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The Money Management Newsletter: Home Ownership
After months of house hunting, you've finally found the perfect home for you and your family. But, is it really the great investment it appears to be?

A shaky foundation, bad plumbing, poor insulation and many other problems can creep up on you after you've moved into your dream home.

A home inspection can save you from these unpleasant surprises. It will help you determine the true value of your home and prepare you for future home maintenance costs. An inspection consists of a thorough evaluation of your home, from top to bottom. It includes an examination of major systems such as heating, air conditioning, interior plumbing and electrical systems.

Structures such as the roof, walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors will also be examined. Inspections last an average of three hours. Most inspectors invite their clients to join them during the evaluation of the home. This is a great opportunity for you to see problems firsthand and find out about valuable maintenance tips which will help you keep your future property in good condition. Keep in mind that an inspector will not tell you the condition of every single component of your home. The inspection is specifically for determining large expenses and/or safety-related concerns.

Following the examination, the inspector should prepare a written report which covers possible defects and areas of concern. It should also include estimated costs of repairs. The report should also point out the positive features of the home and recommend the type of maintenance that will help keep it in good shape. Don't confuse this report with a lifetime guarantee on components of the your home. After-all, by maintaining and repairing these components, you can only help slow down their inevitable wear and tear.

A home inspection is usually conducted after the vendor accepts your offer to purchase. (Some lenders require you to hire a qualified home inspector to inspect the home before they'll issue a mortgage.) Make sure your offer includes a conditional clause which specifies the purchase is contingent on the satisfactory completion of a building inspector. It is your responsibility to schedule the inspection within the time limit agreed upon by you and the vendor, once your offer is accepted.

When choosing a qualified inspector, try to select someone who is in a building-related field, such as a contractor or a structural engineer. There are several firms now available which specialize in home inspections. Ask your realtor, friends and family if they can recommend inspectors. When you contact potential home inspection firms, find out how long they've been in business and ask for references from previous customers. Make sure they guarantee their inspections and find out what type of insurance they carry.

The cost of a home inspection for a single-family house usually varies, based on factors such as its size, age, location and the geographic area. Considering that your home will probably be the most important investment of your lifetime, a home inspection is a relatively inexpensive way to find out if it is actually a wise investment.

A few places to start when looking for a Home Inspections

To ensure that your inspector is a qualified professional, select one who is a member of the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors and/or the Canadian Association of Home Inspectors.

Many organizations require only an application fee for membership. Some claim to offer certification but don't require exams or proven credentials. CAHI is the only national non-profit professional organization in Canada that rigorously tests home inspectors about their technical knowledge and diagnostic expertise prior to the organization as well as requiring continuing education after admission to keep current with new technology and building practices.

The Ontario Association of Home Inspectors (OAHI) - Phone : 888-744-6244
The Canadian Association of Home Inspectors (CAHI) - (613) 475-5699

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