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Mike Holmes: Don’t fall in love with the eye candy

Anyone — no exceptions — who is buying a resale home must get a home inspection.
Not getting one is like buying a used car without taking it for a test drive, or buying it based on colour. Sounds crazy, right? But think about it, when it comes to buying a house you are investing at least 50 times more money, and when people spend more time buying their groceries than they do getting a house properly checked by a pro, they pay for it.
Homebuyers need to be smart, or they could end up buying a can of worms that will cost a fortune to make safe. I’ve seen it happen and I’ve seen people go bankrupt as a result.
Getting a home inspection before you buy a home can save you tens of thousands of dollars, not to mention all the headaches. Because qualified, unbiased home inspectors are worth their weight in gold. They can spot potential problems and the red flags; they can tell you which ones need to be addressed now and which ones can wait, and what it might take to make it right. Then from there, you can make an informed decision about whether the home is worth your investment.
For example, during a pre-purchase home inspection, a pro will check out the roof and tell you roughly how long it should last, if it needs to be repaired or if you’ll need to reshingle before next winter.
They’ll take a look at the building structure and foundation, and check for any major cracks or issues — such as a heaving foundation or mould in the basement or attic — that will have to be fixed sooner rather than later.
They’ll also check out the electrical, the plumbing and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) and warn you of any upgrades or major repairs. Because if a house needs a new furnace, or if the plumbing needs to be upgraded or there’s knob-and-tube wiring, you will want to know before making an offer. Those fixes aren’t cheap.
Too many times people fall in love with the eye candy — granite countertops, hardwood floors, crown moulding, stainless steel appliances — and they don’t see the water damage on the ceiling, the mould in the basement or bathroom, crumbling mortar on the exterior, or the rotting framing around windows.
A good home inspector is supposed to help you look beyond the surface and see a potential home for what it’s really worth. That’s why I love home inspectors that are Level 1 Certified Thermographers — because they can use thermal imaging cameras to detect problems behind walls, such as leaks or abnormal heat coming from faulty wiring.
But the key is hiring someone who works for you, and not the real estate agent. You want someone who will tell you the truth about a home, even if it means that you will walk away and not buy it — not someone who might be more worried about losing referrals from real estate agents because they warn homebuyers against buying a lemon.
You also want someone with experience in home inspections. Hire a pro who understands home construction and how a home works. You need someone who can immediately tell you if something doesn’t look right or if there’s been any major renovations (and then check if they were done without permits).
There are good and bad home inspectors just like there are good and bad contractors. You have to do your due diligence. But not getting a home inspection before buying a home is probably one of the worst things you can do as a homebuyer.
I don’t know too many people who regret getting a home inspection, but I do know plenty who regret not getting one. Be smart and buy it right.

Mike Holmes, Special to National Post