Mark: Hi, it’s Mark Bossert from Top Local Lead Generation. We’re here with David Fairbairn. David is a building and home inspector here in Vancouver. How’re you doing today David?
David: I’m great Mark, how’re you doing?
Mark: Good, really good actually. So we’re getting down to the nitty gritty, how does one go about choosing the right home inspector in Vancouver?
David: Well Mark, there’s a couple things you’re going to want to do before you start picking home inspectors, you need to understand how the home inspection industry works in BC. In BC all home inspectors are required to be licensed so you’re probably not going to be able to find a home inspector who’s not licensed and if they don’t have a license you’re going to want to run away from them. It would be similar to going to a dentist who doesn’t have his license. This should be someone who’s a trained professional, obviously anyone who doesn’t have on, that’s the biggest thing but of course in BC all home inspectors are required to be licensed so when you’re choosing an inspector, they may tell you, well I’m licensed, well you know it kind of puts us all on similar ground. What you should do, there’s a couple ways you can find a home inspector, one is to speak to your real estate professional. In Vancouver, I don’t know if it’s common in other areas but in Vancouver the real estate agent will actually give you three names usually, three inspectors that they trust and then you can do your research on that, call them, find out what they offer and pick one of the three. So that’s probably the most common way to find it is to speak to your real estate agent or of course going on the web, Google or having a look around and seeing if there’s a website of an inspector that you trust and it’s someone who appears to offer a good selection of services at a good price. So those are usually the two ways is either the internet or through a real estate agent.
Mark: So I guess there’s some sort of association that you guys have?
David: Yes, basically in BC to get our license we have to be a member of an association and there’s a number of associations in Canada that you can belong to that satisfies that requirement to get a license, so you may hear inspectors talking about different associations; I like to think that it’s not really about which association you belong to, however, there are pros and cons of each one. I’m a member of the Canadian National Association of Certified Home Inspectors. There’s another one called Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors also known as CAHPI, there’s ASTTPBC so there’s actually quite a few and I guess the upshot there is if they really try to force one Association on you versus another I would probably steer clear of that because it doesn’t always guarantee that you’re going to get a quality inspector. You should be looking at the inspector on their merits alone and not their association.
Mark: What are the qualifications that I should be looking for?
David: You can take the course, you could go out right now and take some courses and become a certified home inspector but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have real world experience and I think this is one of the things people find is that the home inspector that they’re choosing does not have any prior contracting experience or any engineering experience. In some cases the person was maybe working in an office before and now they’re all of a sudden out and inspecting homes and while that’s well and good, I like to believe that the education is good enough to get you up to speed to do a proper quality job, however in some cases the person doesn’t have the background to identify problems that they may not have been exposed to in a classroom. Ideally if you can find a home inspector who has engineering or contracting experience prior to being a home inspector, for me that’s a huge thing. Of course I have, shameless plug, I have engineering experience and contracting experience as well prior to becoming a home inspector.
Mark: So if I could sum that up it, just because you watch building shows on TV don’t make you a contractor.
David: That’s correct, as much as I love HGTV it’s a lot of fun to watch, it may not actually be realistic in terms of what you’ll see in the real world and a lot of time there is actually a lot of bad information on those shows, I probably call it one error per show. So take it with a grain of salt, its entertainment, right?
Mark: Yes. So what’s the best way to find an inspector? You kind of outlined a couple of them, what else would be your advice in that regard?
David: Look for somebody, I always say take a look at two things which is the sample report so if you can get a copy of the home inspection report from your inspector and see what kind of product you’re going to get because you’ll get everywhere from a paper checklist that’s one page long with a bunch of x’s on checkboxes or the longest I’ve ever seen one was a 100 page report with 200 plus photos and descriptions of everything. So there’s everything in between but take a look at the report because this is the kind of report you’re going to be getting and if you don’t understand it or it doesn’t make sense to you, you’re probably going to want to hire a different home inspector because it’s going to be just as useful on the house you’re buying as it is with the sample report, so get a copy of the sample report and also find out, one of the things would be is how long the inspection takes. If you find an inspector who says he can do it in an hour, he can but he can’t do a good job in an hour. I’m not aware of any home inspector who can do a quality job in one hour. Most of our inspections take about three hours, sometimes four depending upon the square footage. We try to keep it around three and I find that’s a good split between doing a quality job and being efficient at the same time.
Mark: So we’ve been talking with Mr. David Fairbairn. He’s a home inspector in Vancouver. For a trusted, quality job, he’s the guy to call. You can reach him at 604-395-2795 or go to his website at fairbairninspections.com. Thanks David.
David: Thanks Mark, talk to you later.
Exploring home inspection frequently asked questions with David Fairbairn in Vancouver, BC
Mark: Hi, it’s Mark Bossert from Top Local Lead Generation. We’re here with David Fairbairn of Fairbairn Inspections in Vancouver, BC and we’re going to be answering some of the common questions that people have about home inspections this morning. How’re you doing David?
David: I’m good Mark, how’re you doing today?
Mark: Good, so what’s included in a home inspection?
David: Well, Mark there’s a set of standards that home inspectors have to use that is considered the bare minimum that home inspectors can look at during an inspection and these are considered a bare minimum but they typically include the major systems of the house. So you’re looking at your structure, your plumbing, your roof, the heating, ventilation, electrical, things like this, so that’s the major systems of the property and almost any home inspectors going to do that and in BC you have to abide by those standards but you can also go above and beyond those, so for instance one of the things that home inspectors actually are not required to inspect, is appliances and they’re not required to use any specific tools, they’re not required to do moisture testing or in fact, as far as I know they’re not even required to have a plug tester which I find funny, but that’s the bare minimum of what’s included in a home inspection.
Now, our home inspection includes more than that but we’ve got the basic major systems of the property, we’re going to give you an overview condition of the building, but we’re also going to give a little bit more than that.
Mark: So do you inspect everything, like what about fences or a big one for me and I think for anybody in the Vancouver area is drainage because we get a lot of rain here, outbuildings, all the sort of stuff, do you look at those as well?
David: Yes, interesting that you should ask that because the standards actually say that home inspectors are not required to look at fences, sheds, any sort of drainage whatsoever aside from the maybe three inches of drain tiles sticking up from the garden bed so what we’re doing with our home inspections is we’re obviously limited by what we can see but we’re going to give you an overview of the whole property so what I like to do is during the inspection I’ll show up and walk the entire property, corner to corner and this is for a number of reasons, you know, if you have a lot, maybe it’s predominately a flat lot but there’s a slope on one side of it and it maybe direct water onto one side of the home where you get pooling in your yard, you might have, this is actually when I find a lot is where there’s a big retaining wall back of the property that you need to sort of go way back and hack through the bushes, take a look, you know you’ve got some types of problems with the retaining wall. That can be really expensive, a retaining wall right now, to rebuild it, a concrete retaining walls between $25 to $35 a square foot so it’s thousands of dollars to actually rebuild a retaining wall. You can’t really shift them back into place, you have to tear them up and rebuild them. So it can actually be a huge item. So retaining walls, that’s a big one, inspecting drainage; what I like to do is actually open up manhole covers if I can find them, pop them open, have a look and we can actually see a little bit of our perimeter drainage, storm drainage system, right. There’s been a couple times I’ve opened up inspection chamber in the front yard, those turquoise lids you see in the front yard, there’s one red one, there’s one turquoise one, never open the red one because that’s sewage and turquoise one is rain water, so if you ever see a red one you’re probably not going to want to touch it. But the green one, you pop it open, you have a look and you can see, there has been a couple times you can see it backing up from the connection from the lateral to the city, so those are the things that be curious, that’s what we’re doing, you know the curious guy we go around the property, take a look at everything we can and if the sheds about to fall; I saw a shed in Coquitlam the other day, the shed was leaning so much that the door wouldn’t open any more, the door was actually seized, so you know, that’s going to be a safety hazard if they move in, start using that shed it’s going to fall over so this is kind of basic stuff that’s it’s not technically required but it’s going to create the impact of the use of the property so all inspections that we do include these areas.
Mark: So what about in the ceiling or above the ceiling in the attic area or whatever you want to call it in that space area, I know that if you just stick your head up you see one view and if you actually walk on the framing members and work your way around you might see a whole different picture, like junction boxes buried in the ceiling and where nobody’s ever going to find them and all kinds of interesting things or different kinds of wiring, aluminum or all kinds of old, old wiring because we have some old houses in the Vancouver area merged with new wiring because part of the house was renovated or . .
David: that’s usually the case, yeah, you know hey this panel looks great and all of a sudden you go up to the attic and it’s tied into a bunch of tubing and electrical tape. Yeah, that’s really a good point and home inspectors are required to go and look at the attic, doesn’t say how so I could technically open the attic hatch, poke my head in there, shine a flashlight around and come back down in three seconds and that would meet the requirements of what I’m supposed to do but that’s not good enough. I always say if we can get into the attic, if I can fit myself into the attic, unless it’s a Vancouver special, now a Vancouver special they have incredibly low attics, they’re almost universally impossible to get into but for a standard house, if you can get into the attic there’s a lot of stuff you can find up there. One of the really common problems I find in attics is somebody’s gone and put in recessed lighting and they’ll put like pot lights all over the upstairs ceiling and they’re really proud of themselves but they actually put in a style that potlight that can’t be in contact with insulation and the manufacturer specifically says that and it’s called a non IC rated light, it’s insulation contact light and this kind of fixture you would have to actually have to build a small box around it or have the insulation not touching it and that can be a big job so that’s a pretty common mistake and you wouldn’t know unless you actually went into the attic or you pull the pot lights down from below which I’m probably not going to start doing.
Mark: So, what don’t you inspect?
David: The only thing, there’s a few things that are difficult for us to inspect, anything that’s not visible, right so we have to remember it’s a visual inspection so anything that we can’t see so if I walk into a room and it’s packed with storage items I may not be able to inspect that room so that ties in with how to prepare for the home inspection. If you have an inspection you are going to want to make sure that they haven’t taken one of the basement rooms and filled it storage items because they’re moving, it’s packed with boxes. I’ll give it a shot, I’ll try to pull back the boxes and take a look behind it if we can or if we can reasonably move some items out of the way but if we can get everything visible then I can inspect more of the property, actually that’s one of the big things I can’t inspect is anything that’s not visible, locked doors, we’ve had a couple mystery rooms this month where you know, it’s locked, nobody knows where it goes and I have to say, you know what, I can’t get in there, I don’t know. Attics if they’ve got shelving installed overtop the attic hatch, I can’t go up to the attic, so you just want to make sure we have access to all the areas and one more thing I don’t inspect is the security system of the house. We’re finding a lot of these newer homes, they come with installed security systems but they don’t, sometimes they’re half way there, maybe you don’t have your sensors in, maybe you don’t have your control box, so there’s a few different steps to get a security system up and running and I leave that up to the security experts so that’s one thing I don’t inspect and I also don’t want to set off any alarms while I’m in the home otherwise I get a call from the homeowner asking why the fire truck was there this afternoon so but everything that I can see we can reasonably test is on there. We can even sometimes if you go to a garage you can see the central vac, it’ll have a on/off switch, I can actually test that out. If the buyer wants a test on anything else specifically let me know, I’ve even tested a stereo system one time, it was quit or leave the house. It was a nice one too. We had some tunes going through there so . .
Mark: So what about like you mentioned the stuff you can see, now you do have some tools that you use that can look behind the walls, infrared basis.
David: That’s right, what we’re seeing is that tools aren’t really . . . but I have a great collection of tools and I constantly get people asking about what I’m using and some of these tools are just really cutting edge and they’re great for determining if there’s a hidden problem that we’d never find otherwise so for instance a possible gas leak detector, it’s basically a gas . . . ., you can use it on your gas meter, you can use it on your furnace gas piping, you can use it on your homes anywhere you have gas piping, you can actually test the joints and see if there’s a pin hole leak and sometimes it’s so fine it takes a lot of looking before the repair man can actually determine where it is so I actually have to circle it and say actually you know, this joint needs to be resealed and so that’s a big safety thing. There’s a moisture meter, a pretty standard home inspector will have a moisture meter with you to determine if there’s moisture behind the shower walls or if there’s some wet drywall and then of course the thermal camera. The thermal camera is going to give you that image of, sometimes you can see the studs, you know wet insulation, find gyproc with that so all my tools we include that with a standard home inspection, the only difference is that the thermal camera, if you would like a whole building scan done we offer a thermal imaging package which depends on the size of the property but it’s very affordable.
Mark: Awesome, sounds pretty thorough and from what you keep finding and surprising us on your posts, thorough which is great, which I appreciate, I’m kind of a bit anal about this. I just had my drains scoped actually.
David: Excellent, so how’d they look?
Mark: They looked great, very happy, so . .
David: That’s great; you’re one of the few that actually will do it. I’ve gone in houses you know, the owners have lived in there thirty years and like, what are perimeter drains? Literally they had no idea, right, and you’re going o.k. this is the old tile from the 80’s. It’s corrugated, how much junk is in that drain tile, right, yeah you’re a good home owner, I look forward to inspecting your home one day.
Mark: Alright, thanks David. It’s been great talking with you. We’ve been talking with David Fairbairn from FairbairnInspections.com in Vancouver; give him a call 604-395-2795. Buy a house you can trust. Give David a call; he’ll look after you – 604-395-2795. Thanks Dave.
David: Thanks Mark.
This is a common question from clients. Our home inspections usually take about 2 hours for a condo and 2.5 to 4 hours for a townhouse or house, as well as the time spent writing and finishing the report (on-site).
There are many factors that can affect the time when performing a thorough home inspection, such as the size of the home, (the larger the home, the longer it takes for the inspection); the age of the home (older homes may take longer as there are potentially more issues that may be present); complexity (such as, number of electrical main and sub panels, water softeners and filters, pools and spa); and the condition of the home; if the home is in good repair then it won’t take as long.
Another factor may be whether or not the home has been a rental property, as rentals may be neglected. Weather conditions such as snow, rain or intense heat can also add to the inspection time.
The inspector needs access to all the areas of the home, such as the crawl space and attic. Making sure all utilities (gas, water, electrical) are on will ensure no down-time while we de-winterize the plumbing or search for the electrical disconnect.
Home owners generally have questions or concerns about the condition of their home, which I like to fully address while we are on site – this also adds to the time factor. If you have any questions, the end of the inspection is the best time to ask!
It’s always a great idea to hire a professional home inspector whether buying or selling a home. There are a huge number of things to consider and understand. Joining along on the home inspection will give you a better understanding of how potential defects will affect the value of your home, whether they are serious or relatively minor, and also what it would cost to do repairs.
We will also help you learn about the maintenance and care of the house.
We encourage you to take notes and photos and ask questions although, of course, we also will provide you with a digital Home Inspection report (including photos) at the end of the inspection.
And don’t worry – if you can only make the end of the inspection, we will be happy to take you on a walkthrough of the home and the issues we found.