Common Questions Bruce Receives

1. How much will the inspection cost?
We are amazed that some clients will not inquire more about what credentials or insurance the inspectors should carry. The largest investment of a lifetime is reduced to the lowest price one can obtain. If a client went to a doctor or a lawyer, they would be more concerned about the abilities of those individuals to solve their problem. To choose the cheapest technician is placing one at great risk.

The level of experience of home inspectors varies greatly. Some take their training by open book correspondence courses. Others must go through the more rigorous and formal training offered at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, for which they receive university credits.

Some considerations that can change the cost of the inspections are: How old is the house? Older homes traditionally take longer to inspect because they have many deficiencies. This would translate to a lengthier report. Has the home been fully developed on all floors, which includes the addition of unauthorized accommodation? Is there a septic system in place, or a limited height crawlspace? Each home is unique and must be inspected on its merits. Our inspectors only inspect one house per day. Any extra time on site is not viewed as an additional charge. Also, the size of the home does not always determine the inspection fee.

Money: Let's put things in perspective. If you're buying a $300,000 house and the inspection fee is $500, that's less than .02% of the cost of the house! Most real estate agencies charge 3% to 7% to sell a home. That equates to $9,000 to $21,000 for a $300,000 house. And the realtor assumes very little, if any, responsibility for the condition of the house. They rely on the homeowner to reveal deficiencies in the Property Disclosure Statement. It is the inspector who takes the risk. $500, or whatever the cost may be, is very little for assuming such responsibilities.

The cost of the home inspection is a bargain, even if you paid $1,000 for the inspection.

The value of the inspection and a well-prepared report can be measured by its usefulness. If you were given one of those checklist type of reports, as opposed to the comprehensive report we provide, the checklist could leave out a lot of useful details. Our report, complete with photographs, will make it crystal clear to all parties just what the true condition of the house is. The only way to reduce the asking price of a house is to be able to present photographs to the selling realtor that clearly exhibit the deficiencies.

Some realtors call Independent Inspectors deal killers, which is unwarranted. The fact is, if the home inspector finds things that were not reported to you in the original realty feature sheet, then you have been misled. On the other hand, if everything had been divulged up front, you may not have even considered purchasing the house or you would want the price reduced. The truth is, if realtors would make more effort to portray a house in its true condition, there would be less criticism of Independent Inspectors' work.

If the inspection turns up little wrong with the house, you've bought some relatively inexpensive peace of mind. If the inspection finds serious problems with the home, your $500 could save you thousands of dollars.

Don't be penny wise and pound poor. Choose your realtor and inspector wisely - as you would select any other professional who will represent your interests.

2. The inspector says he/she is a member of a recognized group of home inspectors. Is this sufficient protection for us in the event something goes wrong?
The answer is "Absolutely not". If one accepts what some inspectors say about themselves in the Yellow Pages or their websites, they may be in for a surprise. Yellow Pages, Super Pages - whatever the form of advertising - is usually based on what the inspector tells the person preparing the ad. The advertising staff are not responsible for ensuring that information is correct. When it comes to checking credentials, this is an impossible task.

Some inspectors advertise that they are members of groups, which they are not. Others indicate that they have received a diploma from a recognized training facility like BCIT when, in fact, they only took a couple of courses. A diploma, in education circles, denotes two years of formal training. If the inspector's ad alludes to special education then, once again, ask them to fax copies of their certificates and diplomas to you. As competition increases in the Home Inspection field, qualifications tend to be exaggerated. Consumers must be diligent in their inquiries.

3. What is the difference between hiring a home inspector from the B.C. Institute of Property Inspectors (BCIPI), as opposed to another group?
BCIPI, as an association, does not directly make the rounds of real estate offices handing out its brochures and other advertising. Each BCIPI Inspector decides how he/she wishes to market their business. Many of us believe that an arms length relationship is the best representation for the public.

Recognized Certification - BCIPI does not of itself certify its own members. Other associations or groups do. An independent Board of Examiners, acting under the authority of the Applied Science Technologists & Technicians of British Columbia Act (ASTTBC) assumes this function. ASTTBC represents over 8,000 professionals in the Province and has exclusive authority to assign various levels of certification. The British Columbia Government has not granted this right to any other association or group.

The Canadian Association of Home & Property Inspectors (CAHPI) has a designation of Registered Home Inspector (RHI). This is an in house certification procedure. Several years ago, this association applied to the Registrar of Companies for job protection for the designation of RHI. Much like a trademark, they did not want any other inspector outside of their organization to be able to use the words "Registered Home Inspector". Inspectors reach that designation in the CHPI organization once they have completed 250 inspections. Those inspections are reviewed by their own in house inspectors.

4. What is the benefit of hiring an Independent Inspector? Aren't all home inspectors independent? And what is all of this Independent Inspector advertising about?
The best way to answer these questions is to refer you to what the television show MSNBC Dateline learned in their investigation of home inspectors. This show has been aired several times in Canada and what follows is a quotation from the show?

"If you're thinking of buying a house, chances are you'll hire a home inspector to find and report any problems before you buy it. Since most of us know nothing about plumbing, electricity, or roofing, the inspector is our protection against buying a lemon. We pay home inspectors to have our interest in mind. But how can you make sure you're getting an inspector who will tell you everything he knows about the house?"

Two producers of the show posed as realtor and purchaser. A hidden camera reported what the inspector should have told his client, but didn't. In this case, the roof requires extensive repairs. The inspector, fearing he would not get another job from the realtor if he told the purchaser all the bad things about the house, said the roof was good for 15 years. In reality, he never did go up on the roof to check the condition of the shingles. The show exposed what one person said was the best kept secret in the real estate industry. That secret is that too many inspectors or their franchises seek work from realtors. One prominent franchise company, which represents home inspectors in North America, gives Caribbean and Alaskan cruises to realtors for sending them work. Is this a good thing? If an inspector has to rely on the realtor for most of his work, the Dateline investigation suggests that the inspector may not report all the details of a home's deficiencies.

Another television station, CBS, did a special assignment entitled "Houses of Horrors". In part, this is what CBS said:

"You think you're hiring a professional home inspector, but anyone can call themselves a home inspector. You could be hiring someone with a questionable background to help you to make the biggest investment of your life. "

"It's our first home, so we're a little nervous", an undercover investigation team producer, posing as a homebuyer, told one home inspector. Nine inspectors looked at the house, and the undercover buyer received nine different opinions of the house, ranging from one inspector saying he found a lot of things wrong with the house "but nothing serious" to another inspector telling the buyers there were some pretty major problems with the house.

In a similar situation to the Dateline investigation, one producer also posed as a realtor. One inspector said the house was structurally sound. Another inspector missed four out of ten major things wrong with the house. The foundation was cracked all around. The CBS News team brought in an independent city inspector who found at least ten major things wrong with the house.

The report concluded by indicating that six out of nine inspectors missed major problems that could have cost the undercover homebuyer thousands of dollars after she moved in.

If you wish to view the Dateline video or receive copies of other articles we have quoted from, please contact our office at (604) 435-7637.

In conclusion, Independent Certified Home Inspectors of British Columbia are dedicated to excellence in the field of home inspection. One of their primary concerns is to provide a service without any conflicts of interest to the homebuying consumer. Most of these inspectors belong to more than one professional home inspection organization.

These inspectors respect the fact that the real estate agent's client is the property owner and the job of the agent is to sell the property. These inspectors in return expect respect for doing their job, inspecting property for their client - the prospective homebuyer. As the prospective homebuyer, you are the customer of the real estate agent - not the client.

Remember, anyone who makes money from the sale of the property you wish to purchase may not be your best representative. Some realtors are known to give out four or five business cards and say "Try one of these guys - they are all pretty good". In too many cases, the cards given out are for those inspectors who will give the realtors the most favourable reports. This makes the sale go ahead without any fuss over further negotiations. Most reputable realtors realize that it is best if they stay out of the inspection process and do what they do best, and that is selling homes.

5. Are there some things I should be aware of when dealing with unprofessional realtors?
Yes, there are some good realtors in the marketplace, just as there are many top inspectors. The difference is in the way they approach the client with their services. If a real estate professional hopes to be in the business for a long time and receive the benefit of future referrals by you to family and friends, they will want you to get a trouble free house. If any of the following situations arise during your negotiations, either run from the deal or find yourself another salesperson.

  • The realtor offers to pay for the inspection and pay for the inspector's fee.
  • The realtor recommends a particular inspector to a prospective buyer.
  • The realtor provides you with a list of three or four inspectors. If this happens, ask yourself: "Who are these recommended inspectors? How did they get qualified to get on the 'approved list'? Is the agent recommending someone who will help protect the potential thousands of dollars in commission?
  • The realtor suggests that the inspector is a "deal killer" or comments that we have had trouble with him before.
  • Comments are made such as "we have had good luck with this inspector", "this inspector has the lowest fee", "we use this inspector all the time", "this inspector can schedule an inspection on a day's notice", "this inspector only takes an hour and he gives you a report right on the spot", "that inspector takes too long to do an inspection". All of these comments are clear evidence that the realtor is trying to control the sale and is not working in the best interest of the purchaser.
  • Do a little research on your own and choose your own independent inspector. Most importantly, ask the inspector for references. Talk to previous clients; they will be happy to tell you of their good experiences.

    In conclusion: Beware of inspectors who claim they have no real estate agent affiliations. If an inspector claims to have no real estate agent affiliations, it doesn't necessarily mean they do not solicit real estate agents for client leads. The best way to qualify the relationship is to ask the inspector whether he or she solicits real estate agents for client leads. If you find that the inspector or inspection company maintains brochures in real estate offices, or if the inspector or inspection company is on the real estate agent's website or "recommended" list given out to prospective buyers, this should tell you something.

    6. Are buried oil tanks a big deal? My realtor tells me they can be removed for a few thousand dollars.
    Firstly, the City of Vancouver Residential Underground Storage Tank Removal Bulletin 2001-001-EV states: "Oil tanks which will not be reused or have been out of service for two years shall be removed." The City of Vancouver Fire By-law No. 8191 (sec. 4.10.3) and the City of Vancouver Sewer and Watercourse By-law No. 8093 (sec. 5.3.) require this.

    The real estate market has been very active lately, and a number of clients have told us of undue pressure from real estate agents regarding who should pay for the removal of these oil tanks. The responsibility rests squarely with the homeowner. But our clients have told us some realtors are saying to prospective purchasers, "If you want to buy the property, you are going to have to pay for the cost of removal."

    Removing the tank is only a small part of the process. If the tank is not empty and it breaks during removal, the costs can exceed $100,000 for cleanup. The tank could also have been leaking oil underground for a number of years and gone unnoticed until it was taken out. In one recent sale, a realtor provided $2,000 of his own funds to pay for the removal of the tank to appease his clients. What the clients didn't realize was that, if the tank broke, they may have to pay for the other, much more expensive, cleanup costs.

    Yes, buried oil tanks are a big deal. If you believe the realtor is using unfair tactics, you should report them immediately to the Vancouver City Environmental Protection Department, Telephone (604) 871-6540. Also you should go to the Real Estate Council of British Columbia's website, www.recbc.ca, and complete their one page complaint form and forward it to the Council for investigation.