I used to think a home inspection was a pass/fail thing, like grade nine gym. I remember when I was looking for my first home, I was shopping at the bottom end of the Toronto market and yet I was bitterly disappointed every time my inspection report would come back identifying numerous issues with the home I’d made an offer on.

I think a lot of first time buyers – and even experienced buyers – don’t make good use of what a home inspection report offers. In very hot markets, buyers may not feel they even have the option of getting an inspection, since many homes are selling fast, over-asking and as-is. But in a stable market like Kingston, a home inspection should be a condition of any offer.

If you’ve always lived at home or been a tenant, the cycle of home maintenance can be invisible or at best opaque. Here’s the dark and stark truth: everything in a house is in the process of falling apart. Nothing lasts forever. Not roofs, not furnaces, not oiled butcher block countertops. What a home inspection tells you is where in that process the various systems in a house are.

When I was buying my first home, the news that the furnace had only a few more years left to live or that the electrical panel was last up to code in 1972 would devastate me. I would be angry at the sellers and feel duped. And after a few of these inspections, I started to feel pissed off at my agent who kept suggesting them – they cost a lot of money and all they were doing was making me doubt I’d ever find a place to buy.

Now I see the inspection report differently. It’s a snapshot – it tells me what kind of owners the house has had before, if they kept up the maintenance or let it slide. It’s a checklist – it tells me what improvements I’ll need to take on, and when. And it’s a negotiating tool. This is where your agent can help – if an inspection highlights the fact that the home you are interested in needs a lot more repair than the comps used to price it, you now have the means to justify a revised offer.

That is exactly what happened to me in my new place, and we remind ourselves all the time that the money we are spending now on upgrades and repair is money we already had in our budget, because we negotiated based on the inspection. Without it, we’d be spending that money anyway but we’d be a lot less sanguine about it.

“I want my clients to get a good sense of the major things: foundation, plumbing and electrical all the mechanicals. Are there any nasties, like asbestos, that can affect the clients’ health, safety, or ability to re-sell?” Jake says. From his point of view, getting the most value from an inspection depends on two things. “The quality of the inspector and the involvement of the clients – you need both. If you have a good inspector and high level of client involvement, the inspection is potentially the best money you’ll ever spend on your home.”

In a future post, Jake is going to share more specifics on getting the most out of a home inspection, and what to look out for in particular Kingston neighbourhoods and types of homes. (For example, basement flooding in Williamsville – ask me how I know!)

If you have questions about how to find a good home inspector, get in touch with Jake – jc@royallepage.ca

– Stephanie.

NOTE: This is part of a new blog launched by the Jake and Anne Caldwell Real Estate team. I’m Stephanie, and I’m a writer sharing some of my own thoughts as a homeowner, but mostly working with Jake and Anne to get their thoughts and expertise out into the world.