I am not sure how the process is in Canada but generally speaking before even thinking of buying the house you want to do an intermediate survey which checks the integrity of the house. The surveyor will know the type of construction used and will know what problems to look for, cracking in foundations, degrading cavity walls, subsided foundations, water damage, incomplete or bad renovations. Then he should also briefly check if your boundaries are what they say on the planning permissions at your local governing body.This is a good report to have especially for insurance purposes.
Then when walking around inside the house your self notice if anything has been painted, renewed, fixed up so it looks like new. That is the where all the dodgy stuff begins! why? Because the previous people might want to mask something up. So you will be looking in the corners top to bottom for signs of cracks.If it was painted ask how long ago. If less than 2 months consider it suspicious.
Electrical- insist on looking at the main distribution board with the switches and possibly if it applies an electrical certificate(possibly you might have to invest in rewiring if no certificate is available- so deduct that from the costs of purchase!) Looking at the state of the DB board if it is the new slim type trip switches then you OK.. any old chunky fuses or screw type fuses and turn'y type ones.. old and needs replacing. If you are in a heavy lightning area make sure there is a lightning protector installed. Usually next to Earth Leakage breaker. It is not mandatory in may countries but highly advised!
Plumbing- go in the bathroom turn on the cold and hot water in the sink and bath together. the water should waste in both places- if one place continues to fill up it because the plumbing is incorrect.Listen for noises in pipes, look for discoloured in water.
Outside ask where the inspection hole is and find where the supply pipe goes into the building and if any visible damage is there.If you in Canada its most likely underground and should be insulated. Ask where the main stopper is.
Heating -If it is gas heating then you need to do a boiler inspection first thing you bought the house! Allot of times things are burned, CO2 leakages, or gas leakages even.
If electrical.. the same- change the heating element for piece of mind and make sure all copper wires are ground and test it!Usually putting something over 32volts onto the copper wire will trip the ground leakage isolator.If the electrical are certified you have to demand the certificate and tests carried out- earth continuity is very important.
Generally you want to walk around the house and touch, pull, push everything that will belong to you after the close. If anything falls over that is not supposed to..ooops.Not your fault and technically if you get hurt you can sue. But you can also deduct the cost of the final price for repairs from builders quotes.
During the process if you have the possibility it is good to ask your solicitor to run local checks for flooding,fires and earthquakes. There are extra checks like planning for new build that might affect you area. EG a large superstore across the road(maybe that is why the original owners are moving away) And importantly what kind of deed you are going to hold. In the UK there is mind blowing amount of deeds and deed commitments especially on lease holds. You want freehold/landhold deed which means the land belongs to you. There might also be right of way clause's for neighbours near your boundaries. All these might be optional and cost more- but it is worth knowing what has happening in this area in the past and if there any plans for the future. Recently it cost me £300 for a %75 report which even includes what kind of ground my land is made up of.And because i am near water a 100year reverse lookup for flooding revealed nothing. meaning the likely event of the reservoir near my house flooding is minimal and I can prove it to my insurance company, meaning my premiums have been reduced based on that search.
Another important thing is to lookup previous selling prices of houses and try to work out a simple trend to your price. If it has been growing and yours seems fair. Good. If several houses sold in the past few years at a massively decreased value than the expected trend! alarm bells! why? maybe there is something these people are running away from.eg every Sunday 100's of bikers on Harley rally down in your neighbourhood.
Look around the neighbourhood, what kind of cars are standing around, if people look after their gardens and general first contact impressions should be very important in your decisions.