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June is National Homeownership month in the United States, but I think it’s also an important topic to discuss in Canada.
Buying a home is probably the largest purchase you will ever make. Taking the necessary steps, such as getting a home inspection, is essential to help ensure you haven’t bought a lemon. If you don’t get a home inspection, you need to be aware you probably will have some issues.
According to experts, the housing market is cooling, and is expected to continue. This cooling-down period may allow some homeowners the time to get a proper home inspection before rushing to put an offer on the house.
However, in many areas, a house inspection, formerly considered a standard and necessary feature of every real estate contract, is now being waived. If you can’t get a professional home inspection, homeowners should, at a minimum, educate themselves on identifying “red flags,” because in the long run, it could save you thousands of dollars in hidden repairs.
Guidelines are important. Look for large cracks in the foundation walls and cracked bricks, particularly around windows and doors, as this could mean water intrusion and rot. Several vertical cracks may also mean that there are some structural issues.
Look for bubbling paint, which could indicate moisture or termites. Additionally, hollow-sounding or soft-to-the-touch wood, pinprick holes in your drywall, or frass could mean termites or carpenter ants are present.
Remember, houses for sale typically get a “facelift,” meaning they are nicely staged, cleaned, and perhaps freshly painted. A newly painted wall or fresh wallpaper could be hiding evidence of previous damage. Look for patchwork on walls and ceilings that could indicate a leak or water damage.
If you notice weird smells, like urine or a musty smell — watch out as this could indicate mould or the presence of pests, like raccoons. A burning smell could indicate an electrical issue. Overpowering air fresheners, could also indicate a coverup.
I know most homebuyers are excited to see the inside of a home but don’t forget to take a good look at the property outside the home. Take a visual look at the roof. If you see curled or missing shingles, this could indicate that a new roof will be needed soon. If that’s the case it’s good to have a replacement estimate in mind, as this can be negotiated in the final price of the offer. If you can, ask if you can take a peek at the attic — look for dark patches, lack of insulation, or lack of venting.
Check for poor grading around the house and driveway, as this could lead to leaks in the basement. Grading should always slope away from the home. Another thing to keep an eye out for are large trees and gardens near the foundation, as they could be a source of moisture getting in.
Recognizing red flags and doing your homework should help the process, especially with housing prices going way over asking with unconditional offers on the table. It’s a scary endeavour. So, what can homeowners do?
If you cannot complete a proper home inspection before your offer, hire a licensed home inspector or someone with a good construction background, to come to the showings and do a walk-through with you.
Homebuyers can also request access to the property between the time of finalization and possession. Of course, the results might be significant, but it just might save you a lot of headaches and money moving forward.
And lastly, if none of the above is an option, I always recommend buyers get a home inspection with thermal imaging after they take possession of the home. Doing this will provide you with a better understanding of the condition of your home and will help you prioritize and budget for future repairs and maintenance.
The seller has a legal responsibility to disclose any concealed faults that are substantial enough to make the house uninhabitable or repairable at a high cost. Legal action can occur if there is a significant coverup, and the homeowner or agent could be sued.
To be safe, I also recommend homebuyers also purchase title insurance as it can protect you from difficulties with the ownership title.
I always advise potential buyers to contact the local building authority to find out if any outstanding or recent permits were pulled on the home, especially if the house is advertised as recently renovated.
In the end, buyers must determine how much risk they are ready to take as part of their home-buying experience and have the necessary funds set aside for any hidden surprises. In a perfect world, get a home inspection. Otherwise, be smart, do your homework, and look for red flags.
Residents of the GTA can apply for Season 2 of Holmes Family Rescue at www.makeitright.ca