system doesn’t provide a method of cooling the home either. One thought is to install an air to air heat pump (or geothermal if it would work in a small city lot) to act as an air conditioner in summer and provide heating in fall and spring. Then supplement that with a high efficiency gas boiler for hot water heat in the really cold part of winter. You see how the costs add up?
I also made an extra effort to get into the attic on the second visit. On the first visit, I was aware that the roofing was getting old. The asphalt shingles were curled slightly in a few areas and I had some concerns about the flashing around the chimney. I’m hoping we can get five more years out of the shingles. From the attic hatch on the second visit, I could see some staining on the chimney blocks that indicate there has been some leaking at some point in the past. It rained a lot in the days before we made our offer, so I don’t think the leak is current. But it’s something we’ll definitely look at after possession to make sure that it’s sealed properly and we get as much life out of the shingles as possible.
I was actually delighted to see the condition and especially the height of the attic. Outside of a home inspection no one ever sees an attic before they own the house. But my eyes lit up when I saw this one. I’ve already got ideas of how we can reconfigure the house to make use of this space. If we get a high efficiency boiler we won’t need the chimney any longer and when the roofing gets replaced and while we’re at it… Hold on! We don’t even have possession yet!
Buying a home can be scary. In this market the buyer is really vulnerable and has to be very quick to respond when a good home becomes available. But this can be a very expensive trap. My wife and I are lucky that we are in a position to deal with the surprises that this home will throw at us and I have some resources to help me detect issues before they become critical. Not everyone is as well positioned. I hope our story helps you understand how important a home inspection can be, even if you aren’t able to attach it as a condition on your offer to purchase. You can usually still request an inspection before possession to make sure you can deal with any issues that are identified.
If you’re selling a home in this kind of market, here’s a tip to market your home. Imagine you’re a buyer coming into the home and you see an Inspection Report from a thorough home inspector, along with receipts from reputable contractors for the repairs. Don’t you think that would give them more confidence in making an offer and potentially raising the amount they’d be willing to offer. We made our offer on the house we bought with an expectation that we would have to put some extra money into the home. I know we would have felt freer to offer more if the home had been inspected and the upgrades already made. Just a thought.
Anyone who has followed our blog posts has probably noticed that we haven’t posted on the blog for a while. Well, that’s because we’ve been moving. It turns out that moving is a lot of work and is very stressful. That’s one reason I try to provide potential homeowners with the inspection results in as calm and reasoned a manner as possible. I don’t want them to get even more stressed by information that is supposed to make the process easier for them. But I digress.
The process of packing up and selling our home in Winnipeg and moving everything to Guelph has been a full-time job. So, the blog has been quiet for the past few months and I haven’t been available for inspections for the past few months. To our friends in Winnipeg, I’d like to thank you for your support over the past years as we established GoldEye Home Inspection. Unfortunately, we won’t be available for inspections there anymore. For residents of Guelph, Kitchener/Waterloo, Cambridge and surrounding areas, we’ll be available for inspections soon. Please be patient with us. We have a lot of stuff to unpack and some renovations to get started in our new home. I’ll try to post on the blog a little more in the future and let you know when we’re ready.