Mon, October 29, 2007
Increasingly, home buyers make their offer conditional on a satisfactory home inspection, a trend that keeps inspectors busy.
By CHRISTOPHER CLARK, SPECIAL TO SUN MEDIA
As Rob Parker pokes his flashlight into the crawlspace of a home he was inspecting, he does a made-for-TV sitcom double-take.
Peering in for a closer look, he confirms his initial suspicion. The bungalow he is inspecting is being supported by car jacks in the basement crawlspace.
That’s not exactly code.
London’s real estate market continues to sizzle, and with it so too does the market for home inspectors. In the first seven months of this year, 7,009 homes had changed hands in London, according to the London and St. Thomas Association of Realtors. Not every buyer uses a home inspector – a decision some eventually rue – but many do, and that means home inspectors are in demand.
“A couple of years after I got in the business, real estate agents started routinely including a home inspection as a condition of the offer,” says George Webb, owner of Home Pro Inspections.
“Not everyone does it, but most do and that has really increased the demand for inspections.”
Webb, 60, has been inspecting homes for nearly 13 years. He was a woodworker but business was far from robust, so when a customer asked if he could fix some damage discovered by a home inspector, Webb decided to look into a new career.
Last year, Mark Hiemstra and his father, Ollie, inspected 1,100 homes between the two of them. They own and operate London Home Inspection Inc., based in Thorndale. Ten years after Ollie started doing home inspections, the company is doing a booming business. It wasn’t always so.
Getting started in the business can be difficult, says Hiemstra, 37, who joined his father in the business in 2001. Almost all an inspector’s business comes from referrals by real estate agents. Virtually all inspections are performed as a condition on an offer to buy a home, and few buyers have experience finding an inspector. So they ask their agent for suggestions, and new inspectors don’t get a lot of referrals.
“Realtors get to know inspectors and recommend them,” Hiemstra says. “I suppose it can be a bit of a conflict if the listing agent suggests an inspector, but we pride ourselves on our objectivity. We provide an honest report and then move on. We really never know what happens, whether people still buy the house or not.”
That’s true, says Rob Parker, 54. When he found those car jacks in the crawlspace, he wrote his report and told the prospective owners what he found. “I don’t know what they decided to do. I rarely hear what happens.”
Occasionally, a would-be buyer accompanies Parker through the house and sees some of the issues Parker finds. At that point, the buyer may back away from the deal, without even waiting for the official inspection report.
“Three times this year, I’ve been part way through the inspection and the person buying the house has seen enough. I don’t charge my full fee, just for the time I’ve been there and I’m on my way,” Parker says.
Many home inspectors are certified as members of the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors (OAHI), formed 20 years ago. In 1994, it became a self-regulating professional body under provincial legislation.
A competing certification is the U.S.-based National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI). Although most of its members are south of the border, the organization is making efforts to sign up inspectors in Canada by holding seminars here.
Membership or certification is voluntary, however, so it’s possible to set up shop as an inspector with little or no training and no industry certification. That’s why inspectors who are certified stress that fact and encourage people to look for certified inspectors when they’re buying a house.
Webb, Hiemstra and Parker are all registered home inspectors.
Like Webb, Parker and Hiemstra came to home inspections after pursuing other careers. Parker spent 27 years as a cable line worker for Rogers Cable, leaving when the job changed and he wasn’t interested in what the company had to offer. It took him about two years to complete the courses to become certified.
“It took about two years. I took courses at Fanshawe College and also Seneca and Humber,” he says. “I didn’t know how long it would take to do all that when I started.”
He was lucky to bypass some of the lean years in the business by teaming up with Bryan Rodgers, owner of the local AmeriSpec home inspection franchise. He worked with Rodgers, doing home inspections for a few years, and recently they formed partnership, with Parker doing the home inspections and Rodgers doing the environmental inspections that are increasingly popular among people tuning up their homes to be more energy efficient.
“I was lucky to work with Bryan. My first few months in business were tough. It’s hard to get hired initially,” Parker says.
Hiemstra and his father, Ollie, have been partners since 2001, four years after Ollie stopped building homes and started inspecting them.
“The home building business got kind of tough, and he was looking for a change,” says Hiemstra. “I did general contracting and renovations for a few years after we stopped building homes, and then I joined the inspection business six years ago.”
A trained carpenter, Hiemstra took electrical and heating courses through George Brown College, then took a deficit-recognition course in Sarnia.
Parker takes pains to explain what an inspection is – and isn’t. Inspectors climb up on the roof, go through the basement and look in the attic, but they don’t have x-ray vision and they’re not allowed to poke holes in walls to foresee potential problems.
Parker takes umbrage at TV’s Mike Holmes, who regularly rails against home inspectors who did not ferret out problems homeowners find after their purchase. “I can’t kick holes in the wall like he does.”
Home inspectors give prospective buyers a comprehensive report, detailing everything they’ve found and rating the house’s major components – heat, air, plumbing and electrical.
Recently, Parker has adopted an electronic report system, which allows him to download information from a handheld device directly to a portable printer, producing a report on the spot for his clients.
Hiemstra and Webb also create their reports on site, using a less technical tool – the ballpoint pen.
Either way, clients get a thorough look at the house they are buying. Costs are usually somewhere between $300 and $400, depending on the size of the house.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
- AmeriSpec Home Inspection: 519-857-7101 www.amerispec-inspections.com
- Home Pro Inspections: 519-666-2338, 1-888-445-8119 www.homeprohelps.com
- London Home Inspection Inc.: 21117 Rebecca Rd. RR 2 Thorndale 519-461-1850 1-877-496-1850 www.londonhomeinspection.com
- Ontario Association of Home Inspectors: www.pachi.ca -
**National Association of Certified Home Inspectors: **www.nachi.org](http://www.nachi.org)