Inspecting your home inspector

The truth is that no home is perfect, and if you're looking to buy one, it's wise to check it out thoroughly before striking a deal. To do this, you might consider hiring a home inspector to point out potential problems that a seller or agent might not disclose or be aware of. But before you do, keep in mind that almost anyone can call themselves a home inspector, as there are no current national or provincial requirements or standards (except in British Columbia).

Since hiring a home inspector is not equivalent to a warranty, and inspector liability is usually limited to the fee you paid or a similar amount, you could be stuck with repair costs above that. The financial stakes could be high if you rely on an inspection that turns out to be incomplete, so here are some questions to help you inspect your home inspector beforehand:

What kind of experience do they have? If the inspector doesn't have much of an answer, that's a big red flag. Experience and the right kind of training is key, since even if someone is an engineer, it doesn't mean they are qualified to inspect a home.

Can they provide references? A large, satisfied client base is always a good sign. Get as many as possible from the inspector and call them all.

Are they independent? A home inspector is there to offer an unbiased assessment, and shouldn't be part of any construction or homebuilder group or offer repair services themselves.

What kind of equipment do they use? A pen and paper are simply not enough. Do they bring binoculars, a ladder, or an infrared camera? A thorough inspection includes hard-to-reach places like the roof and chimney.

Can you follow them around during the inspection? A good inspector will encourage you to take part and will clearly communicate any serious problems, and not bury them in a checklist.