Choosing a qualified inspector is an important step for new homeowners – but it’s not as easy as you may think

By Jennifer Goldberg

A home inspection is one of the most valuable investments you can make in your new home but finding a qualified inspector requires some research. “You could print up business cards and by the time the ink’s dry you could call yourself a home inspector,” says Gene Meandro, master inspector and president of Lighthouse Home Inspections in Toronto. “There are no real qualifications for home inspectors.” To help you distinguish a pro from an amateur, Meandro has some pointers.

Go by referrals

There is no national accreditation or licensing for home inspectors, so relying on rave reviews from people you trust is your best bet.  Poll your real estate agent, friends, family and social networks for recommendations, and check out websites like homestars.com, which provides user reviews of home service providers in your area.

Ask for an interview

When it comes to hiring a home inspector, personality counts. A patient and experienced professional can help you make an informed decision about buying your future home, so it’s important to find someone you click with. “A lot of people don’t really interview us first, but it’s a good idea,” Meandro says. Spend a few minutes chatting with an inspector over the phone to decide whether you’ll be able to rely on that person to walk you through the pros and cons of a property.

Inquire about insurance

Look to hire a home inspector who carries errors and omissions insurance. This insurance isn’t mandatory for home inspectors in most provinces, and some qualified professionals may not carry it, but Meandro says those that do may be more seasoned experts. “Home inspection insurance is difficult to get unless you have experience in that field.”

Tag along for the inspection

It’s a major red flag if a home inspector doesn’t invite you to observe the process. “Some inspectors will say, ‘Go sit in the kitchen and I’ll come talk to you at the end of the inspection,’ but that’s not acceptable,” Meandro says.  “Educating people about their new house is a major part of what we do.” Insist that you join the inspection and ask lots of questions about potential problems and what it would take to fix them.

Go with a pro

Got a brother-in-law who’s a contractor? He’ll probably do a stellar job on your renovations but he might not be the right person to hire for your home inspection. “A home inspector has to have basic knowledge of virtually everything related to a home,” Meandro says. “A contractor might not have the right equipment to look for moisture or test the electrical.” Make sure you hire an inspector with several years of experience under their tool belt.

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