The passion inside a person to do great work drives them to be the very best they can be. This is what makes a person jump out of bed in the morning, welcome new assignments with enthusiasm, take every opportunity to do a little better, and look back at each day with a sense of accomplishment. We apply our passion to grow with the industry and continue to see each new challenge as an opportunity to accomplish the very best for our clients. This is our labour of love and our reports are as big as our heart.
This is a challenging occupation that depends a well organized and expert approach. Some of the challenges facing the home inspection world are the constant changes.
- Emerging building technologies, like ductless mini-split heat pumps, require changes to inspection procedures and new sections in the reports.
- As once vogue materials and construction methods being to age, they may deteriorate in atypical ways that require increased vigilance. In some cases, defective products have encouraged sweeping class action law suites, private settlements, and inspectors are left deciding where concerns are justified.
- Constantly updated building codes add new homes, with different configurations, to the existing housing inventory.
- Home inspections were once an investigation for major defects, like cracked foundations, but have increasingly expanded in scope and complexity to include much less significant items.
- New legislation has been proposed, or introduced, in many provinces to licence or set requirements for home inspections.
- A new home inspection standard has been adopted by the Canadian Standards Association, A 770-16, which, for some inspectors, has a much larger scope of practice than they are currently providing.
We address these dynamic needs with constantly updated inspection methods; emphasizing consumer awareness; and creating flexible and extensible reports. There are twelve parts that divide our reports from the exterior to the interior, then by major system, and finally by other pertinent observations. Each part follows a similar organizational format that promotes quick scanning; meaningful descriptions, explanations, and recommendations; and often illustrated photographs.
Each section of the report is broken down into a length that allows for the relevant images to immediately follow, making it easier to understand what text is associated with what picture, while allowing room where additional images are required to describe a topic. However, sometimes it is necessary to avoid all confusion and refer directly to an image. This is why our reporting process begins with numerically tagging every image.
Photographs are essential for understanding many architectural concepts, however not everything can be clearly depicted in an image, and what may be obvious to an expert inspector is not necessarily so for everyone. Our images lead the industry with custom illustrations directly on the photographs. The meaning is obvious and clients love it.
Click on any image below to browse a gallery of full sized images.
Removing electrical panel covers, traversing crawlspaces, entering the attic, and viewing the roof from above the eave; these are just a few examples of the many items that are essential to a dependable inspection. According to ASHI's executive director, Frank Lesh, 1600 items are found on their inspectors checklists (ASHI's Canadian counterpart, CAHPI, has a very similar scope.)
It absolutely horrifies me when I learn that another inspector used a thinly veiled excuse as a means to avoid inspecting panels, attics, roofs, and other time consuming tasks. Neither an industry safety standard nor a legislated restriction prevents an inspector from removing the distribution panel cover. Attics are analogous to a canary in coal mine for examining the health of a building, and are part of inspecting the roof, but they are routinely skipped by some inspectors. These are not acceptable practices. - RJ Miller
Our inspections are conducted according to the national CSA A770 standard, Home Inspections. This is a Canadian standards document developed by CSA Group (formerly Canadian Standards Association) which is accredited by the Standards Council of Canada (SCC).
A Duty to Report
Inspectors have a duty of care, well established in court, to inform the client about the conditions of a property, which go beyond standard structural and mechanical issues, for example, and identify areas of probable concern, opportunities to take preventative maintenance, and where upgrades are advisable. For example, smoke detectors were not reasonably available until after 1965, and certainly not a code requirement until much later, but they are an essential device in every home and their absence is reported as deficient, with good reason. Therefore, while a home is evaluated with respect to the approximate building practices at the time of construction, it is understood that some conditions require special attention and will be addressed when, in the opinion of the inspector, they are significant in nature.
Differentiating Between Deficiencies and Upgrades
In many cases, the duty to inform the client may raise questions during the negotiation of the purchase and sale. For example:
- Does the Home Inspection Report Addendum allow for upgrades, or just deficiencies?
- Is the Home Inspection Report Addendum scope the same as CSA home inspection standard? ...or some association Standard of Practice?
- Is a building required to be updated to meet new code reviews? ...what if it is renovated?
- What if a component requires routine maintenance, but otherwise functions acceptably?
- What if a component is near the commonly understood end of life period, but otherwise functions acceptably?
Our reports frequently add standardized text in places where background information can help a client both, understand the importance and value of taking a corrective action, and that it may neither be deficient, nor even relevant to the scope of a home inspection report addendum. For example, consider these two items reporting on the absence of ground fault circuit interrupters. In the case of the interior receptacle, the absence is not necessarily considered deficient: the exception being a relatively new property where the client has a reasonable expectation to benefit from modern code improvement. Meanwhile, the exterior receptacle is always reported as deficient, even when a property is 100 year old, for example. This is because of the probability and severity of electrical fault is substantially greater outside. In other words, in the opinion of the inspector, it is more significant in nature.
A Resource for Everyone
The report is designed to provide guidance for many years after the initial inspection (properties should be re-inspected every five years). Owners should take immediate action where safety hazards exist, or where major property damage may occur, and prioritize the remaining items based on the given severity. Since many corrective actions will require the services of other professionals, portions of the report are written in a technical language such that they may better understand the nature of the work required. For example, "cracking on the entrance conductor neutral," is immediately understood by any electrician to mean the portion of the white wire entering the property from the top of the mast head, through the conduit, and connecting to the inside of the main breaker panel. This is both concise and definitive.
Most clients, however, care more for what impact something may have on the performance or longevity of the property, as well as what corrective action they may have to undertake. This is why the second and their part of a deficiency statement is written in plain English.
Helpful Bonus Features
Several parts of the report bring additional utility. For example, Section 1.5, Insurability, collects information found in many other parts of the report, and places it on a single page, complete with page references to the original entry. Reports should be useful, and this is one of many ways we accomplish this.
Inspection reports contain a lot of information. Overall, this level of detail is beneficial and desirable, however it is also important to be able to quickly find information that is pertinent during negotiations, such as the conditions of the Home Inspection Report Addendum. A number of features in our reports facilitate finding important topics with ease. The entire report is broken down into logical sections which are all referenced from the table of contents. The narrative style summary emphasizes major findings, and items that are particularly significant to the report addendum. Throughout the report, references are made to other sections, usually by page number, to assist uses of the report with navigating back and forth.
Each section begins with a straightforward rating matrix. Major items are in the rightmost column and slightly shaded, enhancing the reader's ability to quickly scan pages and focus on the most important items. Our clients say it also helps when returning to pages because it is easier to recognize a pattern than pick out a word.
A system or component that is likely to be costly to repair, or is unsafe, and requires prompt attention.
A system or component that is deficient, requiring corrective action such as repair or replacement to assure proper and reliable function.
A system or component that requires improvements such as regular maintenance that are recommended but not required.
A system or component that has no visibly discernible deficiency.
Many of our clients rely on our service at a time when emotions may be high, they are facing big decisions, and they may not be experienced with property transactions. Being mindful of our clients' expectations, and having empathy for their concerns, is essential to providing a great customer experience: friendly service matters. There are many ways we respond to people's needs during this period, here is our philosophy:
- Do great work. Walt Disney once said, "Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends." We couldn't have said it better. Fundamentally this means to do a thorough inspection, and write about it, but the true answer is more nuanced. Thorough inspections require training, experience, proper equipment, sufficient time, and refusing to take shortcuts. The best reports address deficiencies with clear explanations and recommendations while describing conditions that were, in fact, acceptable. How else does a person know the true state of a property if they do not also know what's in good condition?
- Make sure specific questions are answered in the report. The scope of an inspection changes when a client expresses a concern. In fact, Justice Wright concluded in Seltzer-Soberano v. Kogut that a house inspector would be held to a different standard of responsibility if requested to respond to a specific question. If for example, a question was raised about an unusual smell in the basement, the inspector should address that specifically in the report. Of course, we don't need a court decision to know when an opportunity exists to better serve a client, but it does underscore the importance of addressing questions.
- Offer ongoing support. Every inspection should come with an offer to personally review the report. This may occur over the phone, or in person, but should be by whatever format is most comfortable for the client. We make the offer to personally review reports at least six times: at our introduction, when a quotation is provided, when a report is distributed, in the report cover letter, and in two follow-up messages. When someone does need this level of help: it was essential.
- Take feedback. Customer feedback is critical to growth and improvement. Every suggestion is taken seriously and reasonable requests are always acted upon. What our clients say matters! We use Hively to capture 1-click feedback on many of our outgoing messages, send a feedback survey along with our report, and respond to all comments on our social media platforms. This is the world we live in and communication must be in both directions.
- Go the extra mile. It's not extra work, its an opportunity. Here is a typical customer experience for us: "After we arrived (having moved from out-of-province), Robert came to the house at our request, and free of charge, to go over a few points with us - on the weekend."
- Be available. When customers need you, it can be very frustrating to be forced to wait, and they should find you where they are (including on-line). Our clients can reach us by phone, text message, WhatsApp, e-mail, web contact form, through our Facebook page, the Home Remedy Blog, ask the code expert, and even Twitter.
Home inspectors invite reliance. If prospective home purchased do not receive meaningful and reliable advice, there is simply no reason to use their services. Whole scale exclusion of liability clauses are contrary to the public interest in obtaining expert advice about substantial deficiencies. The content of a home inspection report—for example: roofs, foundations, mechanical systems, and electrical systems—are important to clients because they present the greatest risk of financial exposure. Why would an inspection contract strip away any value in those opinions?
Our inspection contracts are modelled after the best standards in the construction and engineering world to establish fair terms to all parties: because our opinions have value.
Our contracts do not say,
"LIABILITY IS LIMITED TO A REFUND IN THE AMOUNT OF THE FEES PAID."