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Editorial: Inspect the inspector

When it comes to home inspections in this province, there are fewer guidelines than you might think.
When it comes to home inspections in this province, there are fewer guidelines than you might think. — 123RF Stock Photo

Real estate, done right, is hard work.

You have to be able to figure out your clients’ needs. You often hold panicky hands as prospective buyers fret about making offers for the house they want and reassure sellers who are afraid of losing money selling their homes.

You’re on call pretty much all of the time — your weekends are eaten up with open houses, even if no one shows up.

Still, it can be rewarding; you’re helping people with one of the most difficult decisions they can make, and the roller coaster ride can be exhilarating.

But there are pitfalls, even when a sale is about to go through.

Anyone can call themselves a home inspector: there’s no regulation involved.

One of them is the home inspection. Buyers are always told that they should make a home inspection a condition of sale. There are good reasons for that. The average buyer is not an expert. There can easily be major structural problems that a layperson might not see, and having an experienced inspector could save you money, heartache and sleepless nights — even if he or she gives thumbs down on what you thought was your dream home. You pay for expertise, and that’s supposed to protect you.

It might be surprising, then, to find out that there’s no guarantee in this province that you’re getting that expertise.

Anyone can call themselves a home inspector: there’s no regulation involved. And, as a July 4th story by The Telegram’s Juanita Mercer points out, that may mean you don’t get what you pay for.

In fact, you may get someone who gets plenty of inspection work simply because they don’t hold up sales by pointing too many things out.

This country has scores of lawsuits centred on a simple issue: “Was the inspection conducted within the applicable standards?”

The cases would strike fear in any prospective home buyer: a woman who was extremely sensitive to mold, and asked for a home inspection specifically to look for that issue, where the work wasn’t done and the house was rotten with it. Another where an attic access hatch was sealed with a simple bead of caulking, so the inspector didn’t open the hatch and detect what would become $40,000 in emergency roof repairs.

Many of the cases are in Ontario, where the provincial government passed a home inspection act in 2017. (It has not yet been proclaimed as law, and may not be, after a change in government.)

If the process is completed, home inspectors will have to be licensed, insured, and will have to meet minimum standards.

From realtors to inspectors, there’s a push here to have similar regulations; inspections are a crucial part of a major investment.

It’s too bad the Newfoundland and Labrador government doesn’t see it that way. Right now, the official government position is that it’s not on the radar.

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