Your Home - Home Inspection is a crucial precaution
by Andrew Gorham, Town Crier, November 1999

We fell in love with the house the moment we walked in. High ceilings and hardwood floors accented unique layout, beautiful windows and lots of room to live. The kitchen was large, the basement dry, and a quaint winding staircase led to a bright third floor loft with adjoining balcony. The bathroom was a little worn and the garage was falling down, but this just offered us the chance to mould the house to our likings.

With a little work and imagination, my wife and I were going to make this, our first house, a beautiful home to raise our soon-to-be born child. The future was ours.

We put an offer in, it was accepted and, after the home inspector signed-off, we could begin our new life.

Enter Terry Carson, home inspector. Meticulous, professional and thorough, this ruthless bastard did not have a romantic bone in his body. Where we saw quaint, he saw shoddy. Where we saw potential, he saw potential for disaster. Where we saw room for improvement he saw room for demolition.

Carson started on the outside and within minutes, while gingerly traversing the roof of the front porch found a problem.

AHH; we have tenants, he called down, referring to a family of squirrels living in the dormer.

It was the first of what would become a long list of faults with our dream home.

Twenty minutes into the house we glumly followed Inspector Gadget (as we playfully called him) from room to room as he poked holes in walls, chipped at rotting mortar, peered into un-insulated and long forgotten cubbyholes, noted leaking toilets, smirked at amateurish wiring and generally turned his nose up at our little dream home.

Carson is used to the initial aggression directed at him when he turns his thumb down on a home. But, like the principal administering the strap, it's for the prospective home-buyer's own good.

Isn't that guy a downer, joked a friend, who recently benefitted from Carson's inspection service and ran (as fast as his feet would carry him) away from a $200,000 money pit.

After a painful two hours, we gathered on the front lawn around Inspector Gadget's portable picnic table for a re-cap of the problems and some ballpark figures for repair. We were looking at a $30,000 bill to move in; plus cosmetic work.

The deal was toast. Carson saved us from years of misery. Our agent phoned the seller with the bad news.

The housing market in Toronto is booming, especially in Midtown, Leaside and North Toronto, where real estate agents will scare the hell out of you with tales of bidding wars, fierce competition and houses selling for thousands of dollars above list price.

A new and very dangerous tactic to snare a house away from other bidders in this super-heated market is to buy without the traditional home inspection. The perils accompanying this strategy are obvious.

We are still slavishly writing cheques that pay off our landlord's mortgage. Our kid is only months away and the apartment grows a little smaller each day.

But next time we fall in love with a house, we'll call the home inspector for a rude dose of reality. His medicine is bitter and hard to swallow. And it will save us years of heartache and pain.

Editor's note: Two days after writing this, Andrew and his wife entered into a bidding war over a house, waived a home inspection to get an edge on the competition and are now a bona fide home owner. An ultra sound has shown the baby's fingers are crossed.