By Mike Holmes
Once you start looking at houses, you’ll have lots of questions. It can seem overwhelming, but your agent can help you learn a lot about any house that’s on the market. Here are the questions you need to ask your agent about any house you are seriously considering.
How old is the house?
The older the house, the more likely it will need major repairs and renos. But don’t assume that all newer homes are problem-free. When a house (or a renovation) gets to be twenty or thirty years old, lots of things can start breaking down. Some new houses are not so much built as slammed together, so even when buying new, don’t skip hiring a good home inspector.
How long has the vendor owned the house?
If the ownership was brief, you might be looking at a “flip.” Not all flips are bad,, but far too often they’re the worst kind of “lipstick and mascara” job. In a bad flip, a lot of cosmetic changes are made, while any mechanical and structural issues are covered up or overlooked in order to make a quick profit.
What’s the sales and renovation history of the house?
Your agent will be able to give you a list of recent sales. Lots of sales activity might be a sign of big problems with the house — —as each new buyer discovers he’s been taken for a ride, he decides to get off that merry-go-round by selling the house and all its headaches to someone else. On the more positive side, you’ll be able to see how much the previous owners paid for the house in what year. Then your agent can find out what changes or improvements were made, which will help determine if the asking price is fair.
Are there building permits or inspection reports for any work done on the house?
Most renovations require building permits from local building authorities. These permits, along with the inspection reports that are made at various stages of the job, are important records of what’s been done. Your agent can ask the vendor to see permits and inspection reports for structural, plumbing and electrical jobs so that you have hard evidence that the work was inspected and approved by building authorities.
Was the house ever a grow op?
Believe it or not, no one is required to disclose that a home was previously used for a marijuana-grow operation — unless you ask. If your agent doesn’t know, he or she can ask the seller’s agent for full disclosure. Why does this matter? Grow ops usually involve some “retrofitting,” and the conditions they create — especially very high moisture throughout the house — can do a lot of damage to the structure.
Don’t be afraid to ask these questions and more, and don’t skip a thorough inspection. Your home may be the single biggest investment you’ll ever make. It’s your right to get the best service and the most comprehensive information available. Demand it, and don’t apologize for being demanding. Educating yourself before you sign on the dotted line is worth it.
Adapted from The Holmes Inspection by Mike Holmes, published by HarperCollinsCanada. ©2008 Restovate Ltd.