Homebuyers eschewing inspections in cutthroat market

As bidding wars over real estate in Ottawa intensify, some home inspectors say buyers are under increasing pressure from realtors to make decisions under tight deadlines without doing their due diligence.

High-pressure sales tactics forcing buyers into quick decisions, inspectors say

Peter Weeks says more and more homebuyers, facing the pressure of bidding wars, are either rushing inspections or waiving them altogether.

As bidding wars over real estate in Ottawa intensify, some home inspectors say buyers are under increasing pressure from realtors to make decisions under tight deadlines without doing their due diligence.

Peter Weeks, a home inspector in the capital, said he often gets calls from panicked buyers looking for a quick inspection rather than a quality one.

"You've got this purchase, it's a half-million dollars, or three-quarters of a million dollars. They want to make an offer so they waive the conditions. They go for a quickie inspection, or even waive the inspection altogether." 

Weeks said high-pressure sales tactics such as "offer nights," where realtors accept blind bids within a short period of time, are putting buyers at risk.

"I don't want to say [buyers] are forced into it. They do want to buy a house and they really want the house, but they're given such tight deadlines that it's hard to do your due diligence, to get your inspection done and to find the right inspectors with the experience and qualifications."

Ottawa home inspector Peter Weeks says he's seen the pressure to win a bidding war push clients to rush the home inspection process. 0:42

Visual inspections

Weeks said good inspectors are usually booked seven to 10 days in advance, so squeezing in a last-minute appointment is difficult. 

Weeks typically takes three hours to properly inspect a home, during which time he'll open the electrical panel, study the furnace, climb up to the attic and check for cracks in the foundation. But increasingly, he said he's getting calls to sign off on "walk-throughs" — quick, visual inspections.

I won't do it because it's against my insurance requirement, but there are other guys doing that, making a quick, easy buck.- Peter Weeks, home inspector

"'Just walk through with us. We'll pay cash,'" Weeks said clients ask him. "I won't do it because it's against my insurance requirement, but there are other guys doing that, making a quick, easy buck."

There are about 250 home inspectors working in Ottawa, but Weeks said only 40 are registered with the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors (OAHI) and bound by a code of conduct.

OAHI president Murray Parish said bidding wars in Toronto, where he's based, have left some new homeowners feeling buyer's remorse.

In a seller's market, Parish said it's usually the highest bidder with the fewest conditions who gets the house. The home inspection, Parish said, is usually the first one to go because it's not mandatory.

To protect buyers in a hot market, Parish suggested the seller should be the one paying for a home inspection before listing a house.

"That way everyone has at least some information about what they're buying," he said.