When you’re buying an $800,000 house, the $500 you drop on a home inspection is a relatively small price to pay to ensure that everything is as it should be.
But bear in mind that that a home inspector doesn’t have x-ray vision. So often they may miss the fact that the basement leaks during heavy downpours especially if their assessment takes place on a clear day. Let’s face it, given that the examination is based on what you can see, even the best inspector is bound to miss potential problems.
For my money, I prefer a Seller Property Information Statement. Simply put, this is a disclosure from the seller that spells out all the issues – both good and bad – that they know to happen in their home. If you think about it, doesn’t it make more sense to have someone who’s lived in the house for years disclose problems or potential problems as opposed to someone who’s looked at it for two or three hours?
The Seller Property Information Statement, otherwise known as SPIS, is optional. It’s been said buyers love them, sellers fear them and lawyers say no to them. In Canada, since the inception of the SPIS form practice in 1997, there have been over 230 court cases.
Sellers are not required to fill them out, but I encourage my clients to do so in most instances. My thinking is it protects vendors from down-the-road lawsuits if they’re being honest and forthright. After a property sells and changes hands, the SPIS protects the seller should something occur at that point that the new owner might try to pin on the seller. By filling out a SPIS it also demonstrates to buyers that the seller has integrity and nothing to hide as they are willing to disclose defects or issues.
The SPIS is a two-page document that covers questions regarding zoning, taxes and encroachments. Queries are asked about soil contamination, flooding, oil tanks and grow houses. Other questions focus on moisture problems, types of insulation and renovations or addition made to the house.
I’m not saying to disregard home inspections. But if you know houses and have bought and sold a few in your time, you can probably uncover the same that a home inspector would so save the $400 to $600 inspection fee for a rainy day.
Home inspectors are especially useful for first-time home buyers, who know little about the process. A home inspection can help calm the nerves of a buyer who has no idea what shape the roof is in, where the water shutoff is or how to replace a furnace filter.