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What You Need to Know Before Buying a Home

What do you need to know before buying a home?

Buying a home costs a lot of time, effort and money. Unfortunately, many things can go wrong.

I recently came across a Reddit thread in which people shared their tips for home buyers and new homeowners.

Here are some of the best tips:

  1. Doing a bit of maintenance every year is extremely important, regardless of what type of home you buy, and do your research before you hire any contractors for any maintenance/reno work, so that you will at least have a basic understanding of what they are supposed to be doing, because they will cut corners and/or miss things, and you have to watch them like hawks and let them know that you know what they are supposed to be doing. Always get quotes before you start any work and never give them a downpayment as any reliable contractor will not need one.
  2. Also take pictures of the work area before and after they arrive, for insurance purposes and in-case they damage anything so that you have it documented. Also, never lie to your insurance company or ‘forget’ to tell them something as that is automatically used to void any claims you may have/had.
  3. If there is any non-tile flooring in the house, and not carpet, ask the seller what type it is and see if you can still buy any spares. Flooring manufacturers intentionally stop making models a few years after inception so that when boards crack or get stained or chipped or whatever, you have to replace the entire floor to keep everything matching, so if you have floor that is vinyl or laminate or engineered wood or whatever, see if you can still buy spares; trust me, you will really prefer the small investment now to replacing the entire floor later on.
  4. Ask other owners in the building (if it’s a condo) if the building has problems with leaks, and with condensation, as they are really expensive to deal with and are driving up building and unit insurance rates (at least in Ontario), and if the building has a problem with condensation then it can cost you thousands of dollars to repair if your unit is deemed to have been the cause of it.
  5. The home inspector should catch this, but check that all of the circuit breakers actually do what their labels say that they do, as if they don’t, this is a bright red warning sign of a bad wiring job, and probably means that they did a bad job in other ways too, which won’t just be expensive, but could be a fire hazard as well. If you can, try a few of the outlets too, to make sure that they are working (often they aren’t, or only one will work at a time if they are stacked), and to see if they get hot quickly, as this is another sign of a bad wiring job, but again, the home inspector should definitely check this.
  6. If it is a condo, read all of the Condo board’s documentation, as different buildings have different definitions of what is considered ‘commons’ responsibility’ and what is considered the unit owners responsibility, and that especially goes for pipes/plumbing. The condo documents should clearly state where your responsibility starts and ends, and you need to know this because if something goes wrong (burst pipe that leaks into the unit below), they absolutely will not tell you that actually on page 48 it states that toilet pipes inside the walls are actually common elements and not your responsibility, they’ll just bill you and hope you don’t catch it.
  7. Don’t make an unconditional offer that you can’t or won’t honor. If the seller accepts it, and then you pull out, and the owner sells the property to someone else for below the price you were offering, they can and will sue you for the difference, and most likely will win. If you do include conditions, make sure that they protect you and are reasonable for the other party to fulfill, and expect that they will be fulfilled, otherwise you can get into an ugly dispute with them if you then want to try and back out on account of the conditions not having been fulfilled.
  8. Don’t buy a fixer upper unless you have the cash and time to fix it up before you move in. You will just live in a constant Reno house for years.
  9. Get the sewer line scoped. Find the inspector yourself not through the realtor – check wiring, electrical boxes/panel, crawl space insulation/vapour barrier. Make sure you test each light switch to know what it does and that it is working. If it has fireplace make sure it is WETT inspected, up to code etc.
  10. Remember that the most costly expenses are to the things that you can’t typically see… wiring, plumbing, sewer lines etc. Be sure to run the hot and cold water lines independently in each room then go to the basement and listen. You may hear something out of the normal; hammering, drips etc. Same goes for running the washing machine and checking that the sump pump operates (if it has one)… it can all be a bit overwhelming at times, but it will help you better understand what might be an issue that you’ll need to address in the future… and be prepared to negotiate. The furnace in the house we bought was 20 years old, so we negotiated a percentage to replace based on typical life span, same for the sewer line… your diligence might lose you the house depending on market conditions, but will save you a whole lot of hurt down the road… and remember, three quotes for any work that you need to have done… and make decisions based on level of detail provided in the quotes and checking references/reviews… it is YOUR money and you CHOOSE how to best spend it and you can only do that with information/data… emotions are not your friend 🙂
  11. Get the inspector to actually go up on the roof to inspect it. Ours just looked from the ground and missed that the flashing was not done properly. We had the surprise of a leaking roof when we replaced the windows before moving in and had to redo the roof there and then. I tell you, its not fun having to find an extra 10k when you put all your free money in downpayment, closing costs and planned pre-move-in repairs/renos. Many inspectors are older and refuse to go up on roofs. Find the thorough ones.
  12. Visit the neighbourhood different times of the day. Do the commute to/from work to see how it is. Make sure you can put aside money for an emergency repair. Plan to replace any rental hot water heater (I have no idea why those are still a thing).
  13. Don’t rush into furnishing your home. Many homeowners tend to go all out and buy everything they can to fill every nook and cranny. Yes it’s hard to see your new home empty or filled with old second hand furniture. Furnish as you go and start with the rooms you use on a regular basis. You WILL find deals and things that fit the rooms style or need, just be patient!
  14. What the bank says they’re willing to lend you is NOT the same as “what you can afford”. Figure out what $ of mortgage you are willing to pay and how much downpayment you can put down, and ask your broker what that translates to in terms of house price. Also factor in insurance, upkeep, maintenance, repairs, replacements, move in costs, furnishings, etc etc. You do not want to be “house poor”. Live in a decent house, but can’t afford to pay for anything else. A few of my friends fell into this trap and regret it every single day.
  15. If you buy an older house try to budget for a new furnace, hot water tank and attic insulation.
  16. Always have money on the side for emergencies. After 4 years of owning my condo townhouse the condo board decided to replace all windows at owners expense, I was given 6 months to cough up $7,800.
  17. On my next house, I was excited to not live in a condo anymore. I had bought a bungalow. 1 year after purchase the french drain was at end of life and water started seeping into my basement. The insurance company paid for 2 sides of the houses french drain replacement. I made the tough decision to pay out of pocket for the remaining 2 sides. It amounted to $11,000.
  18. There will always be big budget unexpected expenses. Have some money on the side to be able to cover them.
  19. Make sure you want to stay there for 5-10 years. Unless it’s extenuating market circumstances, I like the 5 year rule for housing. You’ll never make money off a sale until you’ve possessed it for 5 years.

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