Buying a house is one of the largest purchases most people make in their lives. Naturally, you want to make sure that the investment is a good one, bound to appreciate in value over time while providing a safe and comfortable home for you and your family.
That's the basic reason for most home inspections. They can assure you that the purchase you make will not backfire, and that no hidden problems pop up the minute you sign that mortgage contract. On the other hand, it's also an expensive undertaking that can complicate and lengthen the home buying process.
Which brings us to the core question to be answered here: do you need a home inspection? As you might imagine with such a complex topic, the answer depends. Most likely, it will be yes, and it is always best to check with a REALTOR®. However, there are cases in which you might not actually need one. That's what we'll cover here.
Benefits of home inspections
Peace of mind is an obvious benefit. A home inspection will make you feel that much better about signing on that dotted line. However, a few other reasons are also important to consider here.
1) Find fundamental problems with the home before you buy
It’s a good idea to know as much as you can about your potential future home. It's easy to fall in love with the kitchen or the floor plan of the home, but you might not know how to look for small signs that could spell doom for the house in the near future.
Cracks in the foundation might mean nothing — or they could mean significant damage that is just waiting to become a hazard to everyone in the building. A missing shingle could lead to significant water problems that warrant an entire roof replacement. The home inspection helps you realize where these potentially devastating problems might hide.
2) Ensure the safety of you and your family
When you buy a house, you're making an investment that's not just monetary but also intangible. You and your family are starting a new chapter of your lives together, ready to make memories in the four walls that will truly become home for you.
Naturally, that should put safety at the forefront of all of your considerations. A potentially unsafe home is not one that you want to invest in unless you’re prepared to fix it up right away. Dangerous electrical wiring, the aforementioned foundation problems, or a number of other issues can be found in a home inspection that could have you requesting a fix before you sign or stay away from the purchase altogether.
3) Make sure you follow all British Columbia building codes
Homes in British Columbia have to follow a number of building codes when it comes to construction, repairs, and remodelling. When buying a home, you likely won't need the government to take a look under the hood of the home. Still, it pays to know whether your home already follows those building codes.
Most homeowners eventually remodel at least part of the space. At the very least, some parts of your home will need repairs over time. When that happens, and the government inspects the finished product, they will expect everything they see (including the parts you didn't touch) to be up to code. Knowing about potential problems now can be of immense help later.
4) Plan ahead for potential repairs and modifications
The above reasons tend to concern major potential issues with the home. At the same time, it also makes sense to learn more nuanced details from the home inspection before the purchase. Even if you end up buying a home with no restrictions, these details can help immensely in planning for homeownership down the road.
For instance, your inspector might find evidence of old plumbing pipes that, while up to code, will degrade in 5-10 years. In that case, you might want to push up the date to remodel your bathroom to make sure it gets done before the pipes pose a problem. Put differently, a home inspection helps you become an expert in your home beyond the obvious seen during a tour of the house.
5) Prepare for the Interior British Columbia weather
As anyone living in the area knows, the weather in British Columbia — once you get away from the coast — can be harsh. Summers tend to be hot and relatively dry, while winters, especially once the elevation rises, are cold with plenty of snow. That weather is actually another reason why the home inspection makes sense.
Dry, hot summers and snowy winters are not a good combination for your roof. It makes sense to know the exact shape of that roof before you buy, as it does to learn about the waterproofing (or lack thereof) for your basement. Living in British Columbia is great — but it pays to be prepared for it.
Scenarios where a home inspection may not be necessary
All of the above means that when you ask, a qualified REALTOR® will likely recommend a home inspection. That doesn't mean it's required in every scenario. Here are two when you might actually be able to forego one.
1) You know the house well
Maybe you're buying from family or maybe you just know and trust the sellers. When you know the house already, you can still learn some things from the inspection — but it's no longer absolutely necessary. Just make sure you're comfortable with some potential unknowns though, as you cannot see behind the walls or under the floors.
2) It's the only way to win the bid
If you're not the only bidder on the house, being willing to forego a home inspection might be the only way to win the contest. But be careful: it also means you have no idea what you're actually buying. You better buy the home for little enough that the repair budget covers any potentially large contingencies.
How do I know whether or not I should get a home inspection?
The easy answer is to lean on the side of getting a home inspection. In the vast majority of cases, it will be the better choice. There are some scenarios in which it's not necessary, but even then you lose the benefits of knowledge and peace of mind that you would get otherwise.
If you're still not sure whether a home inspection is the right idea, talk to your REALTOR®. They'll be able to help you make the right choice and even recommend a few inspectors that can be relied upon to get the job done right and help you make sure that your seemingly dream house does not turn out to be a money pit.