Condo Home Inspections: Here’s Why You Need One

If you’re buying a resale condo and found the property you want to purchase, you’ll place a conditional offer to the seller.  The conditions of the offer are usually securing financing and reviewing the condo building’s financial statements.  However, did you know that you can also include a condo home inspection as a condition?  Unfortunately, many condo buyers skip this inspection.

This is understandable!

If you’ve started compiling a list of condo closing costs, you may have realized that closing on a condo isn’t cheap.

condo closing costs

This is where you start looking at options for saving a few dollars here and there.  We get it because we’ve been there.  It seems like everyone is out there to squeeze money out of you.

When it comes to condo home inspection, at first glance it seems like a cash grab. After all, if the condo corporation takes care of the outside of the building, you have nothing to worry about right?

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

In this article, we’ll go over the process and we’ll explain why you shouldn’t skip out on condo home inspections.  We’ll also cover some frequently asked questions on the subject.

What Is a Condo Home Inspection?

A condo home inspection is a process in which you hire a certified home inspector to assess the health a condo unit.  The inspector visits the property and identifies any current or developing problems.  Some inspectors may also spend some time inspecting the common elements (we’ll cover that later) even though they are the responsibility of the condo building.

Condo Home Inspector

The inspection is a visual one.  At no point in the inspection are walls opened or floors lifted to see what’s under the surface.

Condo home inspections aren’t a guarantee that there isn’t one or more problems with the property.  However, an astute inspector will notice signs of a problem from the visual inspection.

Every inspector will ask you to sign a waiver of liability.  Since the inspector can’t rip open walls, he or she doesn’t want to be held liable if there’s a problem that was missed because it was hidden.

Don’t worry about that last point:

That’s the risk anyone who purchases a property runs into.  An inspection isn’t a guarantee there’s nothing wrong with a unit.

How Are Condo Inspections Different Than Regular Home Inspections?

In a condo development, most (if not all) building systems are common elements.  Building systems are things like electrical, plumbing, heating/cooling and roofing.  In a condo building, the maintenance and repairs of building systems are covered by the condo fees everyone pays.  

Shared Building Systems of a Condo

In a typical house inspection, the certified inspector would check every building system for the following reasons:

  • They’re the responsibility of the owner after the purchase;
  • They’re accessible to the building inspector, and;
  • They’re systems a home inspector is qualified to comment on.

In a condo home inspection, the inspector doesn’t spend as much time on the building systems.  That’s because:

  • Their maintenance is done by specialists in that field regularly;
  • They’re not accessibly to the inspector, and;
  • They’re sometimes too complex for residential home inspectors to assess.

So what’s the bottom line?

A condo inspection will usually cover the health of the appliances, any cooling or heating units (if the owner is responsible for them), plumbing within the unit.  The home inspector will also look for a bunch of other problems that we’ll cover later in this article.

A condo home inspection only covers what’s within the legal boundary of your unit.  These boundaries are clearly defined in the Condo Declaration documents which come with the Status Certificate request as part of your conditional offer.

The inspector will look some common elements in specific situations.  For example, let’s take a terrace home setup: 

Terrace Home Condo Inspection

Because the roof is accessible and can affect the health of the condo if it leaks, it’ll be inspected.

Skipping the Inspection Can Cost You

It’s not uncommon for condo buyers to forego the home inspection condition in the conditional offer.  Rather, they focus on reviewing the Status Certificate with their lawyer.

This is a mistake.

An inspector will identify potential problems inside the unit.  These could have been built into the unit and gone on for years unnoticed.  Or, they could have come from age or wear and tear.

The Status Certificate does not give an accurate representation of the health of an individual condo unit.

Physical Condo Inspections

Here’s an example of something barely noticeable but that an inspector would catch: a loose toilet bowl.

You wouldn’t know about it from reading the Status Certificate, however, a small detail like this could end up costing you thousands in damages.

Now imagine that bowl comes loose during the day.

Leaky Toilet Not Caught From Condo Inspection

That’s a few hours of water leaking before anyone will notice.  The damages to your property, common elements and other units would cost you thousands.

All this to save a few bucks?

Are Condo Inspections Necessary?

Yes!  Condo inspections are necessary.  Here’s why:

As we’ve explained earlier, the Status Certificate is a general report on the health of the condo building.  It doesn’t provide insight into what’s going on in your unit.

You need a certified inspector to come in and check for problems.  The inspector will examine all of the interior systems of the condo and provide a detailed report.  You’ll also learn about current deficiencies and be able to anticipate future maintenance costs.

If common elements are accessible to the inspector, you may also get the chance for a second opinion regarding the findings in the Status Certificate.

Use Condo Inspections to Your Advantage

What is found in the inspection will affect the outcome of the conditional offer.  If you discover a major problem with the condo, you may use it to get out of the deal (provided you included a home inspection clause in your conditional offer).  Or, if you find an issue you are willing to live with, you can use the inspection report to negotiate the final price of the condo.

How Much Do Condo Inspections Cost?

For the typical one or two bedroom condo in a highrise or multi-dwelling unit, you can expect to pay anywhere from $200 to $400.

Not bad right?

A condo inspection costs less than a full home inspection but there can be some exceptions.  For example, some condos are stand-alone structures in a community. Don’t expect a bargain in those cases.

The price for an inspection depends on a few factors:

  • The city you are in;
  • The size and complexity of the unit;
  • The experience of the inspector, and;
  • The points the inspector will cover.

Don’t forget that even though a condo inspection may not be as long as a home one, the cost takes into account fixed expenses such as travel time, setup and wrap up, membership fees, taxes, recertifications, etc.

How to Find a Good Condo Inspector

You can check the following resources to find a condo inspector:

Bear in mind that not all building inspectors have a beautiful website, a Facebook page or wicked Instagram account.  In other words, don’t judge a book by its cover.

Instead, when you contact the inspector, ask what will be covered during the inspection and if a detailed report will be made available to you.

We recommend you ask the inspector if thermal imaging tools will be used in the inspection.  These are used to identify water leaks behind the walls.  They can also spot faulty electrical wires.  Finally, they can help an inspector find out of the window sills are poorly insulated or drafty. Over the years, these tools have become much cheaper and commonplace in inspections.

The Ins and Outs of the Condo Inspection Process

We often get asked how long condo inspections take.

In most condo home inspections, the process it takes between 1 to 3 hours.  A typical 1 or 2 bedroom in a high-rise will take 1-1.5 hours. A terrace home or equivalent takes about 1.5-2 hours depending on the common elements available to the inspector.

The process is simple:

Your realtor will book a time slot with the inspector.  Your realtor will push for an earlier rather than later time. In case there’s a problem and a renegotiation takes place, this gives more time for the process to unfold.

On the day of the inspection, your realtor will assist the inspector in getting access to the unit and showing him or her the property.

Inspecting the Big Stuff First

If the inspector has access to the roof and outside common elements, those checks will be done first.  Getting a good look of the roof isn’t easy. Don’t get surprised if your inspector steps a few yards back and inspects with a monocular instead of climbing up.  Some inspectors use telescopic poles with cameras mounted on them.

Once the inspection moves inside the condo, the inspector will assess the health of the building systems in your unit.  Think air conditioner, furnace, water tank, etc.

During this phase, the inspector will need some space to work, however, most welcome the buyer to follow them and ask questions.  This is an important part of the process where the inspector will give you maintenance recommendations so listen carefully.

If your unit has access to the roof, the inspector will climb into the attic and inspect the health of the insulation, whether mold is present and if there’s any animals nesting.

Next, the inspector will go over the windows.  Even if it’s summertime during your inspection, the inspector still has tricks to find out if they are energy efficient, leaking outside air or condensating.

The electrical system will get a checkup to see if everything is up to code.  The inspector may also check most, if not every outlet in the house. 

The final major check is the health of the plumbing system.  Every faucet, tap and shower will be turned on. The inspector is looking for a bunch of things, but most importantly leaks.

So that’s the big stuff.  What next?

The Finer Details of a Condo Inspection

Once all this is done, smaller points will be covered.  If the inspector has thermal imaging tools, they will be used to find out if there’s leaky pipes or electrical systems that are overheating behind the walls.

The final checks then cover finer details unique to each condo.  Balconies, railings, counter tops being properly installed, the health of the kitchen appliances, if toilette bowls are properly installed, etc.

Once the Condo Inspection Is Done

After the inspector is satisfied all potential problem areas were covered, he or she will prepare a detailed report.  Most will take pictures of problems found for future reference.

With the advent of technology, some inspectors use tablets and integrated software.  Some can produce your report on the spot!

So far so good?

Once you have the report, it’s time for you and your realtor to make a decision.  Do you go forward with the conditional offer? Back out completely? Renegotiate a better price with the seller?

Pest and Termite Inspections vs Condo Inspections

Condo home inspections aren’t the same as pest and termite ones.  Your inspector doesn’t have the same tools as a specialized pest control expert.

Don’t worry though.

Most home inspectors will still notice the signs left by pests and termites.  It just won’t be as in-depth.

If you’re worried about a unit having pests, book a separate appointment with a specialized company.

Take Advantage of the Inspection!

One of the biggest mistakes we see condo buyers make is not being present during the inspection.

You’ll want to be present during the entire process for two reasons:

  1. It gives you another chance to get into the unit.  Take the time to make measurements, make a list of what you’ll need to buy.  Take photos for home decorating, etc.
  2. The inspector will give you helpful tips that may not end up in the final report.  For example, the inspector may be familiar with the type of AC and give you good advice on his or her experience with them.

Wrapping This Up

Condo home inspections are an integral part of a resale condo purchase.  For a few dollars, it gives you insight into the health of the largest purchase you’re likely to make in your life.  It also gives you legal protection for backing out of the deal if serious problems are found.