A home or cottage inspection is a detailed assessment performed by an individual who has the certification and training required to perform an impartial and thorough inspection of your cottage. It is a comprehensive visual examination of the cottage’s overall structure, major systems and components and identifies issues that a non-expert would otherwise likely miss. The inspector provides a written report of key findings, which the client then uses to make informed decisions about a pending real estate purchase (i.e. whether to go ahead with the purchase of a cottage or not).
Why it’s so important
Cottages aren’t cheap. A cottage inspection provides value by conducting the necessary due diligence before investment in the property is made. The inspection provides some peace of mind as potential buyers can protect themselves from making a bad investment before they make the final decision. More specifically, a cottage inspection can be used as a contingency in the Agreement of Purchase and Sale, so that if significant defects are revealed by the inspection the buyer can back out of the deal.
Cottage inspection fees in Ontario typically range from $300 to $500 and may be higher, depending on the size and condition of the building. It is best to shop around, as home inspection costs can vary greatly. Some real estate inspection service providers determine their charge in terms of square foot, the cost of the house being inspected, and/or the amount of time for the job to be completed.
A home inspector is sometimes confused with a real estate appraiser. A home inspector determines the condition of a structure, whereas an appraiser determines the value of a property.
Home inspector “standards of practice” serve as a minimum level of care required. However, they do not strip components of the building and, unless they are an electrician, can only give you an opinion of the electrical system.
Inspectors will typically check the roof, basement, heating system, water heater, air-conditioning system, structure, plumbing, electrical, and many other aspects of buildings. Keep in mind that is always best to find out what specific inspection services are included in the price. Moreover, a home inspection is not technically exhaustive and does not imply that every defect will be discovered. Some inspection companies offer 90-day limited warranties to protect clients from unexpected mechanical and structural failures; otherwise, inspectors are not responsible for future failures.
Remember, this is cottage country, and if the building is older, many of the building’s improvements and additions were done by multiple previous cottage owners. The following are specific areas you may want to have checked out and which might not be covered under a standard home inspection:
- Septic system
- Land Survey
- Wood destroying insects
- Radon Test
- Water quality
- Well Inspection
- Swimming Pool
- Restrictive Covenants (binding legal obligations written into the deed of a property by the seller)
- Propane heating
- Wood stoves
- Greywater (water from your bathroom sinks, showers, tubs, and washing machines)
Your inspection should clearly outline:
- Whether each problem is a safety issue, major defect, or minor defect;
- Which items need replacement and which should be repaired or serviced; and
- Which items are suitable for now but that should be monitored closely.
Note that no cottage “passes or fails” an inspection because there are so many factors beyond the scope of the home inspection. For example financing, cosmetic concerns, location,etc.
In conducting the inspection, the inspector should be all over the building, and you should be too! It is best if you can attend the inspection, as it can be a valuable learning experience. Don’t be afraid to ask the inspector a lot of questions and keep your own notes.
Do you need a licensed inspector?
Anyone in Ontario can call themselves a “qualified” Home Inspector. However, not everyone can call themselves a “Registered Home Inspector”. The Ontario Association of Home Inspectors (OAHI) has stringent requirements for membership and maintains the right to designate their members as Registered Home Inspectors. It is strongly recommended that you look for a professional in an association such as the OAHI.
Choosing an OAHI inspector means choosing a certified individual you can trust to objectively and independently provide a comprehensive and unbiased analysis of the cottage’s major systems and components.
Questions to consider asking a prospective cottage inspector:
- May I see accreditation that shows what kind of training and experience you have?
- Do you have experience inspecting the type of cottage that I’m considering?
- Can you provide references?
- May I see a copy of the inspection report you use?
- How much do your services cost?