What to look out for when buying a home

Everyone’s dream home is just the right size, in the perfect neighbourhood, with exactly the features and amenities they had in mind. In reality, every home, even a brand-new one, will have flaws. The question is, are they reasonable issues or signs of an impending disaster?

1. Put Safety First

Anything that could be a safety issue is worth looking into. Investigating a home’s electrical system, for example, is crucial. Insurance companies don’t like knob-and-tube wiring (found in homes dating back about 50 years), which they label a fire hazard. The system must often be upgraded within 30 days of closing in order to get insurance, and it’s a messy job that starts at about $5,000 per storey. Also problematic are homes from six or more decades ago that have only 60-amp electrical service, which isn’t enough to support today’s appliances. That means new masks, new wiring and a new electrical meter and panel.

2. Check The Water System

Water is another key component that merits a thorough check. After making sure the basic functions of their taps and toilet work, buyers should get documents from the seller that prove the water system is legal and has been inspected, and that all renovations have been done with a permit. Otherwise, their home insurance won’t cover anything that goes wrong with those renos.

3. Look Out For Mould

Watch for evidence of mould in a prospective purchase, especially if you live in British Columbia. The No. 1 issue in Okanagan real estate for the past 10 years has been grow ops – it can cost $30,000, $50,000 or more to rehabilitate a home, says one expert. Mould – which can also be caused by flooding and leaks – can affect air quality and cause respiratory problems. Even after a former grow op is brought back up to bylaw standards, homeowners need to make sure they have papers to prove it. Otherwise, when it comes time, reselling will be a major headache.

Mould and many other more serious problems, such as asbestos, aren’t technically covered by a home inspector’s mandate or insurance. An experienced inspector will share his suspicions, then pass clients on to an expert to confirm those suspicions and suggest options. A savvy real estate agent might be able to negotiate with the seller to have the cost of a mould inspection subtracted from the purchase price.

4. Ensure A Sturdy Foundation

Foundation settlement is also a danger. Caused by extreme moisture changes, weak soil or poor drainage, it results in wall cracks that threaten the house’s structural integrity. Homes can end up needing extensive foundation upgrades to repair. It can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix, and soil settlement due to underground streams can make already pricey homes staggeringly expensive.

Source: Denise Balkissoon, Reader’s Digest

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