Friday, August 17, 2012

The Home Inspection, A Vital Step in the Buying Process

 I recently sold a century-old home in the Plateau Mont-Royal to a buyer who opted to do his own home inspection.

It is not something I would ever recommend one of my clients do, but this gentleman, a foreign-trained architect new to Montreal, was not my client. I had no voice in the decision.

The house passed inspection with the usual quirks that one finds in a 100-year-old house that has undergone wave after wave of renovation.

A week after the sale closed, I began receiving calls from the buyer in which he sought basic information about the property. Where is the main water shut-off? Where is the electrical panel? There are three hot water tanks in the basement. How can I tell which of them is actually in use?

Do I look like Mike Holmes?

His were the type of questions that a competent building inspector would have answered on the spot and again in the written report submitted after the inspection.

The buyer opted not to hire a professional inspector.

For my money, the $400 - $600 cost of a pre-purchase inspection is about the best money you'll spend. You'll walk away with a better understanding of how your home is built and what to do to keep it in good shape.

An inspector will look at all of a home's components and systems for signs of trouble. The inspection usually begins on the outside with an overview of the roof, chimney, exterior cladding, foundation, windows and doors. He or she looks for signs of water infiltration, because water, if not kept at bay,  leads to other problems like mold, mildew and rot.

Inside, he or she will check the wiring, plumbing, heating, cooling and ventilation systems. Is the wiring safe? Is the plumbing leaky? How efficient is the furnace? How old is the hot water tank?

Inspectors read things like plaster cracks, uneven floors and interior doors that don't close, looking for signs that a building is moving, sagging or is structurally unsound.

They can spot things like asbestos found in some insulation and in heatproof pipe and furnace coverings, or urea formaldehyde foam insulation, which can give off nasty gases. In some areas, pyrite is a problem. An inspector will look for signs that pyrite has led to heaving in the basement slab and recommend further testing.

Inspectors don't open walls and ceilings. They don't take things apart. They only report on the things that are visible to the dilligent eye.

A good inspector can talk you down when a problem is small or send you scurrying if a problem is severe.

Last year, I had buyers who put a bid on a fixer-upper in Lachine. Only after they had placed their bid did the listing agent mention "Oh, by the way. There's vermiculite insulation in the attic."

Vermiculite is a thing that a vendor should mention up front because some granular vermiculite insulation contains asbestos. If disturbed, asbestos fibres become airborne. Breathing asbestos, not such a good idea. There are two schools of thought when it comes to asbestos. A) Don't disturb it ot B) Have it professionally removed by guys in HAZMAT suits working in a controlled environment.

In this case, the vendor made the declaration late but with an interesting offer.The sale prices is $329,000 and we take care of removing the vermiculite, or the sale price is $289,000 and the buyers take care of the vermiculite themselves.

After some thought, my clients opted for the second option. Their inspector, a true pro, made his way to the attic saying this: "Knowing what I know about this neighborhood and the year this house was built, I would be very surprised if there was asbestos in this attic."

Vermiculite insulation. No asbestos here.
He grabbed a handful and said "Nope, you've got nothing to worry about."

A sample of the vermiculite was sent for lab analysis and came back negative for asbestos. The house had a clean bill of health.

My clients had saved $40,000 on the purchase. They were able to shovel the vermiculite up and dispose of it at their local eco centre without any fear of breathing in asbestos.

I recommend that clients talk to friends, family and co-workers to get names of inspectors. You can also go to the web site of the AIBQ, the Quebec Association of Building Inspectors to find a good candidate.

Whichever way you go, consider the pre-purchase inspection an integral part of the buying process. It is money well spent. 

1 comment:

Hi, in an effort to cut down on spam, I will now be moderating comments prior to publication. If you're a real person with a real comment or question, I'll get to you as soon as I can. Thanks!