Building Officials and Home Inspectors: Not the Same

I know there is confusion out there about what a Home Inspector does. Over the years that I’ve been a Home Inspector, I’ve explained it several times to clients who ask for an ‘Appraisal”, an ‘Assessment’ or a ‘Building Inspection’. Sometimes they had the right understanding but used the wrong title, other times they truly misunderstood the roles and a more detailed explanation was required.

HomeXam Inspector

Appraisals are performed by an Appraiser to establish the market value of a property; usually for the purpose of securing mortgage financing (see The Difference Between a Home Inspection and an Appraisal). Assessments also set a value on the property but for property tax purposes and typically lag behind the current appraised market value.

This morning I happened across yesterday’s article in the Calgary Sun entitled “City improves home inspection process”. The caption reads, “Getting a home inspection done on a property is a sure way to identify major structural problems in your prospective home.” Unfortunately the headline and caption are a mismatch for an article that clearly describes the work performed by a municipal building official.

Building officials conduct their series of inspections in step with the construction stages of a house. Here in Ottawa, builders go through nine different inspections by building officials, plus a geotechnical soils report confirming soil-bearing capacity, electrical inspections by the Electrical Safety Authority and septic inspections, if warranted. Your municipality may define the stages a bit differently but will the share the same intent. This is all a mandatory part of the building permit process for new homes that builders must comply with. The eventual homeowner has no need to be involved as long as an Occupancy Permit is successfully obtained. Clearly municipal building officials take on a lot of responsibility for the quality of homes being built in our communities. While the article applauds the value of their efforts, it is only fair to correctly attribute the credit to the right profession. Thank you Building Officials.

In contrast, Home Inspectors do the the vast majority of their work after the home is already built. The most common type of home inspection is performed as a condition of sale to discover issues with the home before a purchase agreement is fully executed. We don’t get to see the footings, behind finished walls and ceilings but still have a long list of items to review. In addition to structural and safety issues we also assess the condition of the major components of a home as it ages. New home inspections are sometimes performed to help consumers with warranty reporting when their province has such a program.

While some of the knowledge base and items inspected overlaps, Home Inspectors have a different job to do than Building Officials. Both are needed at different times in the life cycle of a home to protect consumers. It’s pretty simple really. Just to clarify this for consumers, Home Inspectors do home inspections; building officials do building inspections according to the building code in response to the issuance of a building permit. Kudos to the City of Calgary for their improvements to their building inspection process. Let’s hope city hall doesn’t get too many calls for home inspections next week. If you need a home inspection visit, the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors at www.cahpi.ca to find a qualified Home Inspector.

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