Be­fore you buy, get an in­spec­tion

A home’s hid­den faults can cost you a tonne of money to fix

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - By Todd Lewys

WITH to­day’s real es­tate be­ing such a seller’s mar­ket, many prospec­tive home­buy­ers are opt­ing not to have a home in­spec­tion done on a house they want to make an of­fer on.

That’s un­der­stand­able. Write the in­spec­tion in as a con­di­tion, and it’s highly likely the seller will toss your of­fer out. How­ever, there is a way to get around this: Do a pre-in­spec­tion of the home you’re think­ing of buy­ing. Get your agent to con­tact the ven­dor’s agent to ar­range for the in­spec­tion in ad­vance of the of­fer date.

As some­one who’s in the mar­ket to buy a starter home in the $150,000 to $200,000 range — the most com­pet­i­tive seg­ment in the re­sale homes mar­ket­place — my agent rec­om­mended that I do a pre-in­spec­tion for a sim­ple rea­son: It might re­veal po­ten­tial prob­lems that could trans­form a cute starter home into a money pit af­ter one re­pair turns into an­other, and so on.

On the other hand, the pre-in­spec­tion could well con­firm that the home is solid and that it’s worth mak­ing a gen­er­ous of­fer. Ei­ther way, you get peace of mind, which is why, when I found a po­ten­tially solid starter home in Win­nipeg’s west end, I ar­ranged for a prein­spec­tion.

Af­ter it was over, let’s just say I was glad I spent the time and money to have it done. Al­though the in­spec­tor said the home’s struc­ture was solid, there were a num­ber of is­sues that needed to be dealt with right away:

The ceil­ing in the mas­ter bed­room was sag­ging down­ward from mois­ture is­sues caused by a roof that had been in­ad­e­quately vented or that had al­lowed wa­ter in at some point. It would be a messy, in­con­ve­nient re­pair that would cost in the $700 to $800 range — pos­si­bly more — depend­ing on what other is­sues might be re­vealed once the ceil­ing was torn out.

An in­nocu­ous-look­ing ver­ti­cal crack in the stucco at the corner of the house, where mois­ture had been go­ing be­cause the down­spout had a leak and didn’t have an ex­ten­sion to drain rain- wa­ter away from the home, needed to be filled with resin, then cov­ered with a wa­ter­proof mem­brane. If I de­cided to dig out the area my­self, that would have saved labour costs. Still, the bill would be in the $300 range — pro­vid­ing the crack, which didn’t ap­pear to go down to the foot­ing, ac­cord­ing to the in­spec­tor — wasn’t worse than it ap­peared. If it was, the bill could be much higher.

The roof on the garage was shot. Hold­ing a re-shin­gling party with friends would cost about $400, not in­clud­ing the cost of pizza and bev­er­ages.

There was a se­vere leak in the ca­st­iron plumb­ing (the home was built in the mid-1920s) that had to be re­paired im­me­di­ately. The in­spec­tor also rec­om­mended re­plac­ing the rest of the plumb­ing with PVC fit­tings (most of it had al­ready been re­placed with mod­ern PVC pipe). This would have to be done by an ex­pe­ri­enced plumber and the tear-out and re­place­ment wouldn’t be cheap, he said.

Al­though most of the wiring had been up­dated, old knob-and-tube wiring com­prised about 25 per cent of it. The in­spec­tor rec­om­mended re­place­ment for safety rea­sons. Not cheap to do.

Eave­strough­ing needed to be re­placed, as wa­ter had leaked into the sof­fits, dam­ag­ing the wood. It’s likely the sof­fits and fas­cia would need to be re­placed at the same time.

The out­let by the bath­room sink wasn’t grounded. As a po­ten­tial elec­tro­cu­tion haz­ard, it needed to be re­placed im­me­di­ately.

All sides of the house had to be graded to en­sure rain­wa­ter drained away from it in­stead of col­lect­ing around the foun­da­tion. Longer down­spouts were also re­quired on all four cor­ners.

There were sev­eral more items on the list, but you get the pic­ture: No mat­ter how move-in-ready a home ap­pears, there are al­ways po­ten­tial is­sues to deal with. If you’re on a thin bud­get to be­gin with, as many young cou­ples or sin­gles are, these hid­den costs can re­sult in se­ri­ous fi­nan­cial stress. My re­pair bill would have been sev­eral thou­sand dol­lars — pro­vid­ing we didn’t find other press­ing is­sues dur­ing the fixes.

And that’s hop­ing an old fur­nace can last an­other few years, the elec­tri­cal panel doesn’t need up­grad­ing (cost: about $1,500), the roof doesn’t need re­plac­ing and the an­cient hot wa­ter tank doesn’t blow (there goes an­other $1,000plus for re­place­ment and in­stal­la­tion).

So if at all pos­si­ble, have a pre-in­spec­tion done on the home you’re think­ing of buy­ing. If the seller won’t al­low it, move on, which is what I did. It could po­ten­tially save you a tonne of money and heartache.

Do­ing a pre-in­spec­tion can help prospec­tive buy­ers avoid buy­ing a home with se­vere foun­da­tion is­sues, as seen


Pay par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to so­called “potato cel­lar” base­ments, pop­u­lar in homes of 1930’s vin­tage. Wa­ter can sat­u­rate the earth ex­te­rior, caus­ing the walls to push in. The re­sult is a wet base­ment and struc­tural is­sues.

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