Buying a home is the biggest investment most Canadians make. But new paint and and sparkling windows can conceal problems—expensive problems. It’s therefore essential that you have a thorough, professional home inspection before you purchase your home.

If there are any problems you must discover them before the contracts are signed. In some cases, the home inspector’s report will help you negotiate a lower purchase price.

Hire a professional home inspector

Do not just hire a contractor to do your home inspection. Make sure they are professional home inspectors, and see if they have any credentials or certifications. See if they are members of the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors.

You should also check the Better Business Bureau to see if there have ever been complaints against them.

Home inspectors should be independent

Ensure the home inspector you hire is not affiliated with your real estate agency, bank, or mortgage broker as this would be a conflict of interest. Your home inspection must be objective. Unethical home inspectors who are referred by real estate agents hoping to make a quick sale may not find, or report, all problems.

Home inspectors should be experienced

Ensure the home inspector has extensive experience inspecting the type of home you’re considering. Older homes, for instance, may have particular common defects. Home inspectors must also know the building code for your province.

Check the home inspector’s references

Don’t hire the first home inspector you find. Make appointments with at least three, and make sure you check their references. Speak to at least three of their recent customers, and ask if they would recommend the inspector.

Reputable home inspectors will expect you to do this, and will provide you with references. If they do not, do not hire them.

Get a contract

Your home inspector must give you a written contract, listing everything that will be inspected. In general, the home inspection will include the inspection of mold or asbestos. if it does not, this must be mentioned on the contract.

This contract will include the date you will receive the home inspection report. The report should include photos as well as descriptions of any defects or damage. You should get a printed and electronic copy of your home inspection report.

Sources used in researching this article include HGTV: Finding the Right Inspector and National Post: Mike Holmes: A home inspection is a worthy investment