Some dispense with home inspections — but experts warn against doing so
Meaghan Darrach’s search for a new home in the summer of 2021 could only be described as “chaos.”
“There were bidding wars everywhere. Nothing was going for what it was listed as, and other people were going in with no conditions, which is ultimately why we went in with no conditions for the place we bought. We wanted it so bad,” she said.
Darrach and her husband Steve ended up buying a single-family, four-bedroom, two-bathroom home with just under half an acre of property in Grafton, Ont.
The Darrachs had a friend, who is a general contractor, come to inspect the place after it had been purchased. The couple soon discovered a long list of problems that include issues with the home’s foundation, roof, plumbing, electrical and kitchen flooring, as well as hidden mould and insulation problems.
“We’re fortunate that a lot of our friends work in the trades, so we thought whatever the issue is, we can figure it out. We kept saying that the house just needed cosmetic things and it had good bones. Turns out it didn’t have good bones,” she said.
So far, the Darrachs have spent around $25,000 on renovations and still have a laundry list of issues they plan to tackle. The couple was at the top of its budget when purchasing the house and that budget didn’t account for these kinds of renovations. Luckily, though, Steve is a plumber, so they’ve been able to save when it comes to plumbingrelated work.
According to Zolo.ca, 58 per cent of pandemic homebuyers who waived their home inspection and/ or financing conditions are happy with their home. Of the Canadians
who participated in the survey, 17 per cent of buyers waived their home inspection specifically and of those 17 per cent, 82 per cent are still pleased with their purchase today.
“There are often multiple offers on a single property in real estate markets with significant activity. To give their offer the ‘edge,’ many buyers were advised to remove common offer conditions. Conditions mean the buyer can back out of the offer if these conditions aren’t met. Securing financing and a successful home inspection are two examples of common conditions,” said Jordann Kaye, a spokesperson for Zolo.ca.
“These conditions protect the buyer if they can’t obtain financing or the inspection reveals costly repairs. In these cases, the buyer can back out of the sale without penalty. Waiving these conditions makes an offer more attractive to the seller and might give the buyer an advantage over their competitors, but it could mean the buyer is in for a nasty surprise after they move in.”
Some of the nasty surprises might include problems with the foundation, wiring, plumbing or roof — all items that can cost tens of thousands of dollars to fix, Kaye said.
Davelle Morrison, broker at Bosley Real Estate Ltd., said buyers might also waive home inspections for financial reasons because they don’t want to pay the inspection’s cost, which can go for around $600 depending on the company. That might seem pricey if the would-be buyers are dealing with multiple offers and can’t be sure that they’ll win the property.
Still, Morrison tells buyers it’s prudent to get one, because a home inspection is a “road map to what’s possibly wrong and what might need to be fixed in the coming years.”
While many sellers do a pre-list home inspection before putting a house on the market, that shouldn’t replace a buyer’s own inspection, she said.
“Take that with a grain of salt … Your home inspection protects you, the home inspection the seller did protects them.” For instance, a buyer wouldn’t have any recourse against a home inspection they didn’t pay for, she said.
Unfortunately for buyers, home inspections still aren’t foolproof, Kaye said — inspectors can’t see through walls or floors. “That means if there is faulty wiring concealed in a ceiling or a leaking roof in an attic with no access, the home inspector won’t detect these problems.”
Home-inspection companies often have a clause in their contract that limits their liability in these instances, she said. In the case of latent defects, such as a leak covered by recent patching or sealing where it seems like the seller would have known, buyers will need to review a property disclosure statement, if it exists. In this document, the seller would have listed property defects.
If this document exists, and the seller didn’t list the defect, then a buyer might be able to take legal action. However, the buyer would have to prove that the seller knew about the issue, which can be difficult, Kaye says.
For those who do pursue financial compensation via lawsuits, buyers will typically file suit against the previous homeowner, real estate agent and home inspector to “shake the tree and see what falls out,” says Michael Holley, home inspector at Holley Home Inspections.
As the housing market has cooled in areas that saw a buying frenzy during the pandemic, more and more buyers are seeking a homeinspection condition, Holley says. However, there are some buyers who will still pass on an inspection, regardless of the market.
Buyers can be more confident about skipping a home inspection if they’re looking into a visibly wellmaintained home built less than five years ago, Holley says. Newer builds will have already gone through a series of inspections, although getting your own done can be important for peace of mind, he says.
The same goes for condos, says Morrison. “Most condos don’t need a home inspector,” she says. However, inspectors can be useful to advise condo buyers of any Kitec plumbing, which should be removed since it can lead to water leaking and subsequent damage, she said. If Kitec plumbing is found, it’s going to be part of your negotiation to figure out who is going to pay for its replacement, she added.
Where buyers have the highest risk of discovering costly problems is with homes that have gone through renovations, since issues may have been introduced, especially when those renovations haven’t been performed by the right professionals, Holley said.
Kaye added that homes that have been used as rentals, older homes (especially those that have only had own owner) and foreclosure homes can also be particularly susceptible to neglected maintenance and problems beyond normal wear and tear.
“In these instances, it’s imperative to have a home inspection to detect costly or dangerous defects like water damage, mould, asbestos, knoband-tube wiring, and structural and foundational issues.”
If you have a home-inspection condition on your offer and it reveals problems, you can try to negotiate a lower price with your seller or cancel your offer with no penalty, said Kaye.
If you don’t have a home-inspection condition on your offer, you may still be allowed to schedule one after the offer is accepted. But if that inspection identifies any costly issues, you’re not able to take back your offer without penalty, she added. The consequences might include being sued for the difference between your price and the price for which the home is eventually sold.
Darrach said that even if she and her husband had known about the home’s problems, they still would have likely bought the place.
She described the home as an ideal spot for her growing family down the road — Darrach currently has a three-year-old and is 34 weeks pregnant with her second child.
“We’ll get there one day,” she said. Darrach has been using her Instagram, @millsonandmain, to document what she calls her “house of horror” finds, such as the sight of mushrooms growing out of the kitchen floor, as well as the home’s ongoing renovations.
If Darrach could do it again, however, she said would have tried to bring a home inspector to the showing.
If there is faulty wiring concealed in a ceiling or a leaking roof in an attic with no access, the home inspector won’t detect these problems.
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