Be­ware po­ten­tial costs of ‘move-in’ home

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

IT’S an ex­pres­sion that real­tors of­ten use while pro­mot­ing a home: “It’s in move-in con­di­tion.” Truth be told, it’s rare that any home — un­less it’s been ex­ten­sively re­mod­elled — falls into that cat­e­gory. For those on a bud­get — say, look­ing for a home in the highly com­pet­i­tive $150,000 to $200,000 range — it pays to ex­pect that a home in that price range will re­quire mul­ti­ple up­grades.

The trick here is to de­ter­mine what up­grades a home might need right away in or­der to make it liv­able. That’s why it’s crit­i­cally im­por­tant to take along some­one with years of home own­ing ex­pe­ri­ence when you view a home. Why? Sim­ple: if you lack ex­pe­ri­ence (hav­ing rented for years), they can iden­tify items that re­quire im­me­di­ate at­ten­tion when you can’t.

Should a home ap­pear promis­ing — but you’re un­sure about a few items — it would be wise to en­list the ser­vices of a home in­spec­tor. With their years of ex­pe­ri­ence, they can tell you — with cer­tainty — whether an is­sue is mi­nor or ma­jor from a cost stand­point.

This ap­plies par­tic­u­larly to so-called “dated” homes. While such homes might be solid, they can also con­tain all kinds of hid­den costs, such as:

An­cient elec­tri­cal pan­els. In the case of one home I viewed, the panel only had a 60-amp ca­pac­ity. Ac­cord­ing to my in­spec­tor, it was only ca­pa­ble of run­ning ba­sic ev­ery­day con­ve­niences such as the washer and dryer, small ap­pli­ances and lights.

A panel of 100 amps or above is needed if you want to in­stall a jacuzzi, or — as most peo­ple do these days — run a dish­washer in the kitchen, blast their stereo, surf the In­ter­net with the kids and watch a Blu-Ray movie all at the same time. Cost to up­grade a panel can run be­tween $1,500 to $2,000. That’s not cheap, and it’s some­thing you don’t want to miss if your fi­nan­cial re­sources are limited.

Dated wiring. A high per­cent­age of older homes have what’s called knoband-tube wiring. Many in­surance com­pa­nies won’t in­sure a home with this style of wiring, and will or­der it to be re­placed with state-of-the-art wiring. Con­se­quently, a home that seemed a bar­gain when you bought it might not have the same com­plex­ion when you’re told it will cost thou­sands of dol­lars to have the wiring re­placed.

Post-and-pad style base­ments. Many older homes fea­ture wooden posts placed on ce­ment pads to sup­port the main wooden sup­port beam that runs through the cen­tre of a base­ment. My in­spec­tor showed me that ex­pan­sion and con­trac­tion of the soil be­neath — which places up­ward pres­sure on the beam — can warp the beam (in this case it was a two-inch rise in the cen­tre). The re­sult can be warped floor­ing above.

What’s the so­lu­tion to that prob­lem? To get some tele­posts to sup­port the main beam, fol­lowed by an ad­just­ment to the wooden posts (such as shav­ing them down to take the wow out of the beam and floor above). He then said it would be a good idea to have a sump pit in­stalled to re­duce the mois­ture con­tent in the ground be­low the base­ment floor to re­duce ex­pan­sion and con­trac­tion. Cost: about $1,500.

Un­fin­ished base­ments. While this might not be a hid­den cost per se, statis­tics have shown that if your base- ment isn’t in­su­lated, the lost heat can in­crease your heat­ing costs by 25 to 30 per cent. Cost to poly, stud, in­su­late and dry­wall a medium-sized base­ment? In the $6,000 range if you have a con­trac­tor do it for you, less if you have the skill to do it your­self.

Shoddy roof­ing. One home I looked at had new shin­gles, but the flash­ing hadn’t been prop­erly in­stalled; the shin­gles didn’t ex­tend over the side for proper drainage. As a re­sult, the sof­fits and fas­cia also had to be re­done to en­sure the roof­ing sys­tem worked to­gether as a unit. Noth­ing more ir­ri­tat­ing than buy­ing a home with a new roof that causes mois­ture prob­lems due to shoddy work­man­ship.

No shower. Be­ware — many older homes do not come equipped with a shower (one I viewed only had a tub). Po­ten­tial cost of in­stalling a shower? As much as $1,500 if a con­trac­tor does the work.

Grad­ing and gar­dens. If there’s a gar­den with rail­road ties flush against the home’s foun­da­tion, get rid of it to en­cour­age proper drainage. And look at the ground on all sides of the home. If it doesn’t slope away, you’ll need to grade it so it does — and per­haps in­stall longer down­spouts in the process. It’s well worth the time and ef­fort to en­sure your foun­da­tion isn’t con­stantly as­saulted by in­sid­i­ous mois­ture.

The moral of the story? Iden­ti­fy­ing sub­tle de­tails be­fore buy­ing a home can help you avoid hid­den costs, or at the very least pre­pare you to bud­get for the work that needs to be done on the home you’ve cho­sen to buy.


‘Dated’ or her­itage homes may be solidly built, but they can also con­tain all kinds of hid­den costs.

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